Cat flu


What is cat flu?

Cat flu is caused by infection with one or more viruses and bacteria. Most commonly, the viruses involved are feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. Cat flu is spread by contact with an infected cat or with infected objects such as combs, food and water bowls, bedding, owner's hands etc or by inhaling infected air. Cats usually become sick between one and ten days post-exposure, and can remain sick for up to a few weeks or sometimes longer. Just like herpesvirus in people, feline herpesvirus infection can have latent periods then cause disease again in times of stress.

How do I know if my cat has flu?

If your cat has the flu, he or she may show the following signs:

  • decreased appetite
  • discharge from the eyes and/or nose
  • sneezing and/or coughing
  • snuffly nose
  • lethargy
  • mouth or tongue ulcers

How is cat flu treated?

If we suspect that your cat is infected with cat flu, we will normally prescribe antibiotics. This will help fight any bacterial component of disease, but will not cure the viral infection. This means that nursing care is still very important. You should do the following:

Keep your cat indoors in a warm place.
Isolate sick cats from healthy cats
Wipe away ocular and nasal discharge with damp cotton wool.
Encourage your pet to eat and drink – he or she may be more inclined to eat stronger smelling foods, such as fish-based wet food. Mixing chicken stock in water helps encourage fluid intake.
Keep your cat in the bathroom when you have a shower, and leave the fan off. The steam helps break up respiratory secretions.

Be aware that in many cases cat flu is a disease that comes and goes throughout a cat's life. Even if your cat completely recovers from an episode of flu, it may happen again in future.