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Dealing with cat flu

What is cat flu? How can it be avoided? And what to do if your cat catches it.
Written by Mayhew team
Updated 1 month ago

It’s not just humans who suffer from colds and flu. We explain what cat flu is, how it can be avoided and the best course of action should your pet be struck down with the illness.

What is cat flu?

Cat Flu, or Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), is a common disease in cats that can vary considerably in severity –much like the human cold and flu. A virus like this in cats can be difficult to treat and is likely to remain in the system for a long period of time. Symptoms of the infection may not always be apparent which means your cat could be a flu carrier without realising it.

How does a cat get it?

Cat flu is usually caused by one of two types of virus (Feline Herpes Virus or Calicivirus), or sometimes by certain types of bacteria. Cats living in large groups, kittens, un-vaccinated cats or immunosuppressed cats are at a greater risk of the virus. A cat can catch cat flu from another sick cat (when it sneezes or drools the virus ca be spread), or even from a cat showing no symptoms at all but who is a carrier of the virus. It can easily be spread by contact with infected feeding bowls, bedding, toys, and even people’s clothing after being in contact a cat with flu.

What are the symptoms?

Signs of cat flu can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from nose and/or eyes
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth or eye ulcers
  • Coughing
  • Excessive drooling


How do I treat it?

Treatment for cats with URI’s is normally supportive. It will include keeping the cat’s eyes clean and removing any discharge, continued vaccination against the virus and eye drops or medication in persistent cases. Early treatment when any of the signs show is the best form of defence and reducing stress levels may help symptoms from appearing. Make sure your cat keeps hydrated.

Can it be prevented?

Cat Flu/URI is much better prevented than treated. Highly effective vaccines are available and all cats and kittens should be vaccinated. Any of our adoptive cats will be vaccinated against Leukaemia (FeLV), Flu & Enteritis (FIE) as part of the protocol at Mayhew.

There are lots of different strains of the virus, and, just as with human flu, the vaccine is not effective against them all. Two doses of vaccine are needed initially, followed by regular boosters.

For urgent enquiries about a sick pet please contact your vet.

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