The Cat Clinic of Norman uses nonadjuvanted Merial Purevax vaccines exclusively. Purevax vaccines are the only ones on the market specifically designed to address the problem of vaccine site sarcomas (cancers) in cats.

Which vaccinations should my cat receive?

The answer depends on your cat's lifestyle, although we recommend that all cats receive the FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calici virus, Panleukopenia) and rabies vaccines. If your cat goes outside or comes into contact with cats that go outside, we also recommend the Leukemia vaccine.

What about vaccines for Bordetella (kennel cough), FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis), and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)?

These vaccines are recommended for special circumstances only and are not appropriate for most cats. We would be happy to discuss with you whether any of these vaccines are appropriate for your cat.

My cat never goes outside. Does she really need to be vaccinated?

Yes! Indoor-only cats are still at risk of contracting the viral diseases that the FVRCP vaccine protects against. These diseases spread easily and can be brought into your house on your shoes or clothes. Omitting this vaccine cannot be recommended.

We recommend following the local laws regarding rabies vaccination. These laws are designed to protect public health, and health departments tend toward strict interpretation. Consider the following scenario: Tom and Jennie decide not to vaccinate their cat Fluffy. One day their son, Pip, has a friend over to play, and Fluffy bites the friend. The friend's parents take him to the doctor, who notifies the county health department of the animal bite. A health inspector contacts Tom and Jennie and asks for proof of rabies vaccination. Uh-oh! Because Fluffy had not been vaccinated, the inspector required that she be quarantined at a veterinary facility for two months for rabies observation.

At what age should my cat be vaccinated?

8 weeks: FVRCP initial

12 weeks: FVRCP annual, Rabies annual, and Leukemia initial

16 weeks: Leukemia annual

1 year: FVRCP three year, Rabies annual, and Leukemia annual 

Notes

FVRCP: Current research suggests kittens should receive this vaccine three times during their first four to six months, starting at around eight weeks. The final booster is good for one year. Cats who are first vaccinated when over six months of age should receive an initial vaccination followed by a booster four weeks later. The booster is good for one year. Subsequent boosters are good for three years. Because kittens are especially susceptible to the diseases this vaccine protects against, kittens should be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine labeling allows (usually at 6–8 weeks). Please don't wait until the kitten is over six months of age just to avoid the extra booster!

Leukemia: Good for 3-4 weeks first time given. Good for 1 year the second and subsequent times given. If more than 12 months elapses between annual leukemia vaccinations, the series must be started over.

Rabies: By law, required every 1, 2, or 3 years depending on locality. At The Cat Clinic of Norman we believe that until conclusive evidence shows that the use of three-year adjuvanted vaccines are safer than the use of annual nonadjuvanted vaccines, we will continue using Merial's nonadjuvanted rabies vaccine, which must be boostered annually.

Is there a vaccination against FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus)?

Yes, but we do not recommend it. The vaccine is not completely effective (and hasn't proven effective against the most common strains of the virus in this country). More troubling is that cats vaccinated against FIV will test positive on all widely available tests for the disease. This means that if your cat is picked up by an animal shelter and they test for FIV, the cat will test positive and the shelter will euthanize if they have a policy of euthanizing sick animals.

What are adjuvants and why does The Cat Clinic of Norman use nonadjuvanted vaccines?

Adjuvants are irritants such as mercury and aluminum that are added to older technology vaccines. The adjuvants cause an inflammatory response in the cat's body. The body responds by sending white blood cells to the inflamed area, where they encounter the virus from the vaccine and start the process of building immunity to the virus. Adjuvants basically kick-start the body's immune response. Unfortunately, adjuvants can also kick-start the processes that lead to vaccine site reactions and, possibly, vaccine site cancers (sarcomas).

The Merial Purevax vaccines that The Cat Clinic uses were designed to address this problem and have indeed proven successful at reducing the risk of vaccine site sarcomas. We feel these are the safest, most effective vaccines on the market, which is why they are the only vaccines we are willing to use on your cat.

Where should vaccines be given on cats?Because of the risk of vaccine-site sarcomas, The Cat Clinic of Norman recommends that vaccinations be administered in a cat's rear legs, as far down the leg as possible. We never vaccinate between the shoulder blades or along the cat's back or flank and cannot recommend against such vaccination spots highly enough. Why? When cats develop vaccine-site sarcomas, which can be extremely aggressive, the best treatment is usually surgical excision with wide margins; in other words, amputation. If the vaccine-site cancer is between the shoulder blades or on the cat's back, the cat's options and prognosis are much more limited.

Further resources: American Association of Feline Practitioners vaccine guidelines

© 2009 by The Cat Clinic of Norman, P.C.