We would be writing this in a layman way because we are ourselves laymen and so are you, so don't worry about having to read a wordy, difficult to understand article! And, disclaimer - we aren't vets, so if after reading this you want to find out more, do ask your vet more about the topic!
Booster jabs are for two critical kinds of diseases. The first is for upper respiratory tract infections, i.e. cat flu'. The second is for what we call feline panleukopenia, or FIE, or parvo (all the same one thing) - basically a diarrhoea type of disease that comes along with vomitting, quite serious. So one injection is meant for both these disease types. Your vaccination booklet would come with a sticker that is removed from the vial that your vet dispenses the vaccine from, and looks somewhat like this - depending on the brand of vaccine they use.
|Rhino-etc, Calici, Chlamydia = cat flu'|
You would realise if you read our blog regularly that vaccinations often bring pre-existing conditions to the fore and somehow seem to 'make' kittens sick instead. This is because booster vaccinations essentially introduce viruses into the cat to stimulate an immune system response to the diseases it was jabbed with. This pressurises the immune system, so kittens often fall ill before they 'become' better, sometimes with sicknesses that aren't even related to feline panleuk or cat flu'.
This is another reason why we want to do vaccinations for kittens on our end for kittens that are of age - so that new cat owners when they adopt don't also have to deal with the stresses of booster vaccination after-effects, thereby lowering our adoption-rejection rate even further as well.
So, why do kitties need 2 to 3 vaccines in their first year and only one every 3 years after that? Dr Karen Becker who has been interviewing Dr Ronald Schultz on this topic, provides some easy to understand insight. This is our summarised understanding of her interviews and comments.
Kittens obtain antibodies from their mothers, which is why they should not be separated from their mothers in a rescue scenario. When they begin to wean off mother's milk, they start the process of shedding their mother's antibodies and gradually build up their own. Full weaning takes place at 8 weeks old, which is probably one reason why vaccinations are recommended after this age for the first booster. However, this does not mean that they have shed their mother's antibodies completely, hence the second and third booster are needed to indeed immunologise the kitten against the 2 disease classes mentioned earlier. By the age of 4 months and older, the kitten definitely would have shed their mother's antibodies, thus achieving complete immunisation from these 2 disease classes. This also means that if the kitty's second booster jab is done at 4 months and older, there is no need for a third booster until the annual booster when the kitty is one year plus of age.
The first year's booster jabs actually make your kitty immune to these diseases and last a long time. So there really isn't a need for an annual vaccine after the first series of booster jabs. At our foster home, our cats are on a 2-3 year vaccine schedule because we foster a lot of sick kitties, but at your home, you may only need to vaccinate every 3-4 years because vaccines last longer than a year. Speak to your vet about this. Some vets may even prescribe a non-vaccination schedule because of the lifestyle and breed and history of your cat. Regardless, do bring your cat for an annual check-up (semi-annual if your cat is more than 7 years of age) even if you are not doing vaccinations!
We hope this brings some understanding to what kitten booster vaccinations are all about. If you have any questions, ask your vet - vets should be client-relationship oriented and be willing to answer whatever questions you may have about vaccinations. (Which is why we love Dr Dawn Chong of The Animal Clinic).
Back to adoption - we do hope that you will continue to support our Sponsor-A-LoveKuching-Cat Scheme to help boost adoption rates for older kitties, and choose us as your rescue group for adopting a new kitty companion! Do spread the word about us if you haven't already!