Cat 'flu'Cat flu is very common in unvaccinated cats and is very easily spread from cat to cat. It is rarely fatal, except in young kittens, but can be a real problem because the symptoms may be very difficult to clear up. Prevention is far better than cure - so to protect your cat make sure she is fully protected by regular vaccinations.
Your questions answered
What is cat 'flu'?
Cat flu is usually caused by infection with a combination of one or more viruses (feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus) and some bacteria. If one of the viruses gets hold then your cat's immune system may be so busy fighting it that other bugs (particularly bacteria) will also join in the attack.
How is the disease spread?
How do I know if my cat has 'flu'?
Can I catch 'flu' from my cat?
No - the viruses that cause cat flu are quite different from those causing flu in humans. Your cat cannot catch the disease from you and you are not at risk of catching it whilst nursing her.
Can cat 'flu' be treated?
There is no treatment for flu in cats. Your cat will have to fight off the infection by herself and fortunately most, otherwise healthy cats, will do this within a few weeks. But cats, just like people, feel pretty miserable when they have the flu and plenty of nursing care is needed to help her get over it. Make sure she has somewhere comfortable and warm to lay and be sure she gets plenty of water or milk to drink. Although your cat may not want to eat for the first few days, you should try to tempt her to eat by offering tasty warm food to keep her strength up. You should always have your cat checked by your vet, and antibiotics may be prescribed to treat bacterial infections. If your cat is very congested try putting her in a warm steamy environment (like the bathroom with a hot shower running) to ease her breathing.
Always keep in close contact with your vet and let him know immediately if your cat appears to take a turn for the worse. If you have other cats living in your house take particular care to keep them away from the sick cat and always wash your hands after handling her. However, because she will have been infectious before the symptoms developed, it is likely that your other cats will already have been exposed to the disease and may develop symptoms.
Will my cat get better?
Most fit young cats will recover from flu after a few weeks - although in some cats that do get over the initial illness the problem never really goes away. These animals may be left with persistent problems such as runny noses. Sometimes these cats are on almost permanent medication to control their symptoms. The disease can be much more serious in young kittens, older cats and cats with other diseases, eg FeLV or FIV - these patients may need to be admitted to hospital for special treatment but, even so, may not survive.