There are four diseases that are routinely vaccinated for in UK cats. We recommend all cats receive these ‘core’ vaccinations; however, this can be adjusted for certain situations e.g., strict indoor living.


This is a highly contagious virus that causes upper respiratory infections (‘flu’) in our cats. It is readily transmitted between cats through direct contact, inhalation of expelled secretions, and sharing of food and water bowls. The virus can survive in the environment for up to 14 days. Other symptoms include gingivitis and stomatitis (mouth inflammation), joint inflammation and, although very rare, bleeding disorders, hepatitis, and pancreatitis. Treatment is often complicated by secondary bacterial infections and can be difficult to resolve. Immunity induced by the vaccine wanes quickly so annual vaccination is required to maintain some protection. Despite vaccination, calicivirus is still present in about 10% of pet cats and up to 40% in cattery/colony settings.

Herpes virus (rhinotracheitis):

Herpes virus, which is also highly contagious, causes upper respiratory infections. It is a ubiquitous virus, found worldwide. It is readily transmissible between cats but can only survive in the environment for around 48 hours. Cats that become infected will become life-long carriers and can intermittently shed the virus and develop mild recrudescence of clinical signs (often when stressed or poorly). Clinical signs include acute conjunctivitis, lethargy, inappetence, fever, keratitis and, very occasionally, skin inflammation and ulceration. There are some anti-viral drugs available, although treatment is often symptomatic. Annual vaccination is recommended for all cats.

Panleukopenia virus/infectious enteritis (feline parvovirus):

This is another viral disease in cats, seen worldwide. Kittens are most susceptible to infection and usually have the most severe symptoms. Luckily, it is a fairly rare diagnosis, now that there is good uptake of vaccination. Cats are infected through their oronasal cavities by exposure to infected animals, their faeces, secretions, or contaminated fomites (inanimate objects). Clinical signs include fever, depression, anorexia, vomiting and diarrhoea. The virus also attacks bone marrow, lymphoid tissue, intestinal cells, the brain, and the retinas. In pregnant queens, the virus can spread across the placenta and cause severe foetal developmental problems and, potentially, abortion.

Leukaemia virus:

Leukaemia virus is prevalent in 1-2% of cats in the UK. It is spread through ‘friendly’ contact between cats e.g. grooming, feed bowl sharing etc. The virus attacks white bloods cells and can cause anaemia, cancers, immunosuppression, and reproductive failure. Treatment is not curative, only symptomatic. To establish high levels of immunity, it is important that kittens receive 2 doses of the vaccine as part of their primary course, and a follow up dose at their year 1 vaccine. This ‘loading’ protocol then allows for 3 yearly vaccinations for the virus. If your kitten or cat is going to be indoor only and has no access to other cats with outdoor access, then they do not need to be vaccinated for this virus. However, if circumstances change in the future, and your cat then has outdoor access, they will need the primary vaccine course started again.

Vaccination schedules:

Kittens, or naïve adults, should have 2 injections of the combined vaccine (calici-, herpes-, parvo-virus) +/- leukaemia virus 3-4 weeks apart. Kittens need to be at least 9 weeks of age to vaccinate them. Onset of full immunity to all viruses is 4 weeks after vaccination. Cats need vaccinated annually, but we don’t vaccinate for all viruses every year.

Non-core vaccinations:

Include rabies virus and chlamydia. The rabies vaccine is usually needed for pet travel outwith the UK. Chlamydiosis is a bacterial infection that can cause eye problems, and occasionally, transient fever and inappetence. Whilst the vaccination protects against the clinical signs, it does not prevent infection or transmission of the bacteria.

Please call the practice on 01423 900449 to book any vaccinations for your cat. Our vets are always happy to discuss your pet’s vaccine requirements and answer any questions you may have.


Photo by Gustavo Fring