Can Cats Get The Flu?

Cat flu is like a human cold. It can cause a sore throat and a runny nose and eyes. Other symptoms comprise aches and pains in the muscles and joints, dribbling, mouth ulcers, sneezing, loss of voice, and fever. Cat flu is usually not severe in adult cats, although they can be pretty sick. All cats with the symptom of cat flu should see their vet.

However, it can be severe, even fatal, in kittens and adult cats with other serious underlying diseases. There are occasional cases of a severe form, especially in the US, but fortunately, this is still rare.

Cat flu is a common term for upper respiratory infections caused by certain feline viruses and bacterial infections. These infections mainly affect the throat and nose. In most cases, it is viral and highly contagious. Cat flu affects cats of all breeds and ages.

The common concern is the risk of lasting eye damage, even in animals that otherwise appear to be mildly affected. Eye ulcers are often found and, especially in kittens, can progress and cause severe damage and even lead to an eye’s loss. If your kitten or cat has a sore or partially closed eye, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Causes of Cat Flu

It is frequently caused by one of two types of viruses, or sometimes by certain types of bacteria.

Feline Calicivirus (FCV) and Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1) are the most common causes of cat flu, accounting for approximately 90% of upper respiratory infections in cats. Other causes of cat flu include:

  • Mycoplasma
  • Bordetella
  • Feline chlamydiosis

Once infected, cats drop virus particles in nasal and eye secretions and saliva. Although sick cats are the primary source of infection, some healthy cats carry the virus. Carriers do not have the disease, but they can also shed virus particles and infect other cats. The particles can survive up to a week in the environment, so one cat does not even need to meet another to contract the disease. It can be easily spread by contact with infected feeders or toys or on people’s clothing after touching an infected cat.

Diagnosis of cat flu can be made by taking swabs and looking for the virus, but in most domestic cats, this is not necessary as there is no specific treatment. It can help a cattery or if a cat suffers from one of the infection’s long-term complications.

Symptoms of Cat Flu

If you have ever been affected by the flu, you will have some sympathy for your cat. The disease is not that different from human variation. Most cats can fight it; however, in older animals, kittens, or cats with an underlying condition, it can be more serious. Cat flu is generally viral, which means that in most cases, antibiotics will not be effective.

Symptoms of respiratory infections in cats include:

  • Lethargy (no energy to play)
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Eye ulcers
  • Loss of appetite
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Labored breathing

Infected cats can also spread out secondary bacterial infections that make symptoms worse. If the respiratory infection becomes severe and is not treated, it can cause long-lasting eye damage (from eye ulcers), pneumonia, or other complications.

How is Cat Flu Diagnosed?

Although cat flu is not always severe, it is best to take your cat to the vet before treating the problem at home.

Your vet will run a sequence of tests to rule out other conditions, as some cat flu symptoms are similar to feline asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases. Occasionally, veterinarians will send swabs to a lab to confirm the virus’s strain causing the symptoms.

How Long Does Cat Flu Last?

The recovery time for cat flu is around 5 to 10 days for mild cases and up to 6 weeks for more severe cases. The condition’s duration is usually related to the type of virus or bacterial infection that causes flu symptoms.

Cats that have contracted the feline herpes virus will carry it for life. They often face ongoing health problems and are more prone to other bacterial infections. Recurrence of cat flu symptoms in cats carriers of FHV can occur during trauma or if the immune system is compromised.

Feline calicivirus respiratory infections are usually milder than FHV. These infections generally clear up within a few weeks, although cats can remain carriers for a few months or even longer after symptoms subside.

How is Cat Flu Treated?

There are no effective antiviral medications in everyday use. Antibiotics can help because, like human flu, once the virus has injured the delicate lining of the nose and airways, bacterial infections can penetrate and cause complications, such as pneumonia.

A stuffy nose and mouth ulcers can prevent a cat from eating and drinking, leading to dehydration, which can be primarily dangerous in kittens. Because your cat may have lost her sense of smell and have a sore throat, sloppy and strong-smelling food should be offered. Suggestions include sardines, sardines, roast chicken, or one of the invalid diets available from vets. Cream or ice cream can be taken if your cat has mouth ulcers-There are many views on the advisability of giving dairy products to cats. We do not consider that they cause problems in cats used to consuming milk, cheese, or yoghurt, but, as with any food, we would not advise giving a large quantity to a cat that has never eaten them before. But mixing water with any regular food is also a good idea. Cats that cannot consume may need to be hospitalized for the cure.

Support your cat to drink, as fluids help loosen thick catarrhal secretions. Clean the secretions from the nose and eyes regularly with salt water (one teaspoon of salt per a half-litre of water). Steam inhalations help loosen a cold, so let your cat go to the bathroom when you bath or shower.

Are There Long-term Consequences of Cat Flu?

After infection, many cats remain carriers, which means that they do not show any symptoms but are potentially infectious to others. The existence of carriers may be why a kitten develops the flu when presented to a household of apparently healthy cats.

Some carrier cats occasionally have runny eyes or noses for a few days. Recurrences of the flu can follow stressful events, such as a visit to the vet or a new cat’s arrival in the house. Others are more unsuccessful and are left with a permanent, lifelong, thick nasal discharge, or “chronic rhinitis.” It happens because the delicate nasal lining has been spoilt, allowing repeated bacterial infections for which antibiotics can provide only temporary relief.

Influenza viruses, especially caliciviral, are believed to contribute to long-term inflammation and pain in the mouth or gingivitis. However, this is a problematic condition, which is often challenging to treat, and caliciviral may not be the single cause. Long-term drug treatment is repeatedly needed for control, and in some cases, teeth may need to be extracted.

Can Cat Flu be Prevented?

There are many different virus strains, and, as with human flu, the vaccine is not effective against all of them. Initially, two doses of vaccine are needed, followed by regular boosters. You should consult your vet for more details. It is imperative to remember that your cat will need to be fully up-to-date on vaccinations if she goes to a boarding kennel during her vacation.

The vaccines commonly used in the UK are only active against viruses. There are also vaccines available for the bacterial form of cat flu. If you are breeding, you should talk about whether these are necessary with your veterinarian.

Even vaccinated cats can become carriers with no showing any symptoms and can infect other cats. Kittens firstly get some immunity from their mothers, but as they age, this fades, and they become susceptible to infection. Infected mothers can transmit a disease to their kittens without showing illness. Kittens get the flu or become carriers without symptoms. It can obtain up to two weeks for signs of the flu to appear, so one reason for the apparent “failures” of the vaccine, especially in kittens, may be that they are already infected at the time of vaccination. As with all vaccines, the vaccine cannot prevent symptoms if the animal already has the infection at vaccination time.

Feline Flu in Rescue Catteries

Cat flu can be a factual problem in any situation where cats are kept, especially if new cats are often introduced. Preventing feline flu into a group of cats is a complex issue, and a thorough discussion with your veterinarian is essential.

At a minimum, all new cats, even if they appear healthy, should be separated from the rest for at least two to three weeks, and they should be vaccinated before mixing with others.

Cat Sneezing

Be aware that droplets from a sneezing cat can transmit infection over a distance of many meters. Mothers with kitten litters are best kept in isolation until they are ready to go to new homes. If you have a cat flu problem within a group of cats, it is best to stop introducing more cats into the house or cattery.

Know Your Enemy: Learn About the Mistakes Behind Cat Flu

There are two main viruses. One is a type called a feline herpes virus, and the other is a caliciviral. Caliciviral exists in many slightly different forms, named strains. Vaccination against caliciviral is complicated, as it is with human influenza viruses, because the vaccine cannot cover all strains, so it is not entirely protective. Fortunately, the herpes virus only has one strain, so vaccination against this works best.

The authentic symptoms caused by the two viruses are somewhat different. Caliciviral is generally milder and characteristically causes mouth ulcers. In young kittens, it can cause lameness. The herpes virus is usually more severe and more likely to cause eye ulcers.

The condition with carriers is also different between the two. After infection with the herpes virus, all cats are believed to become carriers, but they produce the virus in saliva, tears, and nasal secretions only intermittently. This means that swabs taken from these cats will not always detect the virus.

With caliciviral, carrier cats discard virus particles continuously, making them easier to identify on swabs taken by the vet. Many cats can completely clear the virus from their bodies after one to two years, so they are no longer carriers.

Several types of bacteria can cause the flu. Bordetella bronchiseptica is the agent that causes kennel cough in dogs, and it is believed that cats may get the “flu” from dogs. This bacteria often seems to influence the lungs as well. It can generally be successfully treated with antibiotics. There is a vaccine available, but it is not generally given routinely, although it is sometimes used in hatchery farms.

The other bacteria that are sometimes found is Chlamydophila felis. This mainly produces sore, red, and watery eyes, sometimes with a mild “flu.” Some broad-spectrum antibiotics are effective, and a vaccine is available, although it does not offer complete protection. It can be complex to get rid of this infection entirely from a group of cats.

Home Remedies For Cat Flu

  1. Warm and humid air

Keep a humidifier near your cat or take it to the bathroom with you while shower to allow the steam to open its nasal passages.

  1. Soft and strong-smelling foods

Cat flu can affect your cat’s sense of smell, and a sore throat can make eating uncomfortable. Give your cat soft foods that have warmed up a bit to encourage them to eat.

  1. Gentle washing of the face

With a warm washcloth, gently wipe your cat’s eyes and nose to remove any discharge.