Why should I vaccinate?
One of the best things you can do for your cat is to protect him/her against the common feline contagious diseases, some of which can be fatal if contracted. In the first few week's of a kitten's life it is protected from disease by immunity it receives from its mother via her milk. Once he/she is weaned, however, this immunity soon wears off and the kitten is at risk of infection.
Vaccines contain small quantities of altered or killed viruses/bacteria or other disease-causing material. They work by stimulating your cat's immune system to produce cells and proteins which protect against the disease these substances can cause.
When should I vaccinate?
When a kitten is first vaccinated, he/she needs two doses given 2-4 weeks apart - this is referred to as the 'primary vaccination course'. The first dose is usually given at around 6-8 weeks of age.
After this primary course, your cat will need an annual 'booster' vaccination to ensure he/she is still fully protected. If too long a gap is left between booster injections your cat may not be completely protected and your vet may advise you to give another vaccination course (two doses 2-4 weeks apart).
The primary vaccination course will commonly provide protection against feline panleukopaenia virus ('feline infectious enteritis'), feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus and Chlamydophila felis (potential causes of 'cat flu'). In addition, many cats are now also vaccinated against feline leukaemia virus (FeLV).
If you plan for your pet to travel abroad, you may need to have him/her vaccinated against rabies. In order to take your pet abroad there are many criteria you must fulfil. It is important that you understand these criteria (see the DEFRA website for Pet Travel Scheme information) and begin planning well in advance of the date you plan to travel.
How effective are the vaccines?
No vaccine is 100 percent effective but, along with good hygiene measures and suitable nutrition, the vaccines provide the best protection against disease currently available.