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C2005-31

Dear Christopher Cat

What vaccinations does my cat need? My veterinarian offers vaccinations to protect my cat from a variety of diseases, but I am uncertain which vaccines are really necessary.

Christopher Responds

The cats in my family are protected against these viral diseases: feline viral rhinotracheitis, calici, panleukopenia (FVRCP) and rabies.

FVRCP vaccination protects against common viruses that cause severe disease and sometimes death.

The rhinotracheitis and calici viruses cause upper respiratory infections and conjunctivitis. My brother Dougie was infected before he joined our family, and as a result, he has permanent problems.

The panleukopenia virus was named for one of its consequences: deficiency (-penia) of all types (pan-) of white blood cells (-leuko-). Without white blood cells to fight infection, cats develop fever, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia and lethargy, and sometimes they die.

Rabies vaccination is essential, because even indoor cats can contract rabies. Moreover, rabies vaccination is required by law in Pennsylvania and many other states, to protect us cats from transmitting the disease to you humans.

If your cat spends time outside, the FVRCP and rabies vaccines should be supplemented by the feline leukemia vaccine. Indoor cats not exposed to cats with the disease don’t need leukemia vaccination.

Other vaccines are needed only in special circumstances. Your veterinarian can guide you.

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