2020 AAHA/AAFP Feline Vaccination Guidelines

Now available: Creating Individualized Feline Vaccine Protocols 
Join members of the 2020 AAHA/AAFP Feline Vaccination Guidelines task force for a free, RACE-approved webinar on creating individualized feline vaccine protocols.

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The guidelines are a consensus report on current recommendations for vaccination of cats of any origin, authored by a Task Force of experts. The guidelines are published simultaneously in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (volume 22, issue 9, pages 813–830, DOI: 10.1177/1098612X20941784) and the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (volume 56, issue 4, pages 249–265, DOI: 10.5326/JAAHA-MS-7123). The guidelines assign approved feline vaccines to core (recommended for all cats) and non-core (recommended based on an individualized risk-benefit assessment) categories. Practitioners can develop individualized vaccination protocols consisting of core vaccines and noncore vaccines based on exposure and susceptibility risk as defined by the patient’s life stage, lifestyle, and place of origin and by environmental and epidemiologic factors. An update on feline injection-site sarcomas indicates that occurrence of this sequela remains infrequent and idiosyncratic. Staff education initiatives should enable the veterinary practice team to be proficient in advising clients on proper vaccination practices and compliance. Vaccination is a component of a preventive healthcare plan. The vaccination visit should always include a thorough physical exam and client education dialog that gives the pet owner an understanding of how clinical staff assess disease risk and propose recommendations that help ensure an enduring owner-pet relationship. (J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2020; 56:249–265. DOI 10.5326/JAAHA-MS-7123)

The Task Force recommends vaccines for FHV-1, FCV, FPV, rabies, and FeLV (cats younger than 1 year old) as core vaccines for pet and shelter cats. Non-core vaccines are optional vaccines that should be considered in the light of exposure risk; that is, based on geographic distribution and the lifestyle of the cat. Optional or non-core vaccines for cats include FeLV (for cats older than 1 year), Chlamydia felis, and Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccines.


As a medically essential and cost-effective method of infectious disease control, vaccination continues to be a mainstay of feline practice and a critical component of an individualized preventive healthcare plan. These guidelines provide the most current information and recommendations for feline vaccination as determined by a Task Force of experts in feline practice. The recommendations are evidence-guided, based on current peer-reviewed literature and data, and complemented by clinical insights collectively derived from decades of experience. The guidelines update the 2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report and utilize similar recommendations from the 2016 WSAVA Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs and Cats.1,2 Both of these previously published resources should still be considered relevant and actionable complements to the 2020 guidelines.

The guidelines continue the established approach of considering inclusion of core (recommended for all cats) and non-core (recommended based on an individualized risk-benefit assessment) vaccines in an individualized protocol. As explained in the guidelines, a patient-specific vaccination plan should consider environmental risk factors and life stage and lifestyle factors that determine the likelihood of infectious disease exposure and susceptibility. For example, not all feline patients originate from a home environment, and conversely, most cats described as “indoor only” might find themselves periodically exposed to other cats. The guidelines discuss other presentation scenarios that can potentially affect a risk-benefit assessment and include updates on feline injection-site sarcomas (FISSs) and other vaccination-related reactions.

A key component of the guidelines are comprehensive, easy-to-reference tables listing approved core and non-core feline vaccines and the relevant considerations for their use. The guidelines are complemented by an online resource center at aaha.org/felinevaccination and supplemental materials at catvets.com/vaccinations.The online resources include frequently asked questions about vaccination that clinicians and pet owners raise as well as a vaccine protocol calculator that uses a cat’s life stage and lifestyle information to suggest an appropriate, individualized vaccination protocol.

The guidelines discuss in some detail the importance of staff and client education in implementing vaccination protocols and recommendations for feline patients. This emphasis is noteworthy in view of the fact that many pet owners, especially cat owners, associate professional veterinary care primarily with two events, vaccination and treatment of acute conditions.3 Thus, a healthcare visit for the purposes of vaccination becomes an opportunity to more broadly discuss an overall preventive healthcare strategy with the pet owner. Implicit in this approach is an explanation of how the clinician considers life stage, lifestyle, patient health status, environmental, and epidemiologic factors in making vaccination recommendations. The vaccination event then occurs in the context of a practitioner-client discussion on how preventive healthcare forms the basis for the pet owner to maintain a long, rewarding relationship with the animal in his or her care.


Vaccination principles; vaccines; lifestyle; risk assessment; veterinarian; injection site; rabies; leukemia; guidelines; maternally derived antibodies

Correspondence: [email protected]

* 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.

These guidelines were prepared by a Task Force of experts convened by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and were subjected to a formal peer-review process. This document is intended as a guideline only, not an AAHA or AAFP standard of care. These guidelines and recommendations should not be construed as dictating an exclusive protocol, course of treatment, or procedure. Variations in practice may be warranted based on the needs of the individual patient, resources, and limitations unique to each individual practice setting. Evidence-based support for specific recommendations has been cited whenever possible and appropriate.

Other recommendations are based on practical clinical experience and a consensus of expert opinion. Further research is needed to document some of these recommendations. Because each case is different, veterinarians must base their decisions on the best available scientific evidence in conjunction with their own knowledge and experience.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid); FCV (feline calicivirus); FeLV (feline leukemia virus); FHV-1 (feline herpesvirus type 1); FIP (feline infectious peritonitis); FISS (feline injection-site sarcoma); FPV (feline panleukopenia virus); Ig (immunoglobulin); IM (intramuscular); MDA (maternally derived antibodies); SC (subcutaneous); WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association)

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.