HEALTH SECTION – Vaccinating Kittens

What Do We Vaccinate Against?

In the UK, there are four major killer diseases that we vaccinate against; these are the important
infectious killer diseases:

Vaccination Regime
At Vetrica we offer two vaccination regimes: cat flu and enteritis; or cat flu, enteritis and leukaemia virus. Whichever you choose, it involves two single injections given three weeks apart. The first dose of vaccine can be given from 9 weeks of age. The current prices of these vaccines are available here.

A Brief Description of the Diseases

Cat Flu

Cat flu is not related in any way to human influenza. The only similarity is the symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, high temperature, discharging eyes and nose. There are thought to be many different causes of cat flu, but about two thirds of cases are due to one of two viruses: Feline Herpesvirus and Feline Calicivirus.

Feline Herpesvirus is similar to herpes virus in man, (though humans cannot become infected with feline herpesvirus), in that once the cat has become infected with it, even when apparently recovered the virus may still be present, lying dormant in the cat’s nervous system. When the cat is not well for whatever reason, this virus can reactivate and cause disease again. This is called “latency”.

Calicivirus produces essentially the same symptoms as herpesvirus, with the addition of mouth ulcers. Although latency does not occur with calicivirus, the virus can be shed in saliva for many months after the cat has recovered from the disease.

Cat flu is not normally fatal, most cats recovering uneventfully. However, some cats develop permanent damage to the nasal passages, resulting in a chronic (often lifelong) discharge from the nose. In very old or young cats, fatalities can occur, usually due to pneumonia caused by a secondary bacterial infection. Vaccination is very effective against both these viruses.

There are some problems with cat flu vaccination. First, calicivirus has many strains, and no vaccine protects against all the different strains. Second, about one third of all cases of cat flu are not caused by either of these viruses.


Enteritis has a number of different names, such as panleucopaenia and infectious enteritis. It is caused by a parvovirus, very similar to, but distinct from canine parvovirus. In adult cats and older kittens, the virus causes dysentery (a severe bloody diarrhoea). It also attacks the bone marrow, resulting in an inability to produce white blood cells, (this is where the name panleucopaenia comes from). Death is a common sequel to feline parvovirus infection in all ages, but especially the very young.

If the virus is contracted by a pregnant cat, and the cat survives, the kittens may become brain-damaged. Fortunately, in Britain this disease is now quite rare, and vaccination is very effective.


Feline leukaemia virus is the most common infectious killer disease that a small animal vet has to deal with. This virus is a retrovirus, similar in this respect to HIV virus in man, and causes many different disease syndromes. If your cat contracts this virus, she will either eliminate the virus completely, and make a full recovery; or she will die, often many years later, typically with one of many different types of cancer. Vaccination is a good means of preventing this disease.


We are fortunate in the UK in that we have been rabies free since the 1920s, except for a couple of isolated cases in bats. Rabies is a viral disease, which usually enters the body via the skin due to an infected bite, although spread through the air can occur. The virus infects the nervous system, and slowly spreads to the brain. This process can take many months, and results in excessive salivation, paralysis, behavioural changes, seizures, and eventually death. This virus is readily transmissible to man.