Vaccination is crucial to protect Bengals against life-threatening diseases such as rabies and feline panleukopenia. While there is no single vaccination protocol that can be applied to all cats, a few core vaccines are recommended for most. Vets may also recommend additional vaccines on a case-by-case basis, depending on the cat’s risk of exposure to specific diseases.
In this article, we explain what vaccines are and why you should get your cat vaccinated. We also go over frequently recommended vaccines and their typical prices.
Keep in mind that this article is not and should not be taken as pet medical advice. If you have questions regarding cat vaccines or health issues your pet may have, always consult a licensed veterinarian.
Table of Contents
- What are cat vaccines?
- Why should I get my cat vaccinated?
- Are cat vaccines effective?
- What vaccines do Bengal cats need?
Core and non-core vaccines
- FVRCP vaccine
- Rabies vaccine
- FeLV vaccine
- Feline chlamydia vaccine
- Bordetellosis vaccine
- Do Bengals need the FIV vaccine?
- How much do cat vaccines cost?
- Do cat vaccines have side effects?
- Can cat vaccines trigger an allergic reaction?
- When should I get my Bengal vaccinated?
What are cat vaccines?
Vaccines are substances that contain dead or altered viruses. Their purpose is to stimulate the immune system’s production of antibodies and fighting cells, which protect cats against disease-causing organisms.
Vaccines play a crucial role in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Without them, millions of cats would die from preventable diseases.
Why should I get my cat vaccinated?
Vaccines prevent the transmission of many diseases. Some of these are prevalent and highly contagious, and some are often fatal.
Moreover, certain cat vaccines protect people from diseases that cats can transmit to humans, including rabies.
As stated by the American Animal Hospital Association, “the incidence of serious disease caused by pathogenic organisms, such as feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), can be reduced dramatically when widespread vaccination is practiced.”
For these reasons, certain cat vaccines are mandatory in many jurisdictions.
Vaccines also have a financial benefit: by preventing infections, they can help avoid costly visits to the vet.
Are cat vaccines effective?
In most cases, fully vaccinated cats resist the disease against which they are vaccinated. Vaccination against feline panleukopenia, for example, is very effective.
However, not all vaccines offer absolute protection. Vaccination against respiratory infections, for instance, isn’t 100% effective.
That being said, vaccines that don’t offer complete protection can still reduce the disease’s severity or duration, thereby increasing the chances of survival.
One of the most common reasons for vaccine failure is the persistence of maternally derived antibodies (MDAs) in a kitten. While these antibodies provide natural protection against diseases, they prevent vaccines from stimulating an immune response.
The level of MDA declines as kittens grow, but at a rate that can vary significantly from one individual to another. To increase the chances that a successful vaccination occurs soon after the immunity from the mother’s milk has worn off, vets give kittens a series of shots over a few months.
Moreover, a vaccine’s effectiveness may vary depending on the manufacturer’s formulation. Indeed, different vaccines that are designed to protect against the same pathogen are not necessarily equivalent.
It’s also important to note that a vaccinated cat’s immune response may be reduced by factors such as:
- Poor health
- Chronic stress
- An incomplete series of boosters
- Drugs that suppress the immune system
- Immunodeficiency (congenital or acquired)
- Inadequate nutrition
All these factors make it impossible to predict the outcome of vaccination with absolute accuracy.
What vaccines do Bengal cats need?
Like all other domestic cats, Bengals need core vaccines. These vaccines offer protection against diseases that are prevalent, dangerous and/or highly contagious.
The American Animal Hospital Association recommends vaccines against the following diseases as core vaccines:
- FHV-1 (feline herpesvirus type-1)
- FCV (feline calicivirus)
- FPV (feline panleukopenia virus)
- FeLV (feline leukemia virus) for cats under 1 year of age
FHV, FCV and FPV vaccines are sometimes combined into the 3-in-1 FVRCP vaccine.
Your vet may also recommend a selection of non-core vaccines based on a risk-benefit assessment. The American Animal Hospital Association approves vaccines against the following diseases as non-core vaccines:
- FeLV (feline leukemia virus) for cats over 1 year of age
- Feline chlamydia (Chlamydia felis)
- Bordetellosis (Bordetella bronchiseptica)
When establishing an individualized vaccination protocol, vets consider the risk of exposure to certain diseases. This risk is increased if you have multiple cats, if you wish to walk your cat outside (where it could encounter wild animals), or if you plan on traveling with your cat, for instance. Other variables taken into consideration include age, overall health, vaccination history, place of origin, immunodeficiency, and epidemiological factors.
Keep in mind that even if you don’t plan on taking your Bengal outside, it could still be exposed to pathogens when you bring it to the vet. And who says your cat won’t slip out the door some day? Bengals are very curious, and it only takes a moment of distraction on their owners’ part for them to venture outside on their own.
In addition, humans can unwillingly introduce contaminated fomites into households. And depending on where you live, unwanted visitors like mice, rats and bats could also be a threat.
Core and non-core vaccines
The FVRCP vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects Bengals against three viruses: feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia.
Feline viral rhinotracheitis causes fever, conjunctivitis (eye inflammation), and rhinitis (inflammation inside the nose). Infected cats sneeze, secrete mucus and pus through their eyes and nose, and lose their appetite and energy. Other symptoms can include mouth ulcers and inflammation of the cornea. This virus can lay dormant until activated by stress.
Caliciviruses can cause mouth sores, fever, inflammation of the gums, nasal and eye inflammation, or fluid buildup in the lungs. There are also two strains that can cause leg lameness (limping syndrome); the FVRCP vaccine doesn’t protect cats against these strains. The most severe strain of calicivirus is highly dangerous.
Feline panleukopenia (or feline distemper) is a life-threatening virus that causes fever, anorexia, diarrhea, and vomiting. It also weakens the immune system. If an infected female gives birth, her kittens can have permanent brain damage. This disease is highly contagious.
In some places, individual vaccines against these viruses are given separately, but the 3-in-1 option is usually cheaper.
An initial shot of FVRCP vaccine is given at 6–8 weeks of age, followed by three or four shots each 3–4 weeks apart. Adult cats receive a booster shot every 1–3 years, depending on the vet’s recommendations.
How much does the FVRCP vaccine cost?
The FVRCP vaccine typically costs $10–$30 per shot.
Cats usually get rabies from the bite of an infected mammal (such as a bat or a racoon). This disease causes cats to become either very weak or very aggressive, and is almost always fatal.
In certain states, provinces and regions, rabies vaccination is required by law to prevent the spread of this dangerous infection, which can even be transmitted to humans. Some jurisdictions require annual vaccination. Make sure to ask your veterinarian about local requirements concerning this core vaccine.
How much does a cat rabies vaccine cost?
The costs of cat rabies vaccines typically range from $10–$40. Adjuvanted vaccines (which contain a substance that boosts the immune response) usually cost less than non-adjuvanted vaccines. There have been some reports that adjuvanted vaccines sometimes cost adverse reactions at the injection site. Three-year vaccines can also be pricier than one-year vaccines.
Feline Leukemia Virus (which we talk about in this Bengal health problems article) poses a great threat to cats for two main reasons.
First, it causes cells to mutate, which can lead to cancer (such as leukemia) in different areas of the body. The most common cancer in cats with FeLV is lymphoma.
Second, it weakens the immune system, which can lead to a multitude of health issues, including other infections, anemia (a lack of healthy red blood cells), neurological problems, and inflammation. This causes the cat’s health to progressively deteriorate.
The American Animal Hospital Association classifies the FeLV vaccine as a core vaccine for cats under 1 year of age and as a non-core vaccine for cats over 1 year of age.
Kittens initially require two doses administered one month apart. Your veterinarian will then establish a revaccination schedule so your cat remains protected in its adult life.
How much does the FeLV vaccine cost?
FeLV vaccines typically cost $15–$40 per shot.
Feline chlamydia vaccine
Feline chlamydia is caused by a bacterial organism called Chlamydophila felis (previously Chlamydia psittaci var. felis). Transmission occurs through close or direct contact between cats, and is more prevalent in kittens than adult cats.
Chlamydia first affects the eyes and the upper respiratory tract, and can spread to the lungs if left untreated. The joints, the gastrointestinal tract and the reproductive tract can also be infected.
Clinical signs of chlamydial conjunctivitis appear a few days after infection. The first sign is a watery ocular discharge, which quickly becomes thicker. This may be accompanied by severe swelling and reddening of the conjunctiva (the membrane that lines the eyelid). Both eyes invariably get affected.
Additional signs may include:
- Partially closed eyelids
- Protruding of the nictitating membrane (third eyelid)
- Nasal discharge
- Mild fever
- Loss of appetite (rare)
- Lethargy (rare)
Feline chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, the disease can persist for several months. During this time, the cat may continue to shed the bacteria through its ocular discharges, making it contagious.
The feline chlamydia vaccine is considered non-core and is not routinely administered. In general, vets only recommend it for cats that have a high risk of exposure (e.g., cats living in catteries or in areas where the disease is prevalent).
This vaccine doesn’t provide a perfect protection against infection, but it can limit symptoms. Annual boosters are required.
How much does the cat chlamydia vaccine cost?
Feline chlamydia vaccines typically cost about $15.
Bordetellosis, caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, is a highly contagious disease that mainly affects the upper respiratory tract. It spreads through direct contact but also through indirect contact (airborne particles).
Common clinical signs of bordetellosis include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Usually, the symptoms are mild and disappear within two weeks. However, cats that have recovered may still shed the bacteria for several weeks.
Bordetellosis is more severe in kittens and in cats with a preexisting respiratory disease. In these severe cases, the disease can develop into life-threatening bronchopneumonia.
Like the chlamydia vaccine, the bordetellosis vaccine is classified as non-core and is not routinely administered. Vets may recommend it if the risk of exposure is high. Cats that live in catteries or in multicat households, for instance, have a higher risk of exposure.
How much does the cat bordetellosis vaccine cost?
Feline bordetellosis vaccines typically cost $15–$25.
Do Bengals need the FIV vaccine?
FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) is usually transmitted through direct contact between cats, more specifically through saliva. This virus attacks the immune system, making the cat vulnerable to various diseases. Infected cats carry the virus for life.
Surely, any cat owner would want its pet protected against this dangerous disease. But here’s the thing: this vaccine is no longer available in the United States and Canada.
According to PetMD, the vaccine was discontinued for the following reasons:
- Indoor cats aren’t usually at risk of contracting FIV.
- The vaccine didn’t offer protection against all strains of FIV. If a cat was exposed to a strain that was not included in the vaccine, it was just as vulnerable as an unvaccinated cat.
- The frequent boosters increased the risk of vaccine-site sarcoma (a type of cancer).
- Some vaccinated cats would get incorrectly diagnosed with FIV a few years down the road, as tests could not differentiate between natural infection and antibodies acquired through vaccination. Cats that ended up in a shelter and that had no vaccine record could get euthanized as a result.
If you live in the United States or in Canada, the best way to prevent your Bengal from getting infected with FIV is to keep it inside (except during supervised walks—see our 8 tips). Letting Bengals roam freely outside is not recommended anyway, because they are a threat to small wildlife and a target for robbers.
Recommended article: Can Bengals be outdoor cats?
How much do cat vaccines cost?
Here are typical costs for cat vaccines (in US dollars). Keep in mind that these prices may vary depending on the manufacturer and the veterinary clinic:
- FVRCP vaccine: $10–$30 per shot (kittens require 3 or 4 initial shots)
- Rabies vaccine: $10–$40 (3-year vaccines and non-adjuvanted vaccines are the most expensive)
- FeLV vaccine: $15–$40 per shot (kittens require 2 initial shots)
- Feline chlamydia vaccine: $15
- Feline bordetellosis vaccine: $15–$25
Some vets will also charge a consultation fee for every visit.
Do cat vaccines have side effects?
After getting vaccinated, cats may experience mild side effects, including:
- Lack of energy
- Swelling at the injection site
- Mild coughing
- Poor appetite
These side effects rarely last long or require treatment. If they persist beyond two days, however, you should consult your veterinarian. The Canadian Medical Veterinary Association also recommends doing so if the lump at the injection site grows larger than 2 cm, keeps growing after one month or is still present after three months.
Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) are quite rare, but require immediate veterinary attention. Symptoms are listed below.
Can cat vaccines trigger an allergic reaction?
In rare cases (1–5 per 10,000, according to one study), cats have an allergic reaction a few minutes or hours after vaccination. Signs of this reaction (called “anaphylaxis”) can include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Itchy skin
- Swelling of the face or neck
- Bumps on the skin
- Severe coughing
- Collapse (very rare)
Such an allergic reaction can be life-threatening if left untreated. If any of the above signs occur, consult your veterinarian immediately.
When should I get my Bengal vaccinated?
Kittens are the primary target for vaccination, since they are very vulnerable to infectious diseases. But kittens aren’t all ready for vaccination at the exact same age. Different factors come into play, including nutrition, overall health, and the amount of antibodies absorbed from the mother’s milk.
These maternal antibodies interfere with vaccines. They subside after a few weeks, but some kittens absorb more than others.
To increase the odds of stimulating immunity right after the maternal immunity has faded, kittens are administered a series of shots at specific intervals from the age of 6–8 weeks until the age of 16–20 weeks.
Some vaccines (like the FVRCP vaccine) need to be given multiple times to ensure lasting protection. Moreover, subsequent boosters are often required to maintain immunity. These are administered every 1–3 years, depending on the vaccine and the cat’s situation.
It is recommended to have your cat’s vaccination needs assessed annually so the protocol remains suited to its health status and lifestyle.
Vaccines are an effective way to protect your cat against highly dangerous infections.
Keep in mind that there is no universal vaccination protocol. Every cat needs a plan that is tailored to its specific needs. Your veterinarian will take many factors into consideration when establishing your pet’s protocol, including age, overall health, and risk of exposure to specific diseases.
To ensure full protection, it’s also important to reassess the vaccination protocol if your cat’s lifestyle or health status changes.
Everything considered, vaccination is the best gift you can offer your cat.
- American Animal Hospital Association – 2020 AAHA/AAFP Feline Vaccination Guidelines
- American Veterinary Medical Association – Vaccinations
- Animal Planet – Do cats need an FVRCP vaccination?
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association – Vaccination and Your Cat
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine – Feline Leukemia Virus
- International Cat Care – Chlamydophila felis infection (feline chlamydophilosis)
- Merck Animal Health – Feline Bordetellosis
- Merck Veterinary Manual – Feline Respiratory Disease Complex (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Feline Calicivirus)
- PetCareRx – Reasonable Pet Vaccination Costs
- PetMD – Bacterial Infection (B. bronchiseptica) in Cats
- PetMD – Cat Leukemia (Feline Leukemia Virus)
- PetMD – Cat Vaccinations
- PetMD – What Is FIV and Why Is the FIV Vaccine No Longer Available?
- PetMD – What Is the FVRCP Cat Vaccine?
- PetMD – What You Need to Know About Rabies Vaccines for Cats
- Vaccinate Your Pet – PUREVAX vaccines for Cats
- VCA Hospitals – Chlamydial Conjunctivitis in Cats
- VCA Hospitals – Feline Leukemia Virus Disease Complex
- VCA Hospitals – Feline Leukemia Virus Vaccination
- VCA Hospitals – Recommendations for New Kitten Owners
- VCA Hospitals – Vaccine for Cats
- WebMD – Facts about feline leukemia virus