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What is rabies?

Rabies is a highly fatal and deadly virus that is spread from the bites or scratches from animals that carry it in their saliva. Some common animals that carry rabies include:

  • foxes
  • skunks
  • raccoons
  • coyotes
  • bats

Does my cat need the rabies vaccine? 

Every cat is required by law to receive the rabies vaccine because it can be spread to people. In fact, around 55,000 people die each year from rabies (mostly in Africa and Asia). 

When should my kitten or cat receive the rabies vaccine?

In North Carolina your kitten must be at least 12 weeks old to receive the rabies vaccine. It is then given again 1 year later, and then every one to three years after. 

Feline Distemper

What does the feline distemper vaccine include? 

The feline distemper vaccine includes: 

  • Panleukopenia = Cat Distemper (parvovirus in cats) 
  • Rhinotracheitis
  • Calicivirus (herpes virus)
  • Chlamydia (especially in kittens)

What are these viruses?

  • Panleukopenia / Distemper is a very contagious and highly fatal virus that affects the bone marrow and intestines
  • Rhinotracheitis is a very contagious respiratory virus
  • Calicivirus is a very contagious respiratory virus. 
  • Chlamdia is a bacterial infection that causes respiratory infections and (commonly) eye infections 

How do these virus spread?

Panleukopenia/Distemper, Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus do not require direct contact between cats in order to spread and can be introduced by blankets, clothing, shoes, etc. 

Chlamydia requires direct (or very close) contact from an infected cat in order to spread to another cat. 

Does my cat or kitten need the feline distemper vaccine? 

Yes! We highly recommend this vaccine for every kitten and every newly-acquired cat. We recommend starting as early as 8 weeks old and giving the vaccine every 3-5 weeks until at least 16 weeks old, then continuing into adulthood. 

Feline Leukemia

What is feline leukemia?

Feline leukemia is a highly fatal disease caused by a virus that is spread by direct contact between cats. It can be spread through saliva and blood, so as cats that groom one another or through cat fights. 

Should my cat get the feline leukemia vaccine? 

Yes! We recommend feline leukemia for all kittens or newly-acquired cats. It is crucially important for cats that go outdoors. We recommend starting as early as 8 weeks old, giving a booster 3-5 weeks later and then continuing into adulthood. 

We have a 12-minute blood test that can check any cat for Feline Leukemia as well as FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus = Feline AIDS). While not required prior to vaccinating, it is recommended.

While you may have the intention of keeping your kitten / cat exclusively indoors, as they mature, they may decide they want to get out and explore. If after a year or so, and your cat is clearly happy to remain 100% inside, it will not be necessary to continue with Feline Leukemia vaccines, as long as it has no contact with an outdoor cat!

Proper kitten care is important for the health and wellbeing of your new family member! Dr. Bob Parrish answers more of your top kitten care questions here.