So, your cat is looking under the weather and rightly so, you’ve taken them to the vets. If the diagnosis is feline herpesvirus (FHV) or feline calicivirus (FCV) – don’t be alarmed, the condition is less terrifying than it sounds. In non-veterinary expert terms, your cat has the common flu. Despite being a typical and easily remedied condition, it’s wise to get familiar with the symptoms, treatment and how you can prevent cat flu in the future…
Cat flu symptoms
It’s never great when you’ve got a bunged-up nose, sore throat and feeling all achy. While these sound like your typical human cold symptoms, it’s also exactly how your cat will feel when they have the flu. Cat flu may also present with mouth ulcers, fever, loss of appetite, sneezing and dribbling. While a good dose of rest and vitamin C will sort us two-legged folk out, you should consider taking your cat to the vet for a check over, especially if they’re kittens, have a weak immune system or senior cats with underlying health problems.
There are various strains of the virus – most will cause your cat to feel a bit run down but other strains could cause serious health issues. In some severe cases, your cat may develop an ulcer behind the eye. As soon as you notice your cat with a mucus-covered, sore looking eye, take them to the vet immediately.
As with humans, there’s no cure for the common flu. The best remedy is to make sure they’re warm and cosy with their favourite treats and comforts surrounding them. If you live in a multi-cat household, it’s pivotal that you create an isolated area for the sick cat so the others won’t also get infected. In some cases, your vet may prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection and prevent it from returning as something much more critical, like pneumonia.
Most cats get the majority of the water intake from their food. If they have lost their appetite, have a runny nose and already have a sore throat, they will be less inclined to eat and could become dehydrated in a short space of time. So, to rouse their appetite, treat them to some sardines, roast chicken or other strong-smelling food that is easy to eat. Even ice cream, as a very occasional special treat, will mean they’re getting some much-needed water and calories consumed while perking them up a little in the process.
It’s also important to keep any mucus or debris clear from their eyes, nose and keep bedding clean to prevent reinfection. Fan of an evening soak? Pop your kitty in the bathroom so they can inhale some steam to help loosen discharge, mucus or what your vet may refer to as, catarrh.
It’s important to have your cat vaccinated from an early age, especially if they are frequently outdoors and around other felines. Initially, they will be given two doses of the vaccine, followed by regular boosters but as there are so many strains of the virus, the cat flu vaccine is not effective in all cases. However, as cat flu is so contagious it is paramount to have frequent vaccines to minimise the chances of picking up any nasty bacteria, especially if they’re one of plenty of neighbourhood cats or if you’re planning to use a cattery whilst on holiday.
While its all well and good getting them vaccinated, it’s worth bearing in mind that even vaccinated cats could be carriers of the virus. Also, infected mothers can pass on the illness to their litter, without showing any symptoms themselves. So, it’s of utmost importance to keep expecting mothers’ vaccinations up to date and keep them away from other cats who could be infected.
The article is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!