Vaccines are necessary for most cats, especially those who spend much of their time outdoors. Although the experience is never pleasant, felines must be vaccinated against rabies by law. Also, other vaccinations are highly recommended to protect your cat against infectious diseases.
There is always risk involved in vaccinating a cat. These dangers alone are not enough to ignore feline vaccinations, though. Vaccination may save your cat’s life. You’ll need to make an informed decision about whether to vaccinate your cat based upon all the available evidence.
- 1 Types of Vaccinations for Cats
- 2 How are Vaccines Administered to Cats?
- 3 Common Side Effects of Cat Vaccinations
- 4 Can Cats be Allergic to Vaccines?
- 5 Cat Personality Changes After Vaccination
- 6 How to Make a Cat Feel Better After Vaccines
- 7 Are Vaccinations Essential for Cats?
- 8 Side Effects of Vaccinations for Senior Cats
Types of Vaccinations for Cats
A vet will offer many vaccinations for your cat. These protect against the following conditions:
- Feline Distemper (aka Panleukopenia), Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1), and Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
- These three vaccines are combined into one, known as the FVCRP vaccine
- Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
- Chlamydophila felis
Of these vaccines, rabies is the only one that is required by law in most states. Check the status of your state using this table compiled by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Even if you reside in a state that doesn’t mandate rabies shots by law, it remains advisable. The disease is commutable among animals and humans.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners also considers the FVCRP to be a core vaccine. Beyond this, vaccines are optional and at your discretion.
How are Vaccines Administered to Cats?
Feline vaccinations are commonly administered by injection. The location of the shot is typically behind the legs.
Previously, many vets chose to administer shots to the neck. This is due to the flexibility of the skin in this area. It’s easier to stretch the skin, and administer a shot.
In recent years, the risk of Feline Injection Site Sarcoma (FISS) has become increasingly prominent. This means the neck is best avoided. FISS involves a cancerous tumor at the site of vaccination.
This tumor would need to be removed if it arises. That can be difficult, and almost impossible around the neck. As a result, most vaccinations are now injected around the leg.
Vaccinations are usually distributed as follows:
- Rabies – right back leg
- Feline Leukemia Virus – the left hind leg
- FVCRP – right front leg
The logic behind this thinking is preparing for the worst. If a cat does develop a malignant tumor at the injection site, amputation may be necessary.
Not all vaccines must be injected. FVCRP, FIP, and Bordetella can be inhaled nasally, but may not be as effective as injections. Discuss your options with a vet.
If your cat takes their vaccinations intranasally, they will sneeze and sniff for a while afterward. This is natural and nothing to worry about. Some streaming from the eyes and nose may also follow.
Common Side Effects of Cat Vaccinations
Vaccines are medication, and all medication carries potential side effects. It’s to be expected that your cat may feel unwell after vaccination.
A cat’s immune system starts to adapt following a vaccine. This will mean they seem under the weather. This is only a concern if they do not quickly recover.
Some of the most common side effects of feline vaccination include:
- Lethargy and generally low energy levels
- Lack of appetite
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Swelling around the location of the injection
- Trouble walking
These side effects should be very short-term. If your cat is still struggling 48 hours after their vaccination, see a vet.
My Cat is Limping After a Vaccination
As vaccinations are injected into a cat’s leg, some limited mobility is to be expected. Your cat may experience a small amount of swelling at the injection site. This will make it a little tougher to move.
The FVCRP vaccine is most likely to cause limping. This is because lameness is a common symptom of feline calicivirus. This is so regular that a term has been coined to describe the phenomenon – limping syndrome.
Limping syndrome is a temporary problem. Cats that struggle with this side effect bounce back as quickly as they experienced the issue.
Cats that have this vaccination often experience their joints stiffening. This will naturally make them a little more lethargic. Any movement will be painful for the duration of this side effect.
Your vet may prescribe a painkiller for your cat following their vaccine. This will be safe. Never offer your cat human medication, though.
Pay particular attention if your cat can’t walk after vaccinations of a different ilk. Any vaccine can cause some degree of limited mobility. Only the calicivirus vaccine should cause limping syndrome.
If your cat is limping for more than a day or two, seek help. This suggests a more troubling reaction to a vaccination. Such instances are rare, though.
My Cat is Vomiting After a Vaccination
Vomiting should be monitored after vaccinations. It is not unheard of, but neither is it entirely commonplace.
On the one hand, your cat may just be vomiting their previous meal. A cat’s body will undergo a jolt after a vaccine. That can upset their stomach, and cause vomiting.
Diarrhea is also possible, for the same reasons. However, it’s also possible that your cat is struggling with an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
Cats tend to vomit at the drop of a hat, and there could be any number of explanations. Do not immediately panic if your pet is sick after vaccination. However, a cat vomiting for 24 hours straight should always be checked over by a professional.
My Cat Has No Energy After a Vaccination
It’s natural for a cat to become listless and sleepy after their vaccines. If you have ever had a ‘flu shot and felt lousy afterward, you’ll know how it feels.
A feline that has been vaccinated will likely want to be left alone to sleep. They may also run a high fever. Leave your cat alone in such an instance. They need to rest.
Set your pet up with their favorite bed and blanket in a quiet location. Fill the room with food and water, just in case. Also provide a scratching post, only in case your cat has a sudden burst of energy.
Above all, you need to ensure that your cat is left alone. Tell any children in the home not to disturb your pet. They should be treated as though they have a minor cold.
After 24 hours, your cat will likely be back to their old, playful selves. If not, give them an extra day before worrying. Remember, their immune systems have been given a jolt. That can be very tiring.
My Cat is Not Eating After a Vaccination
Any cat that has not eaten for 24 hours is a cause for concern. Cats have small bodies, and few fat reserves. Try not to panic, though. A loss of appetite is a common side effect of vaccination.
Assess whether your cat isn’t eating or is just reluctant to walk to their bowl. If your cat has little energy or limping syndrome, that can feel like a long journey.
Carry your cat’s food to them, and let them enjoy breakfast in bed. They may still refuse food, as they’re not hungry. This will at least give them an option, though.
Also, be aware that a loss of appetite is just that. Your cat may be just as disinterested in their favorite meal as something they’re less keen on.
My Cat Has a Lump at the Site of Their Vaccination
The most alarming reaction to vaccination is Feline Injection Site Sarcoma (FISS). This is a cancerous tumor that develops following inflammation around the site of the injection.
A vet must assess a cat with a substantial lump that persists days or weeks after vaccination. Another sign of FISS includes the lump exceeding 2cm in diameter, especially if it keeps growing.
If the sarcoma that is caused by vaccination is not treated, it will grow. This, in turn, will allow cancerous cells to spread throughout the body. The lungs and other internal organs will quickly be impacted. This will naturally be lethal to any cat.
It is not entirely clear why cats experience FISS. Some experts believe that the felines in question are already carrying the tumors. The inflammation caused by the vaccination ‘kickstarts’ the malignant tumor, and allows is to spread.
If you present your cat to a vet with FISS, urgent surgery will be required to remove the tumor. Time is of the essence here, and the sooner your cat is seen, the sooner the operation can take place.
Based on their unique case, your cat may also need to undergo radiotherapy or chemotherapy. As discussed, amputation may also be a requirement.
What is certain is that your pet will need to be treated as a matter of urgency. This means that it’s advisable to open a pet insurance policy before having your cat vaccinated.
Thankfully, FISS remains rare. The journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica claims that instances remain as low as 1 in 10,000. All the same, be vigilant about observing any symptoms.
Can Cats be Allergic to Vaccines?
It’s rare, but it’s possible for a cat to have an allergic reaction to a vaccination. Cats can be allergic to anything. They could even react to the rubber gloves that your vet wears to administer the vaccine.
An allergic reaction is more concerning than a typical reaction to a vaccine. Signs that your cat is allergic to the vaccination include:
- Hives breaking out on the skin
- Swelling around the face, eyes, mouth, and neck
- Trouble breathing
- A sharp drop in body temperature, especially around the tail and paws
- Low blood pressure, and decreased heart rate
- Seizures and collapse
These reactions will typically be treated with steroids or antihistamines. These will be designed to reverse the impact of the allergy. In more severe cases, your cat may require intravenous fluids and further observation.
If you call in advance, your vet may be able to offer first aid advice. The over-the-counter remedy Benadryl, for example, is safe for cats in appropriate doses. Never administer this without a professional’s say-so, however.
Can I Check if My Cat is Allergic to Vaccines in Advance?
As felines receive their first vaccinations as kittens, there is rarely time to check for allergies. This means that most of these reactions are discovered on a trial-and-error basis.
If you adopt an adult cat, check their medical records. This will denote any allergies they may be struggling with. It will also have been noted if they have reacted poorly to vaccines in any way.
If you cannot gain access to this information, have your cat assessed before vaccinating. This will be more expensive, but better than dealing with an allergic reaction after the event.
Cat Personality Changes After Vaccination
Some cats are never quite the same after vaccination. It’s extremely rare, but it does happen. This is because the vaccine causes a chemical reaction within their brain.
As always, expect this for around 48 hours. Your cat may be a little crankier than usual, and maybe even aggressive. This is because they are feeling sore. It will pass.
If your cat seems to have undergone a complete transformation, seek further guidance. Make a note of all the changes to your cat’s behavior, and look for a pattern. If a vet cannot help, consider consulting a feline behaviorist.
We have to remember, vaccinations can be scary for cats. Most pets have a healthy fear of the vet. When they’re prodded and poked with needles, this magnifies. The cat doesn’t understand that it’s all in a good cause.
It’s possible that your cat has been traumatized by their vaccination. If so, they’ll need more help than you can provide. With the right advice, you can do what is necessary to help your cat.
How to Make a Cat Feel Better After Vaccines
If your cat is unwell after their vaccinations, they’ll need some TLC. You’ll need to take the same approach as when dealing with a poorly pet.
When you bring your cat home, observe the following protocols:
- Give them a warm, comfortable and quiet place to rest.
- Provide food, water, and toys. Don’t worry if these are ignored. Refresh them where necessary.
- Don’t force your cat to interact. Let them approach you for attention if they desire it.
- Check in periodically, and subtly check for any signs of problems. Pay particular attention to the site of the injection.
Most cats just need peace and quiet, and time to themselves, after vaccines. Within 48 hours, they will likely be acting as though nothing happened.
Are Vaccinations Essential for Cats?
This is a debate that will rage as long as vaccines exist. Many people believe that vaccines are essential. Others claim that they are a moneymaking enterprise for the veterinary industry.
If the rabies vaccination is mandatory in your state, there is no way around this. Your cat must have the shot, and boosters as often as the law dictates.
The FVCRP vaccine is advisable in most cases, especially if your cat goes outside.
Respiratory conditions such as calicivirus and feline herpesvirus are highly contagious, and potentially nasty. Panleukopenia, meanwhile, is often fatal. If you can protect your pet from these illnesses, it’s best to do so.
Besides, many cat boarding houses insist on intake being vaccinated against these conditions. If you’re planning a vacation and wish to use a kennel, you may need to vaccinate.
The same also applies when traveling. If you wish to take your cat to a different country, some vaccinations are legally required.
The flipside of this is that your cat will experience some side effects. For some pets, these will be minor, but for others, they will be significant. Some pet owners are unwilling to take this chance with their cat.
There is no right or wrong answer here. It depends on your point of view. Be aware that vaccines may save your cat’s life someday.
Vaccination is advisable if you live with multiple cats or your pet roams outdoors. There is no way of knowing that they’ll pick up from other animals.
That is one thing that really should be stressed, though. You need to make a decision based on what’s best for your cat. Put your views and wishes to one side where possible.
Vaccines can be expensive, and you may prefer a more holistic approach to healthcare. If this places your pet’s health at risk, it’s unfair to the cat in question. They are unable to make these decisions on their own behalf, and rely upon you.
Side Effects of Vaccinations for Senior Cats
The subject of vaccinations for older cats can be a difficult one. On the one hand, older cats have weaker immune systems. On the other, they’ll be hit harder by any side effects.
One thing is certain – if your cat is living with a chronic illness, avoid vaccination. These treatments can aggravate problems with the heart and kidneys.
If your cat has tolerated vaccinations well in the past, there is no reason to deny them boosters. It’s advisable if your cat roams outside.
Respiratory illnesses, which vaccinations protect against, can be lethal for senior cats. Also, any other disease can rapidly spread if the animal is not protected.
If you adopt an older cat, gather as much information as possible about their medical history. This will be indispensable in judging whether your cat can safely tolerate vaccinations.
If you adopt from a shelter, ask if vaccinations have already been administered. This is often the case in shared living arrangements. Do not subject your cat to unnecessary vaccinations.
Cats can, and likely will, react to vaccines. This is an unavoidable side effect of the process. These reactions should not be severe, and most cats bounce back quickly.
If you have any concerns over your cat’s safety, speak to a professional before they are vaccinated. In most cases, the risks are outweighed by the safety that vaccines provide.