Can Cats Get Flu? – Here Is All You Should Know

A question often asked by many cats parents is: “Can cats get flu?”.

Unfortunately, just like us humans, the list of illnesses that can occur in cats is long and it is difficult to remember what they are and what symptoms to watch out for.

Among all these illnesses, there is also cat flu, which can be easily identified or even prevented with a vaccine.


What causes cat flu and what are the symptoms?

The main causes of cat flu are these two viruses: Feline Herpesvirus (FHV) and Feline Calicivirus (FCV).

These are rapidly spread in the air when a cat sneezes and can be transmitted by direct contact with other cats that have the virus, through saliva or from eye and nasal discharges. This may be either direct from the infected cat, via people’s clothes, cats bowls, bedding, etc. Mother cats can also pass the flu to their kittens.

Cats that have recovered, can become carriers of the viruses. Particles can survive for up to a week in the environment, so a cat does not even need to meet another to catch the illness.

It can affect cats of all ages but it tends to be quite severe in kittens.

Here are the signs of flu in cats:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore eyes
  • Drooling
  • Lethargic behaviour
  • Loss of appetite
  • Eye and mouth ulcers
  • Cough
  • Fever

Can cat flu be treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for cat flu.

Antibiotics may help prevent bacterial infections that can cause complications, such as pneumonia.

If your cat presents not life-threatening symptoms, your vet will probably prescribe some good nursing care, including giving antihistamines, nose drops and nebulising mist.

It is important to look after your cat and encourage them to eat, since a blocked nose and mouth ulcers might stop cats from eating and drinking. A blocked nose can cause loss of sense of smell and therefore, it is best to offer strong smelling food such as sardines and roast chicken, in order to encourage the cat.

Make sure that your cat is drinking, so that fluids can help loosen catarrh. Drinking will also prevent dehydration from happening. Wipe away discharges from the nose and eyes regularly.

Your cat will need urgent emergency treatment if their symptoms are more serious. In this sort of situations, treatment may involve providing oxygen to help them breathe and delivering fluids via a drip.

Infected cats should be isolated and hygiene precautions taken to avoid spread of infection.


Is there a vaccine for cat flu?

Yes, there is a vaccine but even vaccinated cats can become carriers without showing any symptoms and can infect other cats.

Kittens initially get some immunity from their mothers but after that, it is important to start a vaccination routine from 9 weeks old. They will then need a second set of injections 2-4 weeks after their first one. Make sure you keep your kitten indoors until 2 weeks after the second injection

Booster vaccinations will then need to be done yearly throughout their life to make sure they remain protected from serious diseases.

Vaccination can help prevent cat flu, however it does not always prevent infection or prevent cats from becoming carriers.

There are also vaccines against the bacterial forms of the illness which are not usually given on a routine basis and therefore, you should speak to a vet for more information.

It is important to remember that your cat will need to be fully up to date with vaccinations in order for them to be admitted into catteries.


How long will it take for my cat to recover?

Cats who have contracted the FCV virus will typically display symptoms for 5 to 10 days if it is a mild case and up to 6 weeks if it is more severe.

Cats with the FHV virus can suffer ongoing health problems and are also infected for life.

Most cats will recover well, if the appropriate treatment has been given. Many, however, will have some persistent problems such as sneezing, nasal discharge and conjunctivitis.

Recovered cats may develop long-term nasal problems because of damage caused by the viral infection. This may require intermittent courses of antibiotics for the rest of their lives.


When should I book an appointment with the vet?

Whether the signs of cat flu are mild or serious, you should take your cat to the vet as soon as you spot the symptoms.

Cat flu can be life threatening, so don’t take the risk and book an appointment as soon as possible!


Can I get flu from my cat?

The viruses which cause cat flu cannot infect humans. You cannot catch flu from your cat, but your cat could catch some forms of flu from you.

It is important to keep good personal hygiene and washing your hands regularly to avoid transmission.


Where can I find more information?

I have found a couple of useful video, one about FCV and the other about FHV.

I recommend you watch both to get a better understanding of the viruses that cause cat flue:

 


As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at cristina@bestpetmonitors.com 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Cristina

12 thoughts on “Can Cats Get Flu? – Here Is All You Should Know

  1. Your cat or your pet should always be part of the family and when you get into pet ownership you need to understand that you will do what ever it takes to keep your pet happy and healthy.

    Let me tell you that I practice what I preach.  Over the years I have spent over 10 grand on helping my cats get through some pretty serious illness.

    Great article and I enjoyed reading it

    Thank you

    Dale

    1. Hi Dale,

      Pets are family and I would do anything for them.

      My dog had cancer this year and they had to remove most of her lower jaw to cure her. It cost £3000 for the whole thing to be done and pet insurance covered it. However, even if it didn’t, I would have happily paid for my baby!

      All the best,

      Cristina

  2. Christina, 

    Getting the word out about the different types of cat flu is important for cat owners, most people do not realize that their cat can actually become sick from them and not the other way around.  Many people when they are sick love to have their cat around them for the comfort and this can infect their poor little fur baby.  Caution should always be used with your animals as with children when we become ill.  Many people are also under the impression that cats do not need to see a vet for vaccinations and I think this is another important thing you have brought to their attention.  Thank you for being a good cat owner and letting others know this information it is vital to a cat’s health.

    Susan

    1. Hello Susan,

      Thank you for your comment 🙂

      We humans always want our pets around us (at least me) and it is hard to keep the distance, especially when ill.

      Hopefully this article can spread some awareness and we can all start being a bit more careful 🙂

      Cristina

  3. Hi Cristina,I didn’t know that cats may suffer of flu, it must be terrible, for humans it is. I have heard that in humans there are many mutation of the virus and the vaccination sometimes is not useful for that reason, is it the same with cats? The video is very informative, people must know about to prevent worst condition as pneumonia. Thank you for let us know about 👍 

    1. Hi Maria,

      Vaccination can help prevent cat flu, however it does not always prevent infection or prevent cats from
      becoming carriers. In terms of your mutation question, I have found some information on   https://icatcare.org/advice/ca… :

      Virulent systemic FCV infection – vsFCV – on rare occasions, outbreaks of disease have been reported with very much more pathogenic strains of FCV termed vsFCV. These are associated with mutations of the virus that allow infection to be established within different organs and in the cells that line blood vessels. This can result in severe disease including pneumonia, hepatitis (liver inflammation), pancreatitis, skin swelling and ulceration, and bleeding from the nose and intestine. Fortunately these outbreaks are very rare, but up to 50% or more of affected cats may die.”

      I hope this helps!

      Cristina

  4. Hi and thank you for sharing this great post on what to do if your cat gets flu. I am surprised that a cat could get this kind of flu in the first place. Luckily my mothers cat never had anything like this and was generally pretty healthy. It’s great to know it can be treated though. Can I ask are there any long term problems that can arise from cats having the flu? Thanks, Kenny 

    1. Hi Kenny,

      Once cats have gotten over the flu, many of them can become carriers, which means they do not have any symptoms of cat flu but are potentially infectious to other cats. 

      Some carriers can occasionally have a runny eye or nose for a few days and flu can come back following stressful event life a visit to the vet.

      Other cats are less lucky and can be left with chronic rhinitis.

      So yes, cat flu is not a nice thing and is another reason why our fluffy babies should always be vaccinated 🙂

      Cristina

  5. I never actually thought cats can get flu, thank you for this valuable information.

    Our family owns 2 cats who have been with us for almost 10 years now. We are well aware that cats can get sick too because we sometimes see and hear our pets sneeze. I thought they were just feeling cold because this incident usually happens during winter or when it’s raining. So we just give them a more comfortable bed to keep them warm. It never occurred to me to have them vaccinated. 

    But can cats at any age be vaccinated against flu?

    1. Hi Alice,

      Cats are vaccinated against flu when receiving their general annual vaccination. The first one is given at 9 weeks old, followed by a second one at 2-4 weeks. An annual booster is given every year after that 🙂

      I hope that helps!

      Cristina

  6. This was an interesting article, I never realized how pets like cats can get cat flu.  Does this apply to dogs too? Can dogs get dog flu? Knowing that there’s a regular vaccine to protect cats make me feel better. I don’t like seeing animals suffer.

    Is there a best time of the year for cat owners to take their cat to the Vet for the vaccine? The examples of sardines and roast chicken help owners provide owner with a better idea of the right food with strong scents to give to their cats if their nose is stuffed and they begin losing appetite. 

    This post goes in great detail of step by step solution for cats with flu and ways of prevention.

    1. Hi John,

      Thank you for your comment 🙂

      Yes, dogs can get the flu but the virus that causes it is different from the cats’ ones, therefore dogs cannot get the flu from cats and viceversa.

      However, just like with cats, dogs can get the flu from us.

      In terms of “best time of the year for vaccination”, it is just about continuing the routing according to when the first vaccination was done. Let’s say that today you get a kitten which is 9 weeks old, which means they are ready for the first vaccine. You then get them to have the second injection in 4 weeks time, which brings us to the 9th January. That means that after that, you will have to take your cat for an annual booster every year in January 🙂

      I hope I have answered all your questions but feel free to ask away if you need to know more!

      Cristina

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