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:
- Runny nose
- Sore eyes
- Lethargic behaviour
- Loss of appetite
- Eye and mouth ulcers
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂