The Whole Cat and Kaboodle

Unnecessary, Expensive and Harmful, Oh My!!

For a while now I have been wanting to do an article about vaccinations. Once I cracked into it I could not stop reading!! So here is a distillation of my research into the subject of immunizing our cats. Please note that I use the word immunize here instead of the word vaccinate. The goal of a vaccine is to immunize. Are there different levels of immunization? NO!!! Please read on.

How do vaccines work? While the body has its own miraculous immune system, vaccines fill in gaps for novel diseases/viruses. Herd immunity occurs when enough cats are immunized and there are not enough hosts to sustain an epidemic. Not doing kitten/puppy vaccinations weakens herd immunity.

Vaccines are man-made serums containing either live or dead fragments of the disease agent, which, when injected into the body, elicit the production of antibodies to attack and destroy the organism.  Once created, these antibodies remain in the bloodstream at the ready should this invader come again.  Vaccines made with dead fragments must also use an adjuvant to boost its ability to attach to and destroy the disease.  

What vaccines do cats receive?  There are two: one is a blend of three vaccines commonly known as FVRCP.  This mix consists of three vaccines: Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calici and Panleukopenia.  The second vaccination is for Rabies.

These are called core vaccines and they are essential to all cats.  

But the question is: how long do they last?  Once antibodies have been created they do not fade away, or run out.  So the simple answer is that they last for the life of the cat or dog.  A titer test confirms the presence of active antibodies in the bloodstream.    

Did you know that if you give a vaccine to a cat with active antibodies that the antibodies will kill off the vaccine?  So at a minimum you have wasted time and money for the booster.  But the problem is that there is more to the vaccine than just the viral triggers.  And herein lies the problem. Additional vaccine doses in an immunized animal do not increase or improve the immunity, but they do increase the risks.


Two major reasons:  

1. Rogue proteins from the serum medium that create autoimmune reactions. 
2. Adjuvants in killed vaccines that induce a stronger immune response.  


Most vaccines are produced through a culture medium such as eggs, blood serum, or certain types of cells. The organisms are grown in these nutritious cultures, then filtered for manufacture into vaccines. These filters do keep out whole cells, but other proteins do “pollute” the serum.  The body will then make antibodies to address these additional invaders as well.  Unfortunately, some proteins are so similar to dog or cat proteins that the antibodies react to the dog or cats' own tissue as well—this is an “auto”-immune reaction.  What this means is that the body will begin to attack itself.  Irritable Bowel Syndrome is top among autoimmune diseases in cats.  

Feline Chronic Renal Failure (CRF).  The common feline distemper (panleukopenia) virus is grown in a culture of feline kidney cells. Recent work at Colorado State University showed that most kittens developed autoantibodies to their own kidney tissues after being vaccinated for distemper. When autoantibodies react with body tissue, the result is inflammation. Each booster vaccine creates even more antibodies—and more inflammation. Chronic low-grade inflammation is the primary cause of CRF, which is almost guaranteed to develop in older cats. The authors of the study suggest a causal relationship between the distemper vaccine and the development of CRF. In other words, annual re-vaccination for feline distemper may be the major cause of death in older cats. Annual boosters for feline distemper are totally unnecessary because the immunity produced by the initial kitten vaccines is so long-lasting.

Vaccine-Associated Sarcomas (VAS). Many people have heard about the malignant, fatal tumors called fibrosarcomas that can be caused by some vaccines in cats. This cancer occurs in the connective tissue. Research in dogs shows that vaccines cause autoantibodies to be made to many connective tissue components. The two vaccines currently implicated are rabies and feline leukemia. A third will no doubt join the list—the feline AIDS (FIV) vaccine. What do these three products have in common? They are all killed vaccines spiked with “adjuvants” (compounds that increase the immune system’s response to the vaccine). Unfortunately, in cats, this additional response includes inflammation that can lead to the formation of cancer. Even worse, every additional vaccine—indeed, some researchers suggest that every additional injection of any kind (antibiotics, steroids, fluids, etc.)—may significantly increase the risk of developing cancer, particularly if the injections are given in the same place. Merial is working on non-adjuvant vaccines for feline leukemia, FIV, and other diseases.

The incidence of VAS is at least 1 in 10,000 cats, and some studies suggest it may be as high as 1 in 1,000 cats. Let’s think about that number for a minute. There are 90 million cats in U.S. homes today; so between 90,000 and 900,000 (almost a million!) of them will develop a fatal cancer caused by vaccination. There may be a genetic susceptibility to this cancer, but there is no way to check for this genetic defect. What if one of those cats is yours?

When vaccines were given between the shoulder blades, these cancers were inoperable because they would grow into the spine, ribcage, and chest. This became such a serious problem that now it is recommended to give the rabies vaccine in the right hind leg, and leukemia in the left hind leg—so that when a tumor does develop, the whole leg can be amputated and thus the cat’s life can be saved. I guess the FIV vaccine will have to be given in the tail, so it too can be whacked off in the event of cancer.

When vaccines were first being introduced to the pet community, it was the USDA that did the testing.  Unfortunately, testing was very expensive, so they only lasted for a few months.  Antibodies were still active at the point that testing ended, but there was no way of knowing how long they would last.  So the USDA arbitrarily chose a period of one year for efficacy of these vaccines.  Later studies showed that even after 7 years the antibodies were still available, but the veterinary community was nervous about how this would affect their businesses, so a compromise was made that vaccines could be boostered every three years.  Yet many clinics still advise annual boosters for both FVRCP and rabies.  

A great way to avoid the cost and dangers associated with vaccinations is to run titer tests.  These blood tests count the antibodies available for each of the things for which you would vaccinate.  If antibodies are available remember that they will nullify the booster.  

The Ideal Situation

When a kitten is born it receives passive immunity from its mother in her first milk colostrum.  This passive immunity will fade away and needs to be replaced by vaccinations.  The trick is to vaccinate between the time that the passive immunity is gone and when the cat becomes vulnerable.  So vets do a series of two or three vaccinations to be sure to keep the kitty protected, but not have the vaccinations be knocked down by the passive immunity.  

Best practice:
FVRCP at 10- 12 weeks, then again at 14- 16 weeks. Run titer at 6 months to ensure immunity. Repeat titer 12 months after this.
Rabies at 16 weeks, then again 1 year later, then titer after 6 months, then 12 months later.

Titers can be expensive, but they are way less expensive than annual (unnecessary) vaccinations and the potential health problems that ensue.  

Earlier we talked about the most serious consequences of overvaccinationing, but it is the chronic diseases that are even more worrisome.  These diseases are often classified as idiopathic – of unknown origin.  This article written by a world-renowned rabies vaccination expert Dr Jean Dodds indicates otherwise:

Rabies Virus Protection Issues and Therapy,
W. Jean Dodds, Global Vaccines & Immunology Vol1(3) 51-54 2016, ISSN: 2397-575X

Although killed or inactivated products make up about 15% of the veterinary biologicals used, they have been associated with 85% of the post-vaccination reactions, mainly because of the acute adverse responses induced by the adjuvants used in companion animal…species.” [Note from Jan: adjuvants are “boosting” chemicals like aluminum.] Killed virus vaccines like those for rabies virus…can trigger immediate and delayed adverse vaccine reactions. While there may be immediate hypersensitivity reactions, other acute events tend to occur 24-72 hours or up to a week afterwards, and as long as 45 days later in the case of more delayed reactions.
Documented reactions in the above citations include:  behavioral aggression and separation anxiety, destruction and shredding of clothing and bedding; obsessive behavior, barking, fearfulness, self-mutilation, tail chewing; pica, with eating wood, stones, earth, and feces; seizures and epilepsy; fibrosarcomas at the injection site; and autoimmune diseases such as those affecting bone marrow and blood cells, joints, eyes, skin, kidney, liver, bowel, and CNS [central nervous system]
...rabies vaccines are the most common group of AE [adverse events] reported to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB). ”

Sources from the following vets/ websites:
Dr. Robb
Dr. Becker
Dr. Shultz  University of Wisconsin, School of Veterinary Medicine
Dr. Dodds
Dr. Hofve
Dr. Morgan

© Nancy Howard, The Whole Cat and Kaboodle. All rights reserved.

Visit us!
202 Kirkland Ave
Kirkland, WA 98033

Contact us!
(425) 307-1008