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FVRCP Vaccine for Cats – What Is It and Do Cats Need It? (Vet Answer)

Written by: Dr. Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

vet giving kitten vaccine

FVRCP Vaccine for Cats – What Is It and Do Cats Need It? (Vet Answer)


Dr. Joanna Woodnutt Photo


Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

MRCVS, Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As cat parents, we love our kitties dearly, and, of course, we want them to stay healthy. Vaccinations are a common way to control disease in humans and animals, but information about them can be confusing. Is the FVRCP vaccine necessary for your cat? Can cat vaccines be dangerous? What’s best for your feline friend? Let’s figure out the facts.

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What Is the FVRCP Vaccine?

FVRCP stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. The name of the vaccine indicates the diseases it is designed to prevent, and the fact it is for use in cats (felines).

When an immune system meets a disease, it makes memory cells that can be used if it meets the same disease again, meaning the disease can be fought more quickly next time. The FVRCP vaccine triggers this memory, without making your cat feel unwell in the way she would if she caught the disease for real.

Veterinarian at vet clinic giving injection to cat
Photo Credit: Tom Wang, Shutterstock

What Does the FVRCP Vaccine Protect Against?

Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia are the three diseases that are covered by the FVRCP vaccine in cats. They are all caused by viruses. Viruses are difficult to treat, with no specific pill to cure them. That’s why vaccines are used – to try and prevent the disease, rather than needing to treat it.

Rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia are serious diseases and can be life-threatening. Even in less serious cases, symptoms include a blocked nose, sticky eyes, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cats with blocked noses often stop eating – they can become dangerously weak and need hospital treatment. More serious symptoms include painful sores in the mouth or life-threatening changes to the blood. Cats with these symptoms might require longer hospital stays and may not survive.

Rhinotracheitis is caused by a cat herpes virus. Once a cat has caught this virus, it will stay in their body and can flare up frequently, causing regular bouts of ill health. Panleukopenia is a very serious disease – the only reason it isn’t one of the main causes of death in cats is that most cats are now vaccinated with FVRCP.

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What Are the Advantages of Vaccinating My Cat?

Vaccines prevent illness. There is no specific treatment for viral diseases, so preventing them with vaccination is the best option.

Attending a yearly vaccination appointment is not just for a vaccine – it’s an important way of keeping your cat healthy. Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination as part of the appointment. This means your vet is checking for early signs of illness that may otherwise go unnoticed.

My Cat Is Old and Has Always Had Vaccines, Does She Still Need Them?

Yes. Viruses are riskier for cats that have weakened immune systems. The very old, the very young, and those with other health problems are in at-risk categories. The FVRCP vaccine needs boosting every year throughout your cat’s life – if you stop vaccinating when she is old, you may be leaving her vulnerable to disease when she needs protecting most of all.

My Cat Lives Indoors – Do I Need to Get Her Vaccinated With FVRCP?

Some viruses, including the virus that causes life-threatening panleukopenia in cats, can survive a long time in the outside world. Cats don’t have to come into direct contact with an infected cat to become infected themselves. We could pick up virus particles on our shoes, hands, or shopping bags, then bring the virus into our homes. So yes, indoor cats should be vaccinated with the FVRCP vaccine.

cat_PHOTOGRAPHY, Shutterstock
Photo Credit: AJSTUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY, Shutterstock

Does Having An FVRCP Vaccine Hurt My Cat?

The vaccine is one injection of approximately half a milliliter of fluid. It’s a tiny amount – a teaspoon is close to 6 milliliters. A very fine needle passes through your cat’s skin and the vaccine is injected into the space underneath. Most cats don’t even notice the vaccine being given.

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Why Do Some People Say Vaccines Are Dangerous?

The reason vaccines are used so often in people and animals is because they are considered safe. They are much more likely to be safe than getting a disease.

Side effects from the FVRCP vaccine are possible, but not common.

If they occur at all they are usually mild. They may include:
  • A small lump in the skin where the vaccine has been given (the lump is not usually painful)
  • Feeling a bit quiet
  • A small rise in body temperature
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Sneezes

Cats do not usually need treatment if they experience these side effects. If they occur, they will only last a few days.

In very rare cases vaccines can trigger an allergic reaction. That said, anything can cause an allergic reaction, they are not unique to vaccines. Fear of an allergic reaction is not a good reason to stop vaccinating your cat – they are extremely rare.

If I Decide to Get My Cat Vaccinated, How Often Does She Need an FVRCP Vaccine?

Kittens, or cats being injected for the first time, need to have two vaccines, 3-4 weeks apart. Adult cats need to see a veterinarian for a booster vaccination every year to stay protected.

Cats don’t need to be boosted for all three diseases every year, but two of the three diseases in FVRCP do need boosting every year, the other one every third year. Your cat will need to see the vet for a booster every year and they will keep a record of which booster is due.

If cats go overdue for their booster (if it’s much more than a year since their last FVRCP vaccine), they will need to have two to start again.

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Is vaccinating my cat with the FVRCP vaccine a good idea?

In short – yes. If your cat is vaccinated with the FVRCP vaccine their chances of being ill from one of the three diseases in the vaccine is massively reduced. Without the vaccine, your cat is at constant risk of one of these potentially life-threatening conditions. Side effects from the vaccine are unusual, and if they do occur, they are usually mild and short-lived.

Featured Photo Credit: Ilike, Shutterstock

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