When your vet gives your kitten or cat the distemper combo shot or intranasal vaccine, she's protecting him against several diseases. It's one of the core feline vaccines recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners, along with rabies. It's known as the FVRCP vaccine, for the protection it offers.
The F stands for feline, while the VR is for viral rhinotracheitis, the C for calicivirus and the P denotes panleukopenia virus. Viral rhinotracheitis is caused by the feline herpesvirus, resulting in a severe upper respiratory infection. While older cats can usually ward off the most serious effects, it often proves fatal to kittens and cats with compromised immune systems. Effects of the calicivirus range from serious eye infections, mouth ulcers and pneumonia. If you've seen kittens with goopy eyes, they're probably suffering from the calicivirus. Panleukopenia is also known as distemper, and it's a killer.
If your kitten or cat has already been exposed to these viruses, the vaccination won't protect him. He must be healthy in order to receive the vaccine series. If your cat is exposed to these viruses after he is vaccinated, he could come down with a mild form of the disease. Protect your cat by keeping him indoors and away from unvaccinated felines.
Kittens receive their first FVRCP vaccination between the ages of six to nine weeks. They get their second vaccination between the age of nine to 12 weeks, the third between the ages of 12 to 15 weeks, and the fourth one between the ages of 16 to 18 weeks. After that, they receive a booster one year later, then boosters every three years. Older cats who have never been vaccinated, or whose vaccination history is unknown, receive an initial vaccination and then another a month later. They then go on the "one year booster, followed by a vaccination every three years" schedule. If your cat receives a shot, it is given in the right shoulder.
Vets and cat owners are becoming increasingly concerned about the issue of over-vaccination. Although rare, some cats develop sarcomas, or cancerous tumors at the injection site. If you and your vet are concerned about over-vaccination, you can have your cat's blood tested to determine his antibody levels against the viruses from which the FVRCP inoculation protects him. Some cats retain immunity for longer than three years. If your cat doesn't go outside or come into contact with cats of unknown vaccination status, you might want to consider the blood testing. One drawback is that the test results can take several days to get back to your vet. If your cat's antibody levels are low, he'll need to make another trip to the vet for his vaccination.
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.
- University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines
- Chatsworth Veterinary Center: What Does FVRCP Stand For?
- Goodison Veterinary Center: Kitten Vaccination Schedule
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: Vaccination Protocols
- The Cat Practice: FVRCP (Distemper) Vaccine
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Feline Herpesvirus infection or Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.