Just like humans, our feline friends can be susceptible to catching the flu, and can be made to feel extremely poorly because of it. Cat flu is very similar to human flu and so needs to be treated/prevented accordingly.
Recognising cat flu
The symptoms will be familiar to most as they are very comparable to what human’s experience. Sneezing, coughing, and a raised temperature are the main signs to look out for as well as a loss of appetite. Pay particular attention to the nose area, it will be running and the cat will struggle to breathe through it. Ulcerations can also appear on the tongue and around the eyes.
Cat flu is often rife in shelters and catteries as well as in stray animals and young, unvaccinated kittens.
Cat flu is extremely contagious and can be transmitted via pathogens and viruses directly from cat to cat, for example via sneezing or coughing. It can also be passed on indirectly, by shared food bowls or toys, or even via human clothes if they have handled an infected cat.
Some cats may be carriers of the virus that causes cat flu, without suffering from it themselves. However be mindful that even healthy cats can spread the virus and infect other cats.
Long term impact
Following infection, many cats will continue to carry the virus in question and will therefore be infectious to other cats, whilst not actually suffering from cat flu at the time.
Cat flu is not usually a serious illness amongst adult cats, although they can get quite ill. Kittens suffering from cat flu however are in much more danger, and it can be fatal for them in some serious cases. Cats with an existing illness or underlying health issue are also more vulnerable to the illness.
Eye ulcers can occur as a result of cat flu, and can be a long-term concern, even in comparably mild cases of cat flu. Kittens are again particularly vulnerable and permanent damage to the eye can be a result. In the most extreme cases, kittens can lose their eye completely.
The cat must defend themselves against the cat flu virus, again similar to how a human would. However antibiotics are necessary to treat any secondary bacterial infection. The delicate lining of the nose and airways are often damaged by the virus and provide a pathway for bacterial infections to enter.
It is advisable to take care of an infected cat by making them feel as comfortable as possible in a dry and warm place. They may also require help cleaning their eyes, nose and mouth to avoid crusts and secretions. If they have lost their appetite, they may need as little more incentive to tuck in to their meals, you can try pureeing their meals and warming them up if necessary to strengthen the smell and wet their appetite!
There is also a preventive vaccination against cat flu that is advisable, especially if your cat has other existing health problems.
Cat flu in a fully grown, otherwise healthy cat should not be a cause for concern, but it is worth keeping an eye on them and making them feel comfortable whilst they ride the virus out!
About the author:
Philip Schledorn studied Veterinary medicine in 2006 and qualified as a Vet in 2012. Since then he has worked in three different animal hospitals and has gained experience in treating animals for a whole array of illnesses. He continues to learn through seeing around 25 patients on a daily basis. Dr Philip works with www.aniForte.co.uk and prescribes the range of natural products to his patients. The quality diets and supplements for dogs, cats and horses are completely free from additives, chemicals and artificial flavourings.