What Is Cat Flu?

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Similar to the human cold, cat flu can be caused by a large number of different viruses. However in the majority of cases, it’s found to be from one or two viruses. One is more serious than the other and sometimes the cat in question may always have remnants of a running nose or liquid seeping from the corner of it’s eyes.

Feline Calici Virus is the less severe of the two viruses. As with most diseases there are different strains and the seriousness of the cat flu experienced is dependent on this. Ulcers on the tongue, nose and mouth can often be found and in kittens a fever and general weakness is common.

Feline herpes or feline viral rhinotracheitis is the more serious of the two viruses. Coughing and sneezing are often present, together with a high temperature. Many cats become depressed and do not want to eat any food. This virus can often spread to the stomach and cause diarrhoea.

Cat Flu Symptoms & Diagnosis

As described above, the two viruses that cause the majority of cat flu cases have different symptoms. These might include:

  • Sneezing – bright green mucus, present when an infection is at it’s worse
  • Coughing
  • A raised temperature – a normal temperature of a cat ranges from 100.4º to 102.5º Farenheit.
  • Unwillingness to eat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Depression showing little interest in play

Whilst observing your cat, your vet will probably take a swab from your cats eyes or nose and send this off to a lab for testing. This will enable a better understanding of the virus your cat has contracted so your vet can advise on the most suitable medication.

Misdiagnosis & FIP

Cat flu can often be misdiagnosed. The symptoms are very similar to the early signs of developing FIP. This is a fatal disease and kills in 100% of cases. Keep an eye out for my forthcoming post on this and the signs to look out for.

Cat Flu Treatment

Your vet will probably describe viral antibiotics for a cat with cat flu. These tablets can cause your cat to have an upset stomach. To increase your cat’s appetite a jab might be offered. This is worthwhile as it helps encourage your cat to eat and keep up it’s strength. If the initial course of antibiotics is unsuccessful, another may be offered. It’s very important to take these immediately after the first course otherwise the virus has a chance to take hold again.

Cat flu generally lasts between 2 and 3 weeks. However, if your cat has the more serious of cat flu viruses, your cat may experience what’s termed as ‘flare-ups’ in times of stress. Your cat might experience a running nose and eyes, as well as sneezing. This is because the virus lays dormant within the cats body and your cat will be termed as a ‘carrier.’
A stressful time for cat is when their owner goes away on holiday. The keep symptoms of a ‘flare-up’ to a minimum you might ask your vet for L-lysine HCL Tabs. This is medication for humans but can be prescribed for a cat. Please read my own experiences of this drug at the bottom of the page.

Should you have other cats in the house that haven’t been vaccinated, it’s important that they are kept away from the carrier until they have been vaccinated. Kittens with cat flu are unlikely to be offered antibiotics so keeping their nose and eyes clear and helping them eat is vital to their recovery.

Home Remedies For Cat Flu

Keeping your cat’s eyes and nose clear is essential. This can easily be done using warm wet piece of kitchen towel. Do not use cotton wool as the fibres might come lose and go into the eye and cause irritation. Steam is great for unblocking the sinuses so take your cat into the bathroom when you have a bath or shower. Avoid oils such as eucalyptus that can cause further irritation. To encourage your cat to eat, try white fish or chicken and hand feeding them. Alternatively go for Tuna as it’s a strong smelling fish and may encourage your cat to feed as they can smell it.
A humidifier may help de-congest your cat’s nose. This could prove useful on multiple occasions if your cat has the more serious cat flu virus.

Cat Flu Prevention

There is a vaccination for cat flu. Your cat should have this at approximately 8 weeks old. This will provide protection against the two main viruses that cause cat flu but since there are others it does not completely eradicate the chances of infection. It does however massively reduce them.
Even if your cat has or had cat flu, it’s important that your cat still gets vaccinated to protect it from catching the other main cat flu virus. Your vet will be able to administer this. If you have obtained your kitten from a breeder it is worth checking to see if they have already had the jab. If not, make an appointment at your earliest convenience.

Can Humans Catch Cat Flu?

Cat flu cannot be passed on to a human, unlike ringworm. This upper respiratory infection is specific to the feline immune system. When caring for a sick cat, always be sure to wash your hands.

Unsure If Your Cat Or Kitten Has Cat Flu?

Check out this great online cat symptom checker. In three steps you could be closer to understanding what cat illness your cat might have. Cat flu in Ragdolls and other domestic cat breeds is thankfully rare. However, there are other illnesses and genetic diseses such as HCM that your Ragdoll might be at rish from.

Sam Wonder Says:

“My kitten Toulouse had the more serious cat flu virus Feline Herpes. Whilst Toulouse did show signs of improvement, he had flare-ups. The vet prescribed the L-Lysine drugs to help manage his symptoms. L-Lysine is an amino acid which supports the production of antibodies. The drug specifically competes with the amino acid (L-arginine) required for the Herpes virus to replicate. The L-Lysine drug is available without a prescription in a chewable form.”


The advice and tips contained within this website are based on the experiences of Sam Wonder. She has looked after cats for over 20 years. Whilst this article and others is written with the Ragdoll in mind, generally the information will still be applicable to all feline varieties.

Author: Sam Wonder

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