Feline Flu

Symptoms of feline influenza and information to help with the flu in cats and kittens.

Select a Topic

  1. What is Feline Flu?
  2. What Causes Feline Flu?
  3. Diagnosing Feline Flu
  4. Help for Feline Flu
  5. More Information on Feline Flu

What is Feline Flu?

Feline influenza is a respiratory infection with symptoms similar to a human cold or human flu virus. It is very common, and is usually caused by the feline herpes virus (FHV) or feline calicivirus (FCV).

This highly contagious infection is present in the cat’s bodily fluids, such as saliva, tears and nasal secretions. It is spread through contact with an infected cat. Feline flu can be spread indirectly on food bowls, bedding, litter boxes and grooming brushes.

The infection typically affects the upper respiratory tract—eyes, nose, mouth and windpipe, and can affect the bronchi and lungs.

Kittens and older cats, as well as those suffering from feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus, are predisposed. Once a cat has had feline flu, he will be a lifetime carrier of the virus. Carrier cats may show no sign of illness but can shed virus in eye or nasal discharge and infect other cats.

Feline flu can be a life-threatening condition. Because so many cats are carriers, it’s important to have your cat vaccinated against this respiratory disease.

The common symptoms and signs of feline flu include:

Common symptoms of feline flu include:

 

  • Sneezing
  • Eye problems
  • Runny eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Lethargy
  • Depression

What Causes Feline Flu?

Feline flu is usually caused by two viruses, feline herps virus (FHV-1) or feline calicivirus (FCV). Symptoms are similar to human flu.

The feline herpes virus is also known as feline rhinotracheitis (FRV). This strain of virus is more severe than feline calicivirus and infects the eyes, nose, sinuses, pharynx and throat.

Feline calicivirus infects the mouth, tongue, nose, eyes, joints, paws and may also cause fever and depression.

These viruses are responsible for the majority of upper respiratory infections in cats. Two other organisms may play a role in some cases: Bordetella bronchiseptica (sneezing, coughing and nasal discharge) and Chlamydophila felis (ocular disease or conjunctivitis).

Diagnosing Feline Flu

Your vet will diagnose feline flu based on your cat’s symptoms. The vet may swab samples from your cat’s eyes and mouth for laboratory analysis. This will help determine the specific cause of your cat’s illness.

Treatment for Feline Flu

Treatment of feline flu

To protect against feline flu, vaccinations are important. Adult cats should be vaccinated yearly. Kittens should receive their first vaccination at 8 weeks old, followed by another shot a few weeks later.

If your cat does become infected, treatment involves various medications and lots of supportive care. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics and eye drops. Supportive care instructions may include keeping your cat’s sleeping environment warm, comfortable, stress-free and well ventilated. Keep this area as sanitary as possible and clean litter boxes regularly.

Wipe away eye and nasal discharge with saltwater. Feed your cat or kitten palatable and smelly foods such as pilchards in small amounts throughout the day. Ensure that fresh, clean water is always available. To speed recovery, give your furry friend plenty of love and attention. Boosting spirits boosts the immune system.

If your cat experiences trouble with eating or drinking, intravenous therapy may be required. Isolating infected cats to avoid sickening other cats may be necessary.

Natural remedy for feline flu

FCV Protect™ Granules for Cat Respiratory Problems is a natural medicine for respiratory infections and symptoms of feline calicivirus. The homeopathic medicine temporarily relieves common FCV symptoms.

More Information on Feline Flu

Tips to Prevent Feline Flu

To prevent and control the symptoms of feline flu, try the following:

  • Food - Feed your pet high quality commercial food or a natural diet without preservatives, additives or colorants.
  • Water - Provide fresh, clean water and encourage your cat to drink regularly.
  • Exercise - Keep your cat healthy and fit by exercising him regularly.
  • Vaccinations - Make sure your cat’s vaccinations are updated regularly. Feline flu is more likely to affect cats who have not been vaccinated.
  • Hygiene - Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your cat. Disinfect your pet’s food and water bowls, as well as their sleep area and litter box
  • Steam - If your cat develops feline flu, let him enter the bathroom to inhale the steam from your bath or shower. This will help to relieve nasal congestion.
  • Isolate - Avoid contact between your cat and other cats if they have feline flu.
  • Immune System - Strengthen your pet’s immune system with immune-building supplements.
  • Checkups - Visit your vet regularly for routine checkups to ensure overall health and wellbeing.

 

Reviewed by Master Herbalist, Mary Ellen Kosanke

References:
  1. “Cat Flu – Upper Respiratory Infection.” International Cat Care. Accessed November 18, 2019. https://icatcare.org/advice/cat-flu-upper-respiratory-infection/
  2. “Cat Flu.” Blue Cross for Pets. Accessed November 18, 2019. https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/cat-flu
  3. “What is cat flu?” Vets Now. Accessed November 18, 2019. https://www.vets-now.com/pet-care-advice/cat-flu-sneezing/
  4. “Feline calicivirus.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Accessed November 18, 2019. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/baker-institute/our-research/animal-health-articles-and-helpful-links/feline-calicivirus
  5. Keuhn, Ned. “Feline Respiratory Disease Complex.” Merck Manual Veterinary Manual. Accessed November 18, 2019. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/respiratory-system/respiratory-diseases-of-small-animals/feline-respiratory-disease-complex
  6. “Feline Calicivirus Infection in Cats.” PetMD. Accessed November 18, 2019. https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/infectious-parasitic/c_ct_feline_calicivirus