When my friend adopted her cat from a shelter she was told that this cat had been treated for URI and was no longer contagious even though she continued to have trouble breathing (making noises). Then my friend adopted another cat and this second cat did not get sick although there was a time when he would not eat for a few days. Then my friend and her cats moved in with me about 2 years ago and 6 of my 7 cats got sick with URI. One of them also had a heart defect and died but the others recovered after a week or two. My cats had not been vaccinated because I had been told that indoor cats were not at risk and we lived in a third-floor apartment in a complex where all cats were required to stay indoor. The only one of my cats that did not get sick was the one with FIV.
My friend and her cats moved out a few months later but now we're thinking about moving into a house together. I still don't know if my cats actually got the URI from hers 2 years ago and now I'm worried that we're going to have the same problem again especially since my FIV+ cat did not get it the first time. I've read on UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program's web site that vaccination doesn't really prevent a cat from getting URI and can at best help to reduce the severity and duration of the illness. I've also been told by another friend that vaccination may be bad for my FIV+ cat. So at this point I don't know what to do and any advice will be appreciated.
Vaccination of a particular cat is something that should be discussed and decided on between a cat owner and their veterinarian. It is my understanding that the URI (herpes and calicivirus) vaccine does not completely prevent the cat from getting the virus but it usually greatly reduces the severity of the symptoms. These two viruses are very contagious stable viruses that are very widespread among cat. Most cats are exposed when they are young and have developed some immunity to them. I believe keeping your cat vaccinated helps to keep their immune system primed to respond if they are exposed to the virus again. I recommend my patients get the vaccine every three years after they have had them two years in a row. I usually will vaccinate otherwise healthy FIV+ cats to help their immune system be prepared.
Vaccines can cause reactions but they are usually very mild. This is why a full exam by a veterinarian and discussion with the owner is vital. There are also different vaccines (at different prices) so discuss with your vet why they choose the vaccines they use.
I hope this helps. Write again if you have further questions.
Cats typically spread URI viruses through sneezing and nasal discharge so if there is still discharge, your cat could still spread the virus. Many cats harbor Herpes virus for years and can start shedding again when stressed.
I would wait 3-4 weeks after the last vaccine booster is given. It is possible for the FIV+ cat to get symptoms of URI after vaccination. It depends on how well the immune system responds to the vaccine. Most likely, the vaccine will help limit symptoms though.
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