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Modern vaccinations can protect your cat against a number of potentially fatal diseases, and are a small cost to bear in order to help keep your feline companion fit and healthy for many years to come. It is estimated that only about one third of the UK cat population is currently vaccinated, but as responsible cat owners, we can help to minimise the spread of these diseases by keeping our cats' vaccination programmes up to date. Cat owners are sometimes concerned about potential side effects from vaccinating their cat, although these tend to occur only in extremely rare cases, and the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
If you have bought a pedigree kitten from a reputable breeder, it will already have been vaccinated. The initial jabs are done at 9-10 weeks old, and the second one three weeks later, which is one of the mains reasons that the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) recommends that new kittens do not go to their new home before they are 13 weeks old. Most cats and kittens from registered cat sanctuaries will also have been vaccinated before you can take them home, but you might adopt a stray cat, or perhaps take one on in a situation where you don't know the background, and in these cases it is always advisable to get them checked out and vaccinated by your Vet as soon as possible, and ideally before meeting any other cats that you might have.
The main diseases to be vaccinated against in the UK are:
If you want to take your cats to a boarding cattery whilst you are away on holiday, any reputable cattery will ask to see certificates of vaccination against FIE, FVR and FCV, with up-to-date 'boosters' recorded at least 7 days before their arrival. You will also be expected to produce current vaccination certificates if you show your cats, and most insurance companies will charge a far higher premium if your cat is not vaccinated. Although vaccination does not guarantee 100% immunity against any disease (any more than human vaccinations do), it certainly helps to minimise the risk, alongside responsible day-to-day cat ownership.
The above 3 vaccinations are the most common and important, although if you are a breeder it is wise to have your breeding queens vaccinated against Feline Chlamydophilosis (often just referred to as Chlamydia) as if they were to contract this disease it could have a long term effect on their ability to breed, or to produce good healthy kittens. This is another disease transmitted by close contact between cats, and even if you do not realise your cat has picked it up, she could be a carrier and pass it on to small kittens that would not be able to fight it off.
There is also a vaccine against rabies, but unless you are planning on taking your cat abroad, this is not currently necessary in the UK as this country is still rabies-free.
But whichever vaccines you have, talk to your Vet about exactly which type to choose. There are 'live' and 'dead' vaccines and your Vet will be able to explain the differences and help you to reach a more informed decision about what is best for your cat. You will need to have your cat vaccinated each year with a 'booster', and once your pet is registered at your chosen Veterinary Surgery, many send out a reminder each year when this is due.
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