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Annual Cat Vaccinations in the UK: Vital Protection or Unnecessary Precaution?

Cat Vaccinations

Annual cat vaccinations are a fundamental aspect of pet healthcare in the UK, defending against severe diseases like Feline Panleukopenia, Leukaemia and Catflu. Vaccinating your cat not only prevents costly and deadly illnesses but also contributes to the wider cat population’s health and well-being. 

All pet vaccines meet rigorous quality and safety standards, and the decision to vaccinate annually is an excellent commitment to maintaining optimal health for both your pet, and the wider cat population. 

However, some individuals remain sceptical, believing vaccines are unsafe or that veterinarians are instead driven by profit.

This article will explore the topic of cat vaccinations and help you to make a well-informed decision for your cat’s health, as well as debunk some common misconceptions surrounding cat vaccines.


What are Vaccinations and How Do They Work?

Cat vaccinations are crucial medical treatments that help protect cats from various infectious diseases. They have been a vital part of veterinary medicine since the introduction of vaccines, dramatically improving animal and human life expectancy by preventing deadly illnesses.

Vaccines work by introducing a harmless version of a disease-causing organism into the cat's body, which stimulates the immune system to produce a defensive response. This preparation allows the cat's immune system to recognize and fight the actual disease if exposed in the future.

Vaccinations are generally administered through injections, and kittens can receive their first vaccinations from as early as eight weeks old, followed by a secondary shot a few weeks later. Adult cats then receive booster shots annually to maintain their protection.

A kitten on a white blanket

Common Cat Diseases in the UK

What Diseases Do We Vaccinate Against?

  • Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPLV): Highly contagious and often fatal, affecting the gastrointestinal tract and immune system.

  • Feline Calicivirus (FCV): Causes respiratory illness and oral disease in cats.

  • Feline Herpesvirus (FHV): Known for causing severe upper respiratory infections and conjunctivitis.

  • Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV): A leading cause of death in cats, affecting the immune system and leading to cancers.

  • Feline Coronavirus - (FCoV) Highly contagious virus of cats that causes diarrhoea, and general malaise. Some cases can go on to develop the potentially fatal condition called FIP. 

  • Rabies: Although a highly infectious and fatal disease, it is not found in the UK, however, we must remain vigilant. 

Understanding Core Vs. Non-Core Cat Vaccines

When deciding on vaccinations, it's helpful to understand which are highly recommended for all cats (core) and which are only recommended under certain circumstances (non-core).

In the UK, core vaccinations for cats include protection against feline panleukopenia, calicivirus, and herpesvirus. These diseases pose a serious threat to all cats, regardless of their environment.

Core Vaccinations 

  • Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV)

  • Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1)

  • Feline Calicivirus (FCV)

Non-Core Vaccinations

Non-core vaccines are tailored to a cat's specific needs and exposure risks, such as:

  • Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

  • Rabies (if travelling abroad)

Regular booster injections are important to maintain immunity, with some vaccines like the feline leukaemia vaccine required every third year, while core components such as panleukopenia, calicivirus, and herpesvirus administered annually.

Evaluating the Risks and Benefits

When considering yearly cat vaccinations, it's important to balance the risks and benefits to ensure the best care for your pet. This decision should be made in consultation with your vet, who will consider the latest scientific evidence and your cat's lifestyle, age, and health.

Benefits of Regular Cat Vaccination

An Investment - For Your Wallet and Your Cat’s Health

It’s often overlooked that vaccinating your cat isn’t just an investment in their health, but also a financial investment for yourself. Vaccines can save you a significant amount of money in the long run. The annual booster vaccination, which we offer for £92.50, is a small price to pay compared to the hefty expenses associated with treating severe diseases. 

For instance, illnesses like Feline Panleukopenia Virus, which vaccinations effectively prevent, often require intensive treatments costing hundreds or even thousands of pounds. These treatments may involve prolonged veterinary care, medications, and sometimes hospitalisation, leading to substantial financial burdens for pet owners.Cats suffering from Feline Leukaemia Virus have weakened immune systems and often can go on to develop cancers in their organs and die due to the condition. 

So beyond the direct medical costs, vaccinating your cat also helps avoid the incalculable cost of losing your beloved to a preventable disease. 

Call to action for a cat vaccination amnesty

Herd Immunity

Vaccinations are not only a cost-effective approach to maintaining your cat's health but also contribute to “herd immunity”. This is crucial as it helps protect all cats and reduces the overall spread of diseases. The benefits of vaccinations, therefore, extend beyond individual pets to the broader feline community.

A great example of this is Feline Panleukopenia. Introduced in the 1960s, Feline Panleukopenia vaccines protected cats from a previously common and often fatal disease.

The introduction of these vaccines marked a significant advancement in veterinary medicine, dramatically reducing the incidence of the disease and greatly improving the overall health and longevity of the cat population. The continued use and development of vaccines over the decades have ensured that the disease remains relatively rare in vaccinated populations today.

However, it's important not to confuse this with any suggestion that we should stop vaccinating, as such an action would undoubtedly result in a return of the disease as the number of infectable animals started to rise.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

While the benefits of vaccination are significant, the risks involved are generally minor compared to the threats posed by the diseases themselves. 

Common side effects in cats are usually mild and resolve within a few days; these include low energy, slight fever, and mild swelling at the vaccination site. However, on rare occasions, cats can experience severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis or autoimmune disorders, or growths can form at the site of injection which require immediate veterinary attention.

It's important to note that such reactions are extremely rare and most are manageable under proper veterinary care. The vast majority of cats will not experience any issues at all. 

Final Recommendations to Cat Owners

Our discussion has highlighted the balance between ensuring our cats' health through vaccinations and considering individualised vaccine schedules. Vaccinations are essential in protecting against severe diseases and also play a significant role in maintaining the broader health of the pet community.

Is your cat protected? Over 6.4 million UK pets are not, and it's crucial to keep your cat's vaccinations up to date.

To make this a little easier on your wallet, Roundwood Vets are running a Vaccine Amnesty this spring— if your pet’s vaccine has lapsed then during May 2024 you can have the full restart course completed for just the price of a booster. That’s a saving of £92.50! Call us today on 020 8459 4729 to book your appointment. T&Cs apply. 

Call to action for a cat vaccination amnesty


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