The virus that causes feline distemper is a fast-moving killer that can take out a cat in a matter of days. It’s easily spread, but the good news is that there are several vaccines for preventing the disease, administered often in combination with other vaccines. There is no excuse for not vaccinating cats against feline distemper.


Feline distemper is a disease more appropriately known as feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), which is sometimes also referred to as feline parvovirus. Despite the name, this contagious disease does not affect a cat’s temperament nor is it related to canine distemper. Rather, FPV causes serious disease in infected cats only. Unfortunately, it’s often fatal.

Vaccine Characteristics

Several available vaccines are indicated for preventing disease associated with FPV. Most of the available FPV vaccines are combination vaccines that also protect against feline herpesvirus, calicivirus, and sometimes feline leukemia.

The FPV vaccine is considered a core vaccine for cats.


This vaccine is administered by injection under the skin (subcutaneous injection) or intranasally (via nose drops).

Recommended Schedule

While your veterinarian is always the best guide for making vaccination decisions, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ 2006 vaccination guidelines, the feline distemper vaccine is recommended according to the following schedule:

  • Begin as early as six weeks of age, and then every three to four weeks until 16 weeks of age. Adults or kittens older than 16 weeks of age vaccinated for the first time should receive two doses three to four weeks apart.
  • Boosters: A single dose is given one year following the last dose of the initial series, and then every three years.


Administering a vaccine is a medical procedure, and there are times when a vaccine may not be recommended. For example, your veterinarian may advise against vaccinating an animal that is currently sick, pregnant, or may not have adequate immune system functioning to respond to a vaccination. For pets with a previous history of vaccine reactions, the potential risk of a future vaccine reaction should be weighed against the potential benefits of vaccination. These and other issues are evaluated when deciding what is best for your pet.


There is no known alternative to FPV vaccination.


American Association of Feline Practitioners’ vaccination guidelines 

This article as been reviewed by a Veterinarian.