Vaccinations and health checks needed include:
Feline distemper --- given at 9 weeks old and 12 weeks old, repeat annually
Respiratory virus complex --- combined with the distemper vaccine, repeat annually
Feline leukemia virus --- begin at 9 weeks old, repeat in 2-4 weeks then annually
Feline leukemia / FIV testing --- test no earlier than 9 weeks, preferably 12 weeks of age
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) --- begin at 4 months old, repeat in 2-4 weeks, then annually
Rabies --- 3 months of age, repeat annually
Intestinal worm checks --- 9 weeks old, 16 weeks, then twice yearly
Neutering or hysterectomy ( 5-6 months of age)
Annual booster vaccinations given along with an intestinal worm check twice yearly
Feline distemper is caused by a virus that is primarily breathed in by the kitten. This virus, affecting the intestinal tract and blood cells, will also cause runny nose and eyes. Fortunately due to vaccinations, this disease is not as prevalent as it was years ago. Kittens with distemper can be treated by a veterinarian but many of them will die due to overwhelming infection.
Respiratory Virus Complex
The three respiratory viruses that can also be inhaled by kittens cause varied symptoms from sneezing, runny eyes and nose, ulcers in the mouth, and pneumonia. Chlamydia, Rhinotracheitis, and Calici virus protection are all in the combination vaccine.
Herpes virus is common in cats and kittens but a vaccine is not available. Sneezing and eye discharge are the most common symptom.
Feline leukemia is the most common viral disease in cats. The virus is contracted either through the uterus in unborn kittens, through grooming, the bite of another cat, or contact from saliva and urine from an infected cat. The symptoms of this disease vary greatly from fever to forms of cancer. It is difficult to diagnose leukemia on the symptoms alone. Blood tests are valuable as an aid in diagnosing the disease but sometimes the virus can hide in the bone marrow of an infected cat for years with a negative leukemia test. Testing before vaccination is recommended. Cats with leukemia will have lowered immune systems and can remain carriers for life. Positive cats are susceptible to other infections due to a depressed immune system.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
FIV attacks the cats body much like HIV (AIDS) does in humans. The symptoms vary depending on the cat but the immune system is always lowered. Positive cats never get rid of the virus and are susceptible to other conditions due to a depressed immune system. The virus is spread through the bite of another cat. Fortunately the incidence of FIV is not high for indoor cats.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis
FIP is a very serious disease that is almost always fatal. The virus that causes FIP is difficult to test for and the symptoms in cats are so varied the diagnoses is mostly an educated guess. Vaccinations to cats is controversial as many veterinarians feel there is not enough infection in the cat population to warrant the vaccination. This disease has a tendency to affect cats under 2 years of age and cats over 9 years of age.
Tapeworms are a common intestinal parasite of dogs and cats. There are three common types of tapeworms in our area but the most common tapeworm is transmitted by fleas. Cats eat infected fleas and the tapeworm attaches to the intestine. Over time worms grow up to 12 inches in length and shed portions of its body called prolottids through the feces. The small pieces of tapeworm actually move and appear much like a grain of rice. These small portions of worms are actually egg packets that are later eaten by fleas which continues the life cycle. Research has shown that cats groom up to 75% of the fleas off their body in 24 hours. It is entirely possible that many cat owners are not aware their cat has any fleas and may not be fortunate to even see the tapeworm segments. Symptoms of tapeworms can be vomiting, diarrhea, unkept haircoat, and itching around the rectal area.