Vaccination schedules and necessity are vigorously debated topics with extreme views on both sides.  Our philosophy at
Accent on Cats-Cat Clinic is that, as with many things, the truth lies between the extremes, and vaccination (which vaccines and how frequently) should be tailored to your cat's lifestyle.  Following is a brief description of the most common vaccines available, the diseases they help protect against, and our general recommendations:
1. FVR-C-P.  This product contains vaccines against several diseases in one injection:

•FVR-Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis.  This feline herpesvirus is thought to be responsible for approximately 40% of the upper respiratory disease experienced by cats, and up to 80% of infected cats may become chronic carriers with latent infections.  The symptoms of sneezing, runny eyes, and fever generally begin 2-6 days after exposure and last 2-6 weeks, depending on severity.

•C-Calicivirus.  This virus is also thought to be responsible for nearly 40% of feline upper respiratory disease.  In addition to sneezing, runny eyes, and nasal discharge, oral ulcers may also develop.  Symptoms begin about 2-6 days post-exposure, and can last up to 6 weeks.

•P-Panleukopenia.  Also known as feline distemper, this disease is caused by a parvovirus and results in high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and depletion of white cells in the blood (a major part of the body's defense against disease).  Mortality rates can be very high.  Kittens infected in utero suffer significant brain damage.  Symptoms develop 3-7 days post-exposure.
All cats should receive this vaccine, then get boosters every 1-3 years depending on  lifestyle.  This vaccine is required for cats boarding at Accent on Cats-Cat Clinic.

2. Rabies
Rabies is a viral disease of warm-blooded animals, and is fatal over 99% of the time in unvaccinated individuals.  Generally introduced by a bite, the virus travels up nerves to the brain before symptoms are seen, a process which can take 10 days to many months (average:  3-7 weeks).  Once symptoms develop, death usually follows within 7 days.  In Oregon, bats serve as the reservoir host in nature, and a rabid bats have been found in Washington County.  Nationally, twice as many cats as dogs are reported to have contracted rabies, probably because cats, as efficient hunters, come into contact with infected animals more often.  Because bats are adept at getting into houses, and rabies is such a deadly disease, vaccination is recommended for all cats (for your protection and theirs), even those who are indoor only.  In some jurisdictions (for example, Multnomah County), cats are legally required to have a current rabies vaccine.

All cats should get this vaccine and receive a yearly booster.  Accent on Cats-Cat Clinic requires that cats be up to date on rabies vaccination to board at the clinic.

3. FeLV-Feline Leukemia Virus.
This retrovirus may be responsible for more cat diseases (including the most common feline cancer) than any other single agent, as it is highly contagious and suppresses the infected cat's immune system.  Symptoms therefore vary because they correspond to whatever secondary infections the cat may have acquired.  The incubation period is about 8 weeks, and cats that do not clear the infection by that time remain infected for the rest of their lives--usually about 2-3 years.  This virus is spread primarily through the saliva and urine of infected cats (grooming, fighting, sharing food/water bowls and litterboxes, etc.).  Studies suggest that 2-3% of all cats, and 13% of sick cats carry the virus, with kittens being at greatest risk for infection.

Vaccination of all kittens is strongly recommended by the American Association of Feline Practioners, with yearly boosters for cats who go outdoors, may go outdoors, or are exposed to cats who go outdoors.

4. FIV-Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
Also called "Feline AIDS", this organism is in the same retrovirus family as FeLV, and is thought to infect 1.5-3% of cats.  Like FeLV it is spread primarily through saliva, but unlike FeLV it seems to require introduction into the tissue via a bite, rather than through casual contact such a grooming, sharing bowls, etc.  Symptoms may not show for years, and, in fact, some infected cats maintained on a high plane of nutrition and kept indoors (away from sources of secondary infections) can live out nearly normal life expectancies.  Those who do not survive frequently succumb to bacterial, viral, or fungal infections that a healthy immune system would have prevented.

Vaccination for this disease can be problematic, and is definitely based on lifestyle.  There are several "problems" with the vaccine:
• There are at least 5 subtypes of the virus, only 2 of which are in the vaccine (including, however, the most common subtype occurring in the western US).
•Once vaccinated, cats tested for FIV with any of the currently available techniques may test "Positive" whether they have the disease or not.  This can have dire consequences if the cat ends up in a shelter or is picked up as a stray.  Also, there is no way to tell if a cat becomes infected with another strain.  For these reasons, any cat receiving this vaccine should be tested first to make sure it is "Negative", and should be given an identity chip (microchip) to help insure that it is returned to its owner rather than possibly being euthanized as a "Positive".  The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that this vaccine be restricted to cats at high risk of infection.  The vaccine protocol requires 3 initial boosters, followed by a yearly injection.

5. FIP-Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
This is a viral disease caused by a coronavirus.  Most such viruses do not cause much in the way of disease, but 5-10% of infected cats, possibly as the result of viral mutation, will develop FIP.  It is generally a disease of young or old cats, but any age group can be affected.  It is thought that it is most commonly transmitted by feces.  Once inhaled or ingested, the virus infects a type of white blood cell (the macrophage) which usually fights infection, but now serves as a means to transport the virus throughout the body.  All tissues have the potential to be infected, therefore disease symptoms are very non-specific and can include fever, loss of appetite, fluid accumulation in the chest or abdomen (the "wet" or effusive form of the disease), ocular and neurologic signs, etc.  There is no specific treatment, although immunosupressive therapy can sometimes help for a short time.  Mortality approaches 100%.  Complicating diagnosis is the fact that there is no test currently available that can distinguish between virulent and avirulent coronaviruses.  History, symptoms, titers, etc., all have to be considered in arriving at the tentative diagnosis.

Vaccination (intranasal) for this disease is available, but is not generally recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners due to low incidence, questions about efficacy, unavailability of accurate testing, etc.  Only cats known to be free of any coronavirus at the time of vaccination are likely to develop some level of protection.