Source: ABC News (Extract)
Posted: November 23, 2023

A severe shortage of vaccines for cats has sparked concern in the cattery industry ahead of the Christmas holidays.

The annual F3 vaccination — which protects cats from parvovirus, feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus — is in short supply across the country, with vets scrambling to meet the needs of pet owners.

Andrew Kapsis is the head veterinarian at Lort Smith Animal Hospital in Melbourne, and said there was a worldwide shortage in cat vaccinations that was unlikely to be resolved until next year.

A combination of increased pet adoption during the pandemic and the shift in manufacturing facilities towards producing COVID-19 vaccines has nearly halved the amount of vaccines Dr Kapsis has available.

He said his clinic was delaying about 200 cat vaccinations each month as a result of the shortage, and had been forced to prioritise kittens who were more at risk of infection.

“For an adult cat that’s been regularly vaccinated, a delay of two to three months is unlikely to reduce the protection level, so that’s what we’re telling owners and that’s helping keep them at ease,” Dr Kapsis said.

“My concern would be if the vaccine shortage went on beyond early 2024, what we need to try and prevent is outbreaks of infectious disease in the cat population.”

In a statement, the Victorian government said it was aware of the vaccine shortages for cats, but said it was a matter for local councils to handle with businesses.

“We do not manage production or supply of feline vaccines, however, vaccine suppliers have confirmed more supply will become available later this year, before normalising in early 2024,” an Agriculture Victoria spokesperson said.

“We encourage councils to work with their registered shelter and boarding facilities to identify suitable alternatives until vaccine supply resumes to normal.”

Cattery owners grapple with vaccine shortages

Peter Walker is the owner of Sophisticat, a cat boarding resort in Moorabbin in Melbourne’s south-east, and said the shortage of vaccines could have a serious impact on businesses like his.

“Kennels are a seasonal business, Christmas is the big time period when people want to travel the most,” Mr Walker said.

Under the state’s Code of Practice for the Operation of Boarding Establishments, all cats and dogs must be vaccinated within the preceding 12 months before being admitted to a boarding facility.

Mr Walker said he was fully booked for the Christmas period, but had to contact every booking to either confirm their pet was vaccinated or cancel.

“There are a number I still have not heard from and we’ll deal with that as it arises,” he said.

“We have to comply with the code.”

Mr Walker called on the government to make some definitive adjustments in light of the lack of access to vaccines for many cat owners.

He said until he was told different, he would have to ban any unvaccinated pets from his business.

“Until any other advice that will be our policy, which will make it very hard for some people,” he said.

NSW relaxes regulations for boarding businesses

Across the border, the NSW government has loosened its laws around cat vaccination in light of the critical shortage of vaccines.

NSW pet boarding businesses will be able to waive the requirement for adult cats to have their annual booster vaccinations until early 2024, in a move backed by RSPCA NSW and the Animal Welfare League NSW.

It comes after RSPCA NSW was forced to stop accepting surrendered and stray cats due to the vaccine shortages.

But for cattery owners like Robyn Schofield, who runs Meow Manor Cat Hotel in Falls Creek on the NSW South Coast, the safety risk still poses a concern.

“I just think as a facility, I’ve got so many different cats from different areas, I’ve got cats coming from Canberra, Sydney, down here, I just prefer to have them vaccinated,” Ms Schofield said.

Despite the relaxed regulations, Ms Schofield said she would probably still cancel booking for cats with overdue vaccinations for peace of mind.

“I think that’s why people put their cats into a cattery, they want to make sure that they’re safe and secure,” Ms Schofield said.

“You wouldn’t want to worry that knowing that you’ve got unvaccinated cats in your facility, worrying whether they’re going to get sick.”