At 12 weeks old, we recommend testing for Feline Leukemia Virus(FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus(FIV). Some kittens are tested earlier, especially if they came from a shelter or humane society, and as long as they are negative, the test is accurate. If the test is positive, it could be due to real infection or to maternal antibodies. Remember we discussed these in the dog vaccine post, and they are the immune system protection your kitten gets from nursing its mother in the first day of life. If the mother is FeLV or FIV positive, the kitten will receive those antibodies through the milk. In some cases this leads to infection, but not always. With FIV, the chances seem to be less that the kitten will develop the disease. But anyway, if they are positive we recommend re-testing at 16 weeks, when it is more likely all the maternal antibodies are out of their system. If they are negative and you are planning on having them be outdoors or indoors and outdoors, then they can receive their first dose of the leukemia vaccine. They will need a booster in 4 weeks, and then an annual booster. There is no vaccine available for FIV in cats, which is very similar to HIV in people.
There is another disease called FIP or Feline Infectious Peritonitis. This disease usually affects kittens of one year of age or younger. It can present as a "wet" or "dry" form. The dry form caused neurologic signs, like weakness of the back legs or paralysis. The wet form usually appears as a swollen belly that is full of fluid, and the kitten is quite thin otherwise. Once FIP presents itself in a kitten, it is always fatal. There is a controversial and ineffective vaccine for this disease, and we do not recommend its' use.
Rabies vaccination is recommended for all cats, and and can be done at 16 weeks or older. The first vaccine is good for one year, and then here in Colorado, every three years thereafter. The rabies vaccine we use is a licensed 3 year product, but in some locations annual vaccination is still recommended.
So that is the wrap up of vaccines for your feline companions. If you have any questions, give us a call, or we can discuss it further at your cat's next visit.