This handout will guide you through vaccines and the first few weeks of care for your kitten. At the bottom, you can click on any one of our additional handouts on litter box training, kitten-proofing your home, and more.
Vaccines Required for Cats Living in Rockland County
Kittens and Cats living in Rockland County should be vaccinated against 6 severe illnesses. Here is a brief description of each illness followed by a schedule of when these vaccines are to be administered.
The ‘distemper’ vaccine (fvrcp) is really a combination vaccine that protects against 3 illnesses
A severe upper respiratory disease caused by a kind of herpes virus. Signs of illness include excess mucous discharge from the eyes and nose, inappetence, and sneezing. Infected kittens often acquire secondary infections.
A particularly virulent illness, calici causes decreased appetite, discharge from nose and eyes, lameness, fever, bleeding, and ulceration of the mouth, nose and feet. It is common for cats infected with Calici to become infected with secondary illnesses.
Panleukopenia is the feline equivalent of Parvo in dogs and is often called feline infectious enteritis. Panleukopenia is highly contagious and is often fatal. It causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, and attacks the cat’s immune system. Patients infected with panleukopenia are highly susceptible to secondary illness.
Rabies in an incurable, highly infectious illness caused by a virus. Many mammals are susceptible to rabies including all members of the dog family, cats, bats, raccoons, and people. Rabies vaccines for dogs and cats are required by law in the state of New York. Approximately 2-4 of all animals presented for testing to the NY health department each month test positive for rabies. It’s important that you cat receive the rabies vaccine even if it indoor only.
Kitten Visits and Schedule of Vaccination
Kittens aged 1 day-8 weeks inherit partial immunity to disease from their mother when they drink colostrum or mother’s milk. Vaccines administered during this time are unlikely to be effective because the inherited antibodies prevent the vaccine from stimulating the kitten’s immune system to produce antibodies on its own. To get around this biological roadblock, Rockland veterinarians administer vaccines in a series after the kitten is 8 weeks of age. By this time, the number of inherited antibodies has begun to decline and the vaccine series slowly goes to work at stimulating the kitten to produce antibodies of his or her own.
Importance of An Exam
Prior to giving a vaccine, Rockland vets will fully examine your kitten and take a temperature, pulse and respiration rate. The purpose is to ensure that the kitten is in good health prior to stimulating the immune system with a vaccination. Kittens that show signs of illness are not usually vaccinated because the combination of the vaccine and the illness may be too much for the young kitten’s immune system to manage.
Possible Side Effects of Vaccination
Rockland Veterinary has spent a significant amount of time and money to acquire the safest and most effective vaccines on the market. Still, there is a potential for the following side effects.
- Pain at the injection site
- Small amount of swelling at the injection site
Typically minor reactions like these can be prevented and/or treated with antihistamines. In rare cases, kittens may vomit or become listless, but reactions like these occur within minutes of vaccination, so it’s likely that if your pet has a severe reaction, it will happen while you are still at our office where we can provide treatment. Certainly if your kitten experiences any symptom after vaccination that worries you do not hesitate to contact us.
Importance of a Fecal Sample
Within the kitten series, you’ll be asked to bring two stool samples. This may seem unnecessary given that we are ‘deworming’ your kitten at the same visit, but the stool samples are essential. Here’s why:
- Deworming medications are effective against many kinds of parasites, but not all. A fecal test lets us know if the patient is infected and identifies the parasite. This information helps us to determine if additional treatment is required.
- When we test a kitten’s stool, the only positive evidence for an infection by some parasites is whether or not we see the parasite’s eggs, but the absence of eggs isn’t necessarily proof that your kitten is not infected. Kittens with recent infections will not harbor parasites mature enough to deposit eggs. So, while eggs are definitely a sign that your pet is infected with a parasite, the absence of eggs isn’t positive confirmation that your kitten is not.
- Intestinal parasites have several life stages of development. If the deworming medication is administered at a time when the parasite is not in the intestinal tract, it will not be effective. Two consecutive stool samples confirm that previous deworming treatments were effective.
- Most kittens are infected with parasites because the mother of the kitten was infected, but it is just as likely that the environment in which the kitten was raised is the source of the infection. If this is the case, the initial dose of medication may have been effective at eliminating the infection, but the kitten was reinfected subsequent to receiving deworming medication because of additional exposure to the mother or to the parasites in the environment.
Behavior, Food, Toys and More
Training, nutrition and the selection of safe toys are all important topics to address. Explore the other resources in this section for more information in these areas, but keep in mind that you can always phone us or email us with your questions. We’ll be happy to help!