Cat Flu: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Pets have become part of human existence and people are adopting them for many reasons one of them being companionship.

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Well, a pet gives an excellent company for you and when you are busy doing house chores, they will be a playmate for your kids. Parents who worry about the safety of their babies consider adopting one or more cats and they don’t go wrong because a cat is docile and harmless unless intimated.

However, as jovial as they are, cats are susceptible to cat flu just as easily as you. Keep scrolling and read more about cat flu, causes, symptoms and treatment options.

What is cat flu?

When flu season comes knocking, people are quick to take necessary precautions to protect themselves from getting sick, but little do they know that even their cats can get the flu.

Cat flu is simply a general term for an extremely contagious disease that affects cat’s and kitten’s upper respiratory.

The downside of cat flu is that an infected cat might become even more susceptible to secondary infections and therefore, it is advisable to consult your vet any time you suspect your cat has flu.

A cat with flu cannot recover easily from a secondary infection which could contribute to her death in the long run.


Cat flu is caused by one or more viruses and the two most common ones include Feline Calicivirus (FVC) and Feline Herpes Virus 1 (FHV1).

The flu can spread from one cat to another directly by contact through saliva, nasal discharge or tears, or indirectly through bedding, human hands, food bowls or litter trays.

The good news is that it cannot spread from cats to other animals or human beings. According to pet experts, flu makes cats weak and therefore, it is important to have your kitten vaccinated against viruses that usually cause this disease.

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The first vaccination should be administered when the kitten is 8 weeks of age and from there, a booster vaccination should follow as directed by your vet.

As a rule of thumb, cats suffering from flu should be isolated from the others until they recover fully, and their litter trays, bedding, and food bowls must be washed separately.


  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Coughing
  • Running nose or snuffing
  • Sneezing and nasal discharge
  • Closing eyes
  • Weepy, sore eyes
  • Sore throat (you may see your cat gagging or swallowing)
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Loss of appetite


If you suspect your cat is suffering from flu as a result of any of the aforementioned symptoms, you should take her to the vet who will do various tests to rule out her condition.

Basically, the vet might take a blood test and after discovering that your cat is indeed suffering from flu, he will give her a shot to help her recover the appetite.

In other cases, the vet might consider undertaking special lab tests or viral culture to identify the virus. In acute cases, your vet can identify the disease based on your cat’s history and clinical symptoms.

Nasal or oral swabs can be done to detect the presence of Feline Calicivirus (FVC) and Feline Herpes Virus 1 (FHV1).


When it comes to a cat flu treatment, it is worth knowing that the disease is caused by a virus and therefore, it has no direct cure. Once you take your cat to a vet, the treatment will focus on relieving clinical signs to help her immune system clear the infection.

So in most cases, your cat will be subjected to supportive treatment that involves anti-viral medication, pain medication, eye drops and antibiotics that target secondary bacterial infection your cat could be suffering from.

Depending on the severity of the flu, some cats may require hospitalization, where they should be placed on an intravenous drip or nutritional support must be established if your cat isn’t eating or drinking water. Once your cat has recovered from flu, chances are that she will remain a carrier of the virus for a long time but will show minimal or no signs of illness.

According to experts, cats that are life-long carriers can easily spread the flu to other cats. Below are some medications that can help your cat recover from flu.

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However, you can successfully help her recover from the virus through nursing care which may include gently bathing her nose and eyes with warm water to get rid of crusting, and reviving food smell to trigger your cat to eat.

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – Your vet may administer non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve her of fever and reduce swelling and pain
  • Mucolytics – These are a type of medication that your vet may prescribe for your cat to help break down the mucus in her airways and nose. This will eventually help her breathe normally and will be able to smell her food to enhance appetite
  • Eye drops – Lubricating eye drops are very useful as they keep the eyes of your cat moist while they heal. Whenever your vet prescribes eye drop for your cat, ensure that you closely and carefully follow the instructions given. Most importantly, complete the course to prevent the infection from recurring
  • Antiviral medication – It should be administered for three to four weeks and they are very helpful in helping your cat’s body to fight the flu

Bottom line

Cats are jovial but they are susceptible to cat flu. It is caused by one or more viruses and can spread from one cat to another either directly or indirectly.

In a nutshell, cat flu causes a running nose, weepy eyes, sneezing and may make your lovely cat to feel very unwell. It is highly contagious and spreads through discharge, items touched by infected cats or through sneezes.

Fortunately, it cannot spread to humans or other animals and this gives all cat owners peace of mind knowing that their kids or other pets will be safe even when the cat is suffering from flu.

Even though there is no specific cure for cat flu, you should protect her through vaccination particularly when she is eight weeks and always talk to your vet when your cat shows any of the above signs.

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