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Summary

Vaccination protocols for cats should consist of recommended core vaccines and discretionary non-core vaccines as defined and listed in the guidelines. Vaccines in the latter category are given based on a risk-benefit assessment. Risk is determined by the patient’s life stage, lifestyle, clinical history, and health status and by environmental and epidemiologic risk factors. Although feline vaccination is universally practiced by primary care companion animal practices, there is no single protocol suitable for all feline patients. Rather, vaccination of cats should be patient specific and guided by an individual risk-benefit assessment using the criteria listed in the guidelines. In the case of some vaccines, practitioners have a choice of different types of antigens, including those that are inactivated, attenuated, and in recombinant form. The patient’s clinical and vaccination status, such as the possible presence of maternally derived immunity or a history of adverse postvaccination reactions, are factors that may influence the choice of vaccine type.

Although most feline patients are household pets, practitioners should anticipate situations in which higher-risk cats are presented for vaccination, including those from shelter, cattery, feral, or foster care origins. Adverse postvaccination reactions unavoidably occur in a small percentage of cats. Because of their neoplastic etiology, FISSs continue to be the most serious, if infrequent, vaccine-associated adverse event. Detection of patterns in FISS incidence remains elusive, and their occurrence continues to be idiosyncratic. Advising clients in advance of the possibility of hypersensitivity or other reactions will help minimize their concerns. All members of the practice team, including clinical and non-clinical personnel, should have a well-informed understanding of the importance of vaccination of feline patients and be able to advise clients of the practice’s approach to an individualized vaccination plan. The vaccination visit is an ideal time for a client education dialog in which the clinical staff has an opportunity to discuss the role of vaccination as an essential component of preventive healthcare tailored to the individual patient.

The Task Force gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Mark Dana of Scientific Communications Services, LLC, and the Kanara Consulting Group, LLC, in the preparation of the guidelines manuscript.

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.