Bordetella Vaccine for Cats

Mixing with other cats poses a risk of bordetella infection.
i Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

To vaccinate or not sometimes is the question for kitten owners. In the case of the bordetella vaccine, the conclusion you and your vet are likely to come to is that prevention is the best way to go, especially if your little furball is at risk of infection.

Bordetella Infection

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a highly infectious respiratory disease that affects cats and dogs. However, it doesn't affect all cats; kittens, and older cats with weakened immune systems are at the greatest risk of catching it. The disease usually is spread between cats, and from dogs to cats, through close contact and hissing or spitting at each other. Vets don't give the bordetella vaccine as a matter of routine, so when you visit the vet for the first time with a new kitten, he'll assess the risk factors for your kitty catching bordetella. Then, you can make an informed decision about giving her the vaccine.

Risk Factors for Bordetella

It's important to talk to your vet about the lifestyle your furry friend is going to enjoy with you. The kind of things you need to tell him are whether your kitten is going to spend much time outside, if you have other cats in your home already, and if you're likely to need to put her in a cattery at any time. If your kitten spends most of her time indoors, she's at much less risk than if she mixes with other cats, particularly cats you don't know. One thing you must be aware of is that some cats carry the disease without showing any symptoms. So, if your kitten has contact with other cats or dogs, your vet is likely to recommend giving her the vaccine.

Bordetella Vaccine

The vaccine is administered by squirting it up your kitten's nose. The guidelines recommend one dose for a kitten not less than 16 weeks old. The same dose applies to older cats. Your kitty should receive an annual booster, especially if she's mixing with other cats. When you take your furball for vaccination, be sure to tell your vet if she's been ill recently or is taking any drug treatment, because this could affect her reaction to the vaccine. She may sneeze for a few days after receiving the vaccine, but this is normal according to vets at Cornell.


A cat with bordetella typically coughs and sneezes, and she also is likely to have runny eyes and nose plus a fever. Vets at Cornell University point out that the symptoms are very similar to those of feline herpesvirus and feline calcivirus. However, vaccines for these are part of your kitten's routine vaccination program. The vets suggest that if you have another cat in your home who contracts bordetella, you should quarantine her in another part of the home to reduce the risks to your other pets.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

the nest