The Next 12 Months: Your Kitten’s Vaccine Schedule

Dr Amelia Bunker, Resident Veterinarian - Knose Pet Insurance

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Dr. Amelia Bunker

Dr. Amelia Bunker (BVSc), our resident veterinarian at Knose, blends her passion for animal care with her expertise in veterinary science. Her journey from mixed practice clinics to insurance expert motivates her dedication to animal welfare, both in her professional role and as a pet owner.

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Ensuring your kitten stays happy and healthy for many years requires cat vaccinations to protect them against nasty yet preventable diseases. Ideally, kittens need to be with their mother for the first 6 to 8 weeks of life, so they can get natural antibodies through their mother’s milk and learn appropriate social behaviours. After being weaned, however, your kitten will need the help of vaccinations to get protected from very dangerous diseases.

How Do Pet Vaccinations Protect My Kitten?

When the vet gives your kitten a series of vaccinations, they inject a serum of killed, inactivated or live virus depending on type of vaccine. Vaccine should not make your kitten sick but rather will stimulate your kitten’s immune system to create new antibodies tailored to fight off those particular illnesses. That way, if your kitten encounters those contagions in their environment, your kitten already has some immunity to these diseases and has a much lower chance of getting infected.

When Should My Kitten Get Vaccinated?

As your kitten’s immune system is just starting to develop, veterinarians recommend starting your kitten on a series of injections that will build immunity during the most critical period — usually between 6 and 16 weeks. It’s optimal to start these kitten shots sometime between 6 and 8 weeks of age, with a 4-week rest between injections to allow your kitten’s immune system to adjust.

NOTE: Once your kitten grows into adulthood, it will still need to get a booster immunisation once a year. Your veterinarian should send you an annual reminder, but be sure to put it on your calendar too. That way, your cat will be able to maintain the optimal level of immunity to the most common and most deadly cat diseases in the environment, which should help it live a longer, healthier life.

This kitten vaccination schedule takes the confusion out of the scheduling process:

  • 6 to 8 weeks of age: Initial core vaccinations
  • 10 to 12 weeks of age: Second booster vaccination
  • 14 to 16 weeks of age: Final kitten booster vaccination

The next question many new kitten parents ask is: “What vaccinations does my kitten need?” Your veterinarian will schedule your kitten for a series of core vaccinations, but you’ll need to discuss your options about non-core vaccinations, as described below:

Core Kitten Vaccinations

Veterinary authorities have designated a set of essential kitten vaccinations for all cats to give them the best immunity to most common cat diseases. This is the essential series of kitten vaccines that should occur between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks. Call your veterinarian and set up a schedule for these core kitten vaccines.

  • Feline Calicivirus
  • Feline Rhinotracheitis
  • Feline Panleukopenia (feline distemper)

Non-Core Cat Vaccinations

Non-core cat vaccines may only be necessary for your kitten if her lifestyle, environment, health conditions, or travel habits warrant them. If your cat spends time outdoors, this may also be a factor in your decision to include non-core cat vaccinations.

Discuss whether the benefits of these non-core kitten vaccines outweigh the potential risks with your veterinarian:

  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
  • Chlamydophila Felis

Are There Risks to Cat Vaccinations?

All medical interventions carry some degree of risk, but in the case of routine, core cat vaccinations, the benefits of protecting against deadly disease far outweigh the very small risk of complications. Nevertheless, you should always pay close attention to how your kitten reacts after each set of injections. These common reactions are temporary and should subside within a couple of days:

  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling near the injection site
  • Decreased appetite

These are common immune system reactions as it builds your kitten’s immunity. Keep your kitten warm, comfortable, and as well-fed and hydrated as possible during this time and the side effects should go away very quickly.

If your cat has a more severe reaction, take it to the veterinarian right away. Some signs of a severe allergic reaction include:

  • Swelling and redness of the nose, eyes, and neck
  • Itchiness and hives
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Unresponsiveness

Your veterinarian can provide urgent care to stem the allergic reaction and will be able to provide guidance on what to do next regarding vaccines.

At Knose, we care about giving your pet the essential care items it needs to live a long and healthy life. If you need more useful information on taking great care of your new kitten, subscribe to Knose’s pet health tips today.

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