We want to keep our feline friends purring for years to come. We buy them the best food, we let them warm up our laps, and we find cute ways to celebrate our bond with our feline best friends. But a major part of providing our kitties with the best nine lives they can experience is making sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccines and aren’t at risk of getting sick from heartworms, fleas, and ticks.
Why Does Your Cat Need Shots and Preventative Treatments?
Cats need vaccines and preventative medicines to eliminate the risk of catching deadly diseases or parasites that can wreak havoc on your cat’s health.
How Feline Vaccines Work
Cat vaccines are like the vaccines we receive for the flu, or as children for measles and chickenpox. Essentially, your cat’s body works through fighting off a virus so it’s ready to do so, again if exposed to the same virus, again later in her life. Most cats get several rounds of vaccines when they’re kittens, then they have follow-up shots as they grow.
Your cat gets a small dose of the illness or virus which stimulates her immunes system. Your cat’s immune system then creates antibodies that fight off the pathogens. Then, if your cat is exposed to the same illness later, her antibodies kick into action, attack, and neutralize the illness. In fact, your kitty’s cells will remember the harmful virus or bacteria and immediately fight it off. This renders the illness ineffective and prevents your cat from getting sick.
The Ins and Outs of Parasite Prevention
Your vet has probably recommended that you use flea, tick, and heartworm prevention—and you should. How these medicines work is different from vaccines but equally effective.
Both topical, oral, or injectable parasite prevention work about the same. If a flea, tick, or mosquito infected with heartworms bites your cat, the pest will ingest a lethal amount of poison that will kill the harmful parasites.
What Do Vaccines and Other Medicines Prevent, and How Often Does My Cat Need Them?
Many people believe that their indoor cat is not at risk of getting sick, but this isn’t true. Many common parasites and viruses can make their way indoors. And you always run the risk that your kitty might escape outside, so make sure you’re prepared.
- Flea Prevention
Many cat parents wonder if their indoor cat needs to use flea prevention medicine. And the answer is “yes.” Indoor and outdoor cats are both at risk. Fleas are most frequently transferred from pet to pet, but indoor cats can still get them from an open window, door, or fleas being carried inside by a human.
If you have another pet, like a dog, that goes outside often, you will want to treat your kitty monthly for flea prevention. Treating your kitty once every few months or during summer months, otherwise, will probably suffice. Treat your cat as quickly as possible if you notice any signs of fleas like flea dirt, eggs, or intense itching. Most flea prevention medicines also protect against ticks.
- Heartworm Prevention
Heartworms are parasites that live in your cat’s circulatory system. As they grow and tangle, they pose a risk for causing your cat to go into heart failure or having a heart attack. The heartworm larvae are carried by mosquitos and transferred to cats when the mosquito bites them.
As you know, mosquitoes often find their way inside your home. So, you will want to keep your indoor cat on heartworm prevent year-round. While heartworm is more common in humid climates, during summer months, you do not want to expose your cat the possibility of this painful and horrible disease. Heartworm medicine also prevents other intestinal parasites that could be passed onto humans.
Some heartworm prevention treatments last about a month while other options last three months.
- Rabies Vaccination
Rabies is a virus that attacks your cat’s central nervous system: the spinal cord, nerves, and ultimately the brain. While outdoor cats are more likely to be exposed to another animal with rabies, it is illegal in most states for a cat to not be vaccinated.
Kittens will likely need their rabies vaccination at about 12 to 14 weeks of age. Most states require annual rabies vaccinations after that. With recent developments in vaccines, there are some options for two and three-year vaccines.
- FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Disease) Vaccination
FIV is a virus that attacks a cat’s immune system and leaves them vulnerable to becoming ill and possibly pass away if they catch another disease or virus. Cats can contract FIV by getting bit by an animal infected with the virus, or it can get passed down from their mother. Your vet can test your cat for FIV if you haven’t had her vaccinated.
Symptoms of FIV include:
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy or Lack of energy
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
Your cat will receive its first FIV at the age of 16 to 18 weeks. You will want to return to the vet every 6 months to a year to make sure your cat stays healthy.
When Should Your Cat Not Get Vaccinated?
Because vaccines dose your cat with a low level of a virus or disease, it can be dangerous under some circumstances to vaccinate your cat. These conditions include:
- When your cat is ill with a chronic, life-threatening disease
- If your cat is receiving cortisone therapy
- Cats over 10 years old (although you will want to get them tested for titers)
- If your kitten is under six weeks old
- If your cat is pregnant
Don’t put your beloved cat at risk for getting sick. Keep your cat’s vaccinations current and watch for in signs or symptoms of possible illness.
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