What is the FVRCP vaccine for cats? Vet’s Guide to Uses and Side Effects

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The FVRCP vaccine for cats is one of two core vaccines recommended for every pet cat, regardless of lifestyle. (Rabies is the other basic feline vaccine.)

Why is FVRCP considered one of the most essential vaccines for cats and kittens? Because it protects against three common viral diseases that can have significant health effects in unvaccinated cats.

The risks associated with these infections far outweigh the small risk of side effects associated with vaccination. Therefore, feline vaccination guidelines (opens in a new tab) (established by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association) recommend this vaccine for all kittens and adult cats.

What does the FVRCP vaccine protect against?

The FVRCP vaccine protects against three serious viral diseases in cats: feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia.

These three viruses can cause serious infections, and all three viruses can potentially be fatal.

  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis: This herpes virus is a common cause of upper respiratory tract infections in cats. Common signs of rhinotracheitis include sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and fever. In some cases, cats with rhinotracheitis develop secondary infections that can seriously affect their breathing. In rare cases, the infection can be life-threatening. As a herpes virus, rhinotracheitis causes lifelong infections; signs of illness may reappear whenever the cat is stressed.
  • Feline Calicivirus: This is another common upper respiratory virus in cats. In most cases, the signs of feline calicivirus are similar to the signs seen with feline viral rhinotracheitis. Less common signs can include mouth sores, joint swelling, and lameness. Some strains cause a very virulent disease that is often fatal.
  • Feline panleukopenia: Also known as feline distemper, this virus attacks the cat’s gastrointestinal tract and immune system. Affected cats develop vomiting, diarrhea and secondary infections. Less than 50% of cats infected with panleukopenia survive the infection.

There is no cure for feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, or feline panleukopenia.

Infected cats can be given antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections and medications to control symptoms of illness, but these viruses can only be cured by the actions of your cat’s immune system.

Vaccination helps prepare your cat’s immune system to respond quickly to infection and is recommended for all kittens and adult cats.

For more tips on preventing disease and keeping your kitten healthy, check out our kitten care tips.

Close up of blue eyed kitten

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FVRCP Vaccine Side Effects

Most cats tolerate vaccines well, with minimal side effects. However, just like when we humans get a flu shot, side effects can occur.

The most common side effects in cats include lethargy, decreased appetite, pain at the injection site, and fever. These effects are usually mild and short-lived. In fact, less than 1% of cats (opens in a new tab) experience side effects that prompt their owner to contact the veterinarian.

In rare cases (less than 1 in 2,000 cats (opens in a new tab)) a more severe allergic reaction may occur to vaccination. Vomiting, diarrhea, swelling of the face and general itching may indicate an allergic reaction. If you observe these signs in your cat after vaccination, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Finally, cats can also develop an extremely rare post-vaccination skin mass known as vaccine-associated fibrosarcoma. These lumps are very rare, but they can occur. If your cat develops persistent swelling at the vaccination site (lasting more than a month after vaccination), contact your veterinarian for advice.

How often do cats need FVRCP?

Kittens should receive their first FVRCP vaccine at around six weeks of age. Booster vaccinations are given every 3-4 weeks until the cat reaches 16-20 weeks of age.

In adulthood, FVRCP vaccines are given less frequently. Your cat’s first adult booster will be given one year after her kitten streak ends. Your cat will then continue to receive booster shots every one to three years for the rest of its life. (In general, injectable FVRCP vaccines are boosted every three years and intranasal FVRCP vaccines are boosted annually.)

Continue your cat’s FVRCP and rabies vaccines (according to your veterinarian’s recommended schedule) for your cat’s lifetime, even into old age. How long do cats live? From 12 to 20 years old, and it is important to continue preventive care throughout their old age. Older animals often have weaker immune systems than younger animals, which makes vaccinations even more important as your cat ages.

For more information on rabies, the other core vaccine recommended for all cats, see How often do cats need to be vaccinated against rabies?

A happy and relaxed cat staring

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How much does the FVRCP vaccine cost?

A typical FVRCP vaccine costs around $20-40, depending on the brand of vaccine your veterinarian uses.

However, this vaccine must be accompanied by a physical examination. Your veterinarian will carefully examine your pet to determine if he is healthy enough to receive a vaccine and to determine if there are any other health issues that need to be addressed.

For a physical exam and FVRCP vaccine, you can expect to spend around $50-100, depending on the cost of living in your area.

Given the need for repeated vaccinations during your kitten’s first few months of life, you may be wondering: does pet insurance cover vaccinations?

The answer to this question depends on your specific pet insurance policy. Many policies are intended only to cover accidents and illnesses. However, some policies offer optional coverage for preventative care. Read the details of your insurance policy carefully to determine what is covered.

Summary

The FVRCP vaccine for cats plays an important role in keeping your cat happy and healthy. Follow your veterinarian’s recommended vaccination schedules (for the FVRCP vaccine and other recommended vaccines) to protect your cat against serious infectious diseases, maximizing your cat’s chances of a long, healthy life.

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