Can Kitten Vaccinations Cause Kidney Damage?

Cat Vaccination
Photo by Chuckumentary under creative commons license
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

In the USA the standard protocol (recommended) for vaccinating a kitten with the FVRCP vaccine is, as I understand it, a series of four injections starting at six weeks of age and finishing at 16 weeks of age. This is 4 vaccines within 10 weeks.

FVRCP is a combination vaccine against viruses: herpes, calici, panleukopenia.

There is concern amongst some vets and cat owners that a kitten receives too many vaccinations, which can damage kidney cells. There is evidence that the FVRCP vaccine can inflame kidney cells.

There is a direct link, in fact, as the FVRCP vaccine is grown in feline kidney cells. The cells used to grow the vaccine is retained in the vaccine and so they are injected into the kitten with the vaccine. It is suggested that the kitten attacks these cells as foreign bodies, gets confused and attacks his own kidney cells in an autoimmune response. This inflames the kittens kidney cells.

A research paper also links vaccines with kidney damage: Vaccines and kidney damage

Is the series of combination vaccines administered to kittens one reason why cats are 7 times more likely to get kidney disease than dogs and why kidney disease is the most common cat health problem in some veterinary surgeries? Kidney disease is certainly a major health problem for cats in the 21st century. Another potential culprit for the high incidence of kidney disease is diet: low protein commercial cat food and/or dry cat food2.

One veterinarian2 recommends that the standard procedure should not be followed. Instead, she recommends that:

  • An injectable modified live (non-adjuvanted) FVRCP vaccine should be used as follows:
  • The first vaccination takes place at aged 8-9 weeks
  • The second and final vaccination takes place at no younger than 16 weeks (2 vaccinations).

Cat owners should take charge in the veterinarian’s consulting room, in a gentle but persuasive way, armed with sound information. At least a client should gently challenge and probe for good answers.

Arguably, there is a tendency amongst vets to over-vaccinate for various reasons, one being that it gets clients back to the clinic for a bit of selling. The vet is the expert. That does not mean he/she can’t be questioned about, for example side effects.

In my view, vaccinations in older cats should not take place. This certainly applies to places where vaccinations of cats and pets take place routinely creating a healthy zone.


  1. Your Cat by Elizabeth M. Hodgkins DVM
  2. Lisa A. Pierson, DVM
Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

8 thoughts on “Can Kitten Vaccinations Cause Kidney Damage?”

  1. The following publication recommends ALL vaccines be injected in the leg not just rabies and FeLV. It is very strange that the
    The Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force (VAFSTF)still recommend “…vaccines containing any other antigens except rabies or feline leukemia virus be given on the right shoulder,..”, since these other vaccines may contain aluminium adjuvant which is the main cause of injection site sarcoma.

    I still see the recommndations that 4 FVRCP injections be given beginning as early as 6 weeks is pandering to the Veterinary community’s profit motives whilst ignoring potential and well-known health risks. Vaccinations as early as 6 weeks are either a waste of time as the injected antigens are attacked by the passive antibodies from the mother’s milk/colostrum, or cause serious problems. It is not known when those antibodies fall to a negligible value and amazingly no research has been done. There is a recent case in S Cyprus of an Aphrodite breeder vaccinating kittens at an early age and they all developed full-blown panleukopenia and died. It may have been a case of a high level of viruses in their environment but the mother’s antibodies seem to have been doing a good job before the vaccinations. They may have picked up a massive dose of viruses at the Vet when they were vaccinated!! In the below publication which is horribly long-winded and the critical information hard to find, the American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends vaccinations begin at 6 weeks , but in Appendix 1 they change it to 6 to 16 weeks but only in response to a hypothetical question. The significance of that difference for the kitten is glossed over. The recommendation for 4 vaccinations is highly irresponsible and is driven by the profit motive, as is the recommendation for adult cats over 1 year. which have a naturally acquired immunity to panluekopenia, herpes, calici, etc.

    1. adjuvant

      Why are these still in vaccines? It seems everyone thinks they cause problems? There are alternatives that are better. So why is the profession still using the vaccines containing adjuvants?

      Thanks for a very informative comment Harvey. You are better placed to comment on vaccinations. Personally, I have never vaccinated my cats. Perhaps in the 80s I may have but my last two cats, Binnie and Charlie did not receive vaccinations. I don’t believe older cats should have any boosters. The risk outweighs the benefit as fat as I am concerned.

      I am lucky in having a vet who did not recommend vaccinations for Charlie or Binnie. He actively discouraged it for Charlie. I liked that. He basically agreed with me. Both cats never went or go far from the home. There is little prospect of catching a virus.

      1. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

        I actually did choose the vaccine with the adjuvant for Monty’s rabies shot over the PureVax which is non-adjuvanted. The reason is that the PureVax is only good for one year. With the other he can go three years before needing another vaccine. The vet said they use a very high quality vaccine, but no, it’s not as good as PureVax. I could have went to a very pro-declaw vet for the PureVax. I choose to go instead to the vet who discourages declawing and educates clients. And I decided that the risk is low enough that it is just better to not have to put Monty through another vet visit for awhile. He only gets the rabies shot, no others. He just has such a hard time with strangers and gets so stressed out at the vet. I opted for the slight risk of sarcoma over putting him through such torture every year.

        He really, really hates that vet though– more even than he hates the pro-declaw guy. That’s the vet who saved his life after the bee sting on his tongue. That’s the vet who looked sad when I said my husband wanted Monty declawed on all four paws and said, “There really is no reason to take his back claws.” (Which got me thinking that if it really is no big deal to declaw why did the vet argue against the four paw declaw and look so sad?) So this vet saved his paws and his life, but Monty reserves his scariest growls for him and hisses at him constantly. He’s also very good at giving a shot quickly. I doubt Monty noticed the injection at all. He was too busy growling.

  2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    It’s very worrying that cat vaccines can cause problems. After reading advice from the Feline Advisory Bureau and consulting our vets who don’t push vaccinations, we made the decision that as our cats had a full course when kittens and then yearly boosters until they were 8 years old we’d not risk them having any more.
    We don’t do the recommended monthly flea treatments either, it’s not fair to force too many chemicals onto animals who have no say in it.

  3. I agree Dee, the 2 shot solution may be the. Answer. It’s time for this type of thing to be looked after in all animals, especially our beloved cats!

    Michael: This is the type of article that will draw in the masses of the cat world. I think we should all share a link.

  4. In my opinion, any introduction of foreign substances into a cat is risky. Both kidney and liver damage is plausible. These are 2 vital organs that no living being can be without.

    I agree that cat vaccinations need to be rethought and revised. The vet recommendation you cited sounds good. I have always been a believer in erring on the side of caution.

    It is noteworthy to mention that the injection sites for vaccines have changed due to an increase in sarcoma.
    The newly recommended sites are here:

    1. Wise words from a multi-cat caretaker 😉 It is surprising that it took so long for the injection site to be reappraised.

      It is interesting that vets are now asked to inject in the hind leg, as far away as possible from the body. So if there is cancer at the site they can chop off the leg. That tells you quite a lot about the dangers of vaccinations.

      1. It’s poison, pure and simple.
        It’s a coin flip for the caretaker to decide what risks they want to take.

        As an aside and as a person who gives rabies shots, that rear leg site that’s recommended is really tricky. I have a fight on my hands now. The shoulder was much easier.

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