Sep 01 2019

Vaccinations in cats

Our team are passionate about preventing disease in our patients, and recommend vaccination for dogs, cats and rabbits.  We keep up to date with the latest guidelines published by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.  The risk of side effects associated with vaccination is very small, but even so we do not believe in vaccinating more than is necessary. In this post we are going to look at the diseases we can vaccinate cats against.

It is recommended by the International Society of Feline Medicine that all pet cats have a health check with a vet at least once a year. This is also the time any booster vaccinations can be given.


Cat flu vaccination protects against disease caused by Feline Herpes Virus and Feline Calicivirus. The symptoms of cat flu include sneezing, conjunctivitis, loss of appetite and depressed demeanour, and can be severe. Feline enteritis virus is related to Parvovirus in dogs, causing severe diarrhoea and often death, with outbreaks still occurring in the UK. This combined vaccination is recommended for all cats (even indoor only cats), and for the cat flu components a yearly booster is recommended for most cats.


This virus can cause leukaemia, tumours, anaemia and also immune-suppression making the cat more susceptible to other infections.  FeLV can be spread through fighting, mutual grooming, and through sharing food/water bowls and litter trays.  Any cat who has access to outside or mixes with other cats of unknown status may be at risk of contracting the virus, so vaccination is recommended.


This is a fatal disease of the nervous system, which is currently not present in the UK. If you wish to take your cat abroad with you, they will need to have a rabies vaccination.

Side effects of vaccination

Side effects of vaccinations are not common, but the vet will be happy to discuss them with you if you have any concerns. Kittens may be quiet for a day and may get a raised temperature.  Sometimes a non-painful swelling can appear at the site of injection. More severe side effects are very rare. The most significant and well publicised side effect is fibrosarcoma in cats – a tumour at the injection site, which has been linked to non-vaccine injections as well.   This is very rare (probably less than 1 in 20,000 vaccinations).  Severe allergic reactions are also documented but are very rare.  The benefits of vaccination far outweigh any side effects in the vast majority of cats. At Greenbay Vets, we also make use of the latest vaccine technology so our cat vaccines do not contain ‘adjuvant’ – this should mean less pain and inflammation at the site of the injection. 

Our team will be happy to answer any questions you have, which have not been addressed in this article.

Dr Laura Mather MRCVS, vet at Greenbay Vets in Paignton and Torquay

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