For the first few weeks of life, kittens are usually protected against disease from the immunity they receive in their mother´s milk.
However, this maternal immunity may also neutralise any vaccine given at this time. Gradually this protection decreases, and the maternal immunity acquired at birth declines to a sufficiently low level for the animal to no longer be protected. This also allows the animal to respond to vaccination and so at this stage it is possible this is the best time to start the vaccination programme.
Your veterinary surgeon will suggest a programme of vaccinations to fit in with your pet´s particular needs and the local disease pattern.
Many people believe that if they have their pet vaccinated when it is a kitten the immunity it receives will protect it for the rest of its life.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. After the last injection, the immune level reaches a peak and then begins to decline. After a year, the level of protection offered to your pet may no longer be sufficient.
Revaccination stimulates the immune response so that protection is maintained for another year. Without these yearly vaccinations, your pet´s immune system may not be able to protect it from serious, often fatal disease.
How vaccines work
Vaccines work by training the white blood cells in your cat´s body to recognise and attack the viruses or bacteria contained in the vaccine. This should prevent infection with that particular bug organism if your cat is in contact with it again.
Diseases of cats
There are four important viruses in cats for which vaccines are available.
Feline Infectious Enteritis
Feline infectious enteritis (also known as panleucopaenia or parvovirus) is a severe disease that fortunately has become much less common thanks to highly effective vaccines.
The disease is usually seen as bloody diarrhoea in young animals, with a characteristic offensive odour and severe dehydration. Many will die within hours of the onset of symptoms.
Once a cat becomes infected by parvovirus, the virus invades the intestines and bone marrow. This leads to sudden and severe bleeding into the gut, resulting in dehydration and shock and damage to the immune system. Death is common and frequently rapid unless emergency veterinary treatment is received. Kittens born to infected mothers are weak, prone to infections and may have permanent brain damage.
After your pet has been vaccinated, it will need regular booster vaccinations to ensure it remains protected.
Remember, for the PETS Scheme you must make sure that your pet is given its booster on time otherwise it will not meet the conditions of the scheme and would have to be vaccinated and blood tested again. It would have to wait another six months before being able to enter the UK.
In order to prevent future complications please discuss the PETS Scheme in advance with your veterinary surgeon.
Please discuss with your vet all aspects of vaccination of your kitten and cat throughout its life, the important infectious diseases and how you can ensure help keep your cat remains healthy and happy.