There are core and non-core vaccinations available for cats, and your veterinarian can help you to determine the best course of action for your pet.
Non-core vaccinations, such as those for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are typically recommended based on lifestyle. If your cat is regularly exposed to the outdoors, these vaccines are worth considering.
What Is FIV?
Feline immunodeficiency virus affects the body’s ability to normally respond to an immune response. Similar to the way HIV can lead to AIDS in humans, an FIV-positive cat has specific challenges related to the immune system. Typically transmitted through bite wounds sustained in cat fights, proactive, effective treatment can help a cat live comfortably with FIV for some time.
Many cats will not exhibit any immediate warning signs of FIV. Over time, you may notice:
- Weight loss
- Lack of self-grooming
- Gum infections
- Slow-healing wounds
- Lingering respiratory infection
Without intervention, FIV can cause organ failure. There is no cure for FIV, but like many feline diseases, it can be treated with antibiotics or immune-boosting medications.
It cannot be passed to people, but this chronic condition should be carefully managed. It is critical that positive cats not fight with other cats, so restricting access to the outdoors is a common control.
What Is FeLV?
Feline leukemia virus causes feline leukemia infection (FeLV), and is spread through contact with saliva of an infected cat, most commonly via bites. Infected mothers can transmit the disease to their kittens. Allogrooming and sharing food/water bowls can increase risk. FeLV can be linked to certain cancers, such as lymphoma, but every case is different.
Younger cats are the most vulnerable to the disease, and may require isolation if a blood test confirms the disease.
Depending on what age they were exposed to FeLV, the prognosis can be wildly different. Older cats can live longer with the disease than younger cats, and should be examined every 6 months.
Guarding Against Feline Disease
The best way to protect your cat is to keep them indoors. Vaccinations are effective to guard against these feline diseases, as well. Because of their high risk, kittens should be vaccinated as soon as possible, and subsequent boosters are advised.
Spaying or neutering your cat also reduces their wandering instincts, and helps protect them from engaging in any wrestling, sparring or mating that can result in bite wounds.