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Core Vaccines for Shelter Cats

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Shelter-housed cats have unique vaccine needs depending on their age, population density, and housing environment (group vs. individual.)

FPV + FHV-1 + FCV

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Parenteral - Attenuated live

<20 Weeks of Age First Dose Administered:

Single dose at intake or where possible at least 1 week before shelter entry; in kittens, the first dose no earlier than 4 weeks, and then q 2 weeks until 16–20 weeks of age

>20 Weeks of Age First Dose Administered:

For adults, single dose at intake or where possible at least 1 week before shelter entry

Second dose 2 weeks later

Clinically Relevant Comments for Administration

  • Vaccination of pregnant queens and kittens <4 weeks of age should be avoided because of the theoretical concern for cerebellar hypoplasia15,16
  • Because of the theoretical risk of clinical signs due to residual virulence of the attenuated virus in an immunocompromised patient, consider avoiding in cats with retrovirus infections17,18
  • Provides cross-protection to canine parvovirus19,20
  • Considered by many clinicians to be their first choice for protection against FPV, owing to more rapid protective response than inactivated vaccines16,21,22

Parenteral - Inactivated

Not recommended owing to delayed protective response specifically for FPV (see comments in text)5,9–11

Intranasal - Attenuated live

<20 Weeks of Age First Dose Administered:

Not recommended in shelters owing to less-than-optimal protection against panleukopenia31

>20 Weeks of Age First Dose Administered:

Not recommended in shelters owing to less-than-optimal protection against panleukopenia31

Clinically Relevant Comments for Administration

  • Do not vaccinate any earlier than 4 weeks of age because of the concern for cerebellar hypoplasia15,16
  • Shelters should be aware that postvaccinal clinical signs associated with the use of intranasal vaccines could be confused with those caused by natural infections
  • Provides faster protection, which is especially relevant in high-risk populations and with kittens against respiratory disease24
  • Consider vaccination simultaneously with parenteral FPV
  • Might cause transient clinical signs of respiratory disease

FHV-1 + FCV

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Intranasal - Attenuated live

<20 Weeks of Age First Dose Administered:

Single dose at intake or where possible at least 1 week before shelter entry; in kittens, administer no earlier than 4 weeks

>20 Weeks of Age First Dose Administered:

Single dose at intake or where possible at least 1 week before shelter entry

Clinically Relevant Comments for Administration

  • Do not vaccinate any earlier than 4 weeks of age because of the concern for cerebellar hypoplasia15,16
  • Shelters should be aware that postvaccinal clinical signs associated with the use of intranasal vaccines could be confused with those caused by natural infections
  • Provides faster protection, which is especially relevant in high-risk populations and with kittens against respiratory disease24
  • Might cause transient clinical signs of respiratory disease

FeLV

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Recombinant & Inactivated

<20 Weeks of Age First Dose Administered:

Two doses 3–4 weeks apart beginning as early as 8 weeks of age

>20 Weeks of Age First Dose Administered:

Two doses 3–4 weeks apart

Clinically Relevant Comments for Administration

  • Optional in individually housed cats but shelters should consider the benefits of vaccinating more cats against FeLV
  • Strongly recommended in group-housed cats
  • Recommend testing to establish FeLV antigen status prior to vaccination (see text for comments)
  • There is conflicting evidence in the literature regarding efficacy and safety when comparing recombinant and inactivated vaccines (see text for comments)12–14,28–30

RABIES

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Recombinant & Inactivated

Administration Instructions

Follow vaccine label instructions and local laws. See rabiesaware.org for additional information on state-level rabies regulations. 

Clinically Relevant Comments for Administration

  • Necessary for all cats where legally allowed/mandated or in an endemic region
  • The authority to administer rabies vaccine to shelter-housed cats is often stipulated by state or local law and may not be at the discretion of shelter personnel
  • In states/provinces where rabies vaccination may not be mandated, shelters should consider the benefits of vaccinating more cats against rabies
  • There is conflicting evidence in the literature regarding efficacy and safety when comparing recombinant and inactivated vaccines (see text for comments)12,30

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Elanco Animal Health, Merck Animal Health, and Zoetis Petcare supported the development of the
2020 AAHA/AAFP Feline Vaccination Guidelines and resources through an educational grant to AAHA.