According the 2013 American Association of Feline Practitioners Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel, vaccines for cats can be divided into those that are essential (core) vaccines and those that are noncore but may be recommended based on risk of exposure.
Here is a feline vaccine primer to help you understand what these vaccines are and what they protect against.
The most commonly administered vaccine is typically given as a single injection and contains vaccine against herpesvirus, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.
Infection with this virus causes an upper respiratory illness known as rhinotracheitis. This infection can be severe and symptoms may become chronic.
Similar to herpes virus in its ability to cause upper respiratory disease. Infection can also result in oral and ocular (eye) ulcerations.
This is sometimes called “feline distemper” and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and bone marrow suppression. This disease can be fatal, especially in younger cats.
Rabies is given as a single vaccine and is considered a core vaccine (required by law in many areas). The rabies virus is carried by warm blooded mammals and infection with the virus can cause progressive neurologic disease which can be fatal to all mammals, including humans.
The following are considered nonessential but may be recommended by your veterinarian depending on your cat’s lifestyle and risk or exposure.
Feline leukemia virus
This virus is transmitted by close contact with other cats and infection can cause a variety of problems including anemia and suppression of the immune system. Vaccination against this infection is often recommended for cats who live outdoors or go outdoors frequently.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
Similar to human immunodeficiency virus, infection with FIV will result in suppression of the immune system and leave cats more susceptible to other infections. Often recommended for cats who live outdoors or go outdoors frequently.
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
This disease is most common among feral cats or cats in shelters. FIP infection is almost always fatal however, vaccination against this disease is generally not protective and is not recommended.
The recommended vaccines for your cat as well as how often they are needed will vary. As always, feel free to discuss any questions or concerns that you have regarding your pets vaccines with your family veterinarian.