There’s nothing more fun than welcoming a kitten into your home and watching them discover their new world! Help give them a full lifetime to explore by vaccinating them against the most common and dangerous cat diseases. Since a kitten's health can change quickly, we give them a series of three exams and vaccines over their most vulnerable months, to ensure they grow up strong and healthy.
What happens during a kitten exam?
During the first portion of your visit, one of our veterinary technicians will talk with you about your kitten, including their eating and drinking, energy level, bowel and bladder habits, behaviour, and if you have noticed anything new or that you are concerned about. We use these questions to check for common symptoms or early warning signs that could indicate a health concern, as well as to help you think about any changes or questions you may have forgotten to mention. The veterinarian will then perform a gentle but thorough physical examination, using Fear Free techniques and treats to reduce your kitten’s stress and prevent them from developing a fear of vet visits. They will examine your kitten's ears, eyes, nose, mouth and teeth, belly, limbs, skin and fur, and lymph nodes, and listen to their heart and lungs, checking for any subtle signs that could indicate a concern.
There is a lot to learn when you get a new kitten, so over the course of their three monthly kitten exam and vaccine appointments, we will also discuss topics like litter box use; socialization; getting them used to their carrier; desensitizing them to having their mouth, paws and ears handled; deworming and parasite protection; toxins and household risks; indoor enrichment and outdoor risks; nutrition; and pet insurance. At their last kitten exam and vaccine visit we will also start preparing for their spay or neuter surgery and discuss microchipping. Bring your questions!
Why does my kitten need so many vaccines?
Vaccines train your kitten's immune system to recognize dangerous viral diseases, so that if they are exposed to one of these diseases their body already has antibodies to fight it. Kittens receive antibodies from their mother’s milk that protect them from diseases during their first few months. While they are present, these maternal antibodies can prevent a vaccine from being totally effective, but they also decrease over time, leaving kittens at risk for disease. Giving your kitten a series of vaccines as their maternal antibodies decline ensures that they are protected throughout this critical period and have full immunity once the series is complete.
What vaccines does my kitten need, and when?
- FVRCP (feline herpesvirus, calicivirus and panleukopenia): At 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks old
- Feline Leukemia: At 12 weeks and 16 weeks old (optional but highly recommended to give kittens initial immunity)
- Rabies: At 16 weeks old
All three of these vaccines need to be “boosted” one year later (at 16 months old) to lock in your kitten’s initial immunity. After that they can transition to an adult cat vaccination schedule, where certain vaccines only need to be given every 3 years.
It’s important that your kitten gets each of their vaccines on time, since delays could increase their risk of disease, and some of these vaccines require a ‘booster’ within a specific time period to train your kitten’s immune system to recognize the disease. If your kitten’s vaccines are delayed, they may need another dose to ensure they are fully protected. Until your kitten is fully vaccinated, keep them away from unvaccinated or sick cats, and don’t let them outside.
Are vaccines safe for my kitten?
While every pet is different and reactions or allergies to a vaccine can occur, these are rare and are usually mild, such as soreness at the injection site, lethargy, or loss of appetite for a day. The veterinarian will always discuss potential vaccine risks with you and instruct you on what to watch for. Overall, the diseases that vaccines protect your kitten against are much more dangerous:
- The FVRCP vaccine protects your kitten from a group of primarily upper respiratory cat diseases that are common, highly contagious, painful and can be fatal.
- The rabies vaccine protects your cat against deadly rabies (which bats can spread even to indoor cats). It is required by law, so keeping your cat up-to-date on their vaccines also protects them from strict public health quarantine laws if they have contact with a rabid bat or other animal.
- Feline leukemia is a serious and eventually fatal disease that weakens a cat’s immune system. It is an optional vaccine for adult cats, but we recommend it for all kittens since they have a higher risk of infection. The feline leukemia vaccine is included in our Kitten Exam and Vaccine appointments at no extra charge.
Why does my kitten need an exam with each of their vaccines?
Vaccines train your kitten's immune system to recognize dangerous diseases, but if your kitten is unwell then getting vaccines at the same time could put too much of a burden on their immune system. Additionally, if your kitten’s immune system is already fighting something, it may not be strong enough to create antibodies in response to the vaccine, which means the vaccine will not work. This is why veterinarians are only allowed to give vaccines after performing a physical exam to ensure your kitten is healthy on the day of vaccination.