Regular vaccinations are one of the best things you can do for your cat, and ensure he is vaccinated against some serious infectious diseases. Your kitten will have immunity from his mother for the first few weeks of life, but after that, it's up to you and your vet to provide the protection. Cats are usually given their first vaccine at 9 weeks of age, with the second vaccine 3 weeks later. After that, your cat will require yearly 'boosters' to maintain the protection.
Cats are usually vaccinated against:
Feline Herpes Virus (Cat Flu)
This is a upper respiratory tract infection, which is easily transmitted between cats, and causes fever, loss of appetite, sneezing and discharge from the eyes and nose and coughing. Kittens in particular are affected, although any unprotected cat can be affected, and available treatment is limited. Even cats who recover remain carriers and some have recurrent health problems (particularly in the eyes) for life.
This is another major cause of upper respiratory tract infection (cat flu). It is widespread and very contagious, with affected cats suffering from respiratory signs such as conjunctivitis and sneezing, fever, ulcers on the tongue and sometimes lameness. Illness can be mild to severe. Again treatment can be difficult and recovered cats are still infectious for a considerable number of months and sometimes lifelong, as well as experiencing chronic sneezing and runny eyes. Long term gum disease has also been linked to this virus.
The virus which causes this disease is extremely hardy and can survive in the environment for up to a year outside a cat's body. This disease is potentially fatal and can cause listlessness, diarrhoea, vomiting, severe dehydration and fever. The vaccine is extremely effective in preventing this disease, as again treatment is difficult and recovered cats can spread the disease to other unvaccinated animals for several months afterwards.
Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)
Infection with FeLV can cause many serious health problems for your cat including cancers such as lymphoma, serious anaemia and secondary infections due to an impaired immune system. Cats infected with the virus may show no signs for months but is still capable of infecting others. Testing is available to determine whether your cat is infected with the virus. If your cat is not yet infected but is likely to come into contact with cats who may be, vaccination is highly recommended.
There are other vaccines which are occasionally given to cats, including Feline and Chlamydiosis and Rabies, but these are not given routinely.
Once you have your kitten home, sensitive handling and friendly contact every day will soon help your kitten to settle in and feel at home. Young children should be taught that a kitten is not a toy and must be treated with gentleness and respect. Your cat should also be given lots of opportunities for interesting and challenging play to satisfy his natural instincts. 'Hunting' toys and scratching posts will please your kitten (and save your furniture too!) Allow your kitten to become accustomed to the cat carrier by leaving it out at all times so your kitten has access to it. Throw in a cosy blanket, some toys or a treat to encourage your kitten's natural curiosity!