Cat Vaccination: Risks and Resources

A list of cat vaccination risks, as well as resources used for this site. Below the risks section are some references you can use for your decision on a vaccination schedule for your kitty.

Note: Typically, on the day your cat receives injections, you'll want to make things as stress free as possible.

Your cat may be less active that day, not eat as much, and sleep a bit more than usual.

Thankfully, none of my kitties have ever had a serious reaction to vaccines, but it can happen.

They are usually a bit sluggish or aloof for about a day, though, possibly partly due to the stress of the vet visit.

I usually just try to make sure they're comfortable, not bother them too much, and watch for signs of trouble. So far, so good.

Risks and Side Effects of Vaccines

When discussing vaccinations and preventable diseases in cats, it's important to look at the other side of the coin.

There are some risks to administering vaccines, and there can be some adverse reactions.

These risks are part of the reason some experts are recommending that you opt not to vaccinate for certain diseases, and reduce the frequency of vaccination for others.

Below are some of the risks, reactions, and possible side effects.

Both mild and more serious allergic reactions to a vaccination are possible. Allergic reactions may appear shortly after or within hours of a vaccination.

More serious reactions may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Whole body itching
  • Swelling of the face or legs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High heart rate with weak pulse
  • Pale gums
  • Cold limbs
  • Shock
  • Seizures
  • Collapse
  • Coma

The above may occur as symptoms of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a rare but extreme allergic reaction and can result in anaphylactic shock, leading to coma, respiratory and cardiac failure, and death.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you see any severe symptoms in your cat. Treatment needs to be administered within minutes.

More mild reactions may include:

  • Sluggishness
  • Pain or swelling at the injection site
  • Reduced appetite
  • Fever
  • Temporary lameness

If any of these symptoms persist, consult with your veterinarian.

Another possible side effect of certain cat vaccinations is a form of cancer referred to as injection site sarcoma. This is a tumor that forms at the site of the injection. It may take weeks or months after vaccination for these tumors to appear.

In addition, it's possible that vaccinating too often may due some damage to the immune system of your cat. This may trigger an autoimmune response. Debilitating diseases like lupus and arthritis are autoimmune related.

Immune System Modulation

In addition to a new vaccination schedule for your cat which reduces the quantity and frequency of vaccines over the life of your cat, many feline health experts are also recommending using a combination of a healthy diet and dietary supplements to boost the immune system of your cat.

Experts*, such as Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, say products containing transfer factors can safely enhance the immune system of companion animals and humans as well.

4life makes a liquid product for people, as well as a product specifically for cats (TF Feline Complete). Cats with enhanced immune systems will need fewer vaccines, be less susceptible to parasites, including worms and fleas, and healthier over all.

*Not all cat health experts buy into this concept.

Resources on Cat Vaccination

Here is a list of cat vaccination resources and information on immunization and immunity used as research for this site.

Orange tabby cat using laptop

Why just relying on titers may result in over-vaccination

Clarification on Dr. Jean Dodd's vaccination protocol for cats and dogs

American Association of Feline Practitioners 2006 Feline Vaccination Guidelines

AVMA Pet Vaccination Brochure

Feline Wellness, Fall/Holiday 2008 Edition. Calling the Shots. Does your cat really need all those vaccines?

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus -- Dr. Shawn Messionnier

FIP -- Cornell Feline Health Center

Vaccine related allergic reactions and injection site sarcoma

Books on Cat Health and Vaccinations

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