Cat Flu

Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention of Cat Flu


This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Maree Monaghan BVSc (Hons)

Is your cat sneezing? Do they have runny eyes or a runny nose? These can all be signs of Feline Respiratory Disease which is more commonly known as Cat Flu.

What is Cat Flu?
What causes Cat Flu?
Further reading

What is Cat Flu?

Cat flu is the common name for upper respiratory infections in cats caused by viruses and bacteria. These infections affect the nose, throat, eyes and mouth.

Cats of all ages and breeds can be affected and this disease is highly contagious.

What causes Cat Flu?

Cat Flu is caused by infection with one or more of the following viruses and bacteria:

  • Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1)
  • Feline calicivirus (FCV)
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Chlamydophila felis
  • Mycoplasma felis

Cat flu is generally spread by direct contact between cats via saliva, tears or nasal discharge and kittens can be infected by their mother soon after birth. It can also be spread indirectly by food bowls, bedding, litter trays or human hands. It cannot be caught by humans or other animals.

How Long Does Cat Flu Last?

Most cats recover from Cat Flu within 5 to 10 days, however, if the infection is severe, it can take up to 6 weeks for them to recover. The duration of the condition depends on the type of virus or bacteria that is causing the disease.

Cats who are infected with the feline herpesvirus will carry it for life. These cats can have recurrences of Cat Flu symptoms throughout their life particularly when they are stressed or their immune system is compromised.

Cat Flu Symptoms

Symptoms of upper respiratory infections in cats include:

  • Sneezing

  • Discharge from the nose
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Coughing

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever

  • Mouth ulcers
  • Eye ulcers
  • Lethargy (no energy to play)
  • Loss of appetite

Diagnosis of Cat Flu

Your veterinarian will usually be able to diagnose Cat Flu based on the symptoms your cat is showing. Occasionally they will need to send swabs to a lab to find out which virus or bacteria is causing the disease in order to prescribe the most effective treatment.

Cat Flu Treatment

As there is no specific medication to cure Cat Flu, the aim of treatment is to relieve the symptoms so the immune system can work more effectively to clear the infection.

Treatments can include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Pain Medication
  • Eye drops or ointment
  • Antiviral Medication

Severely affected cats who are not eating or drinking may need to be hospitalised and placed on a drip and given nutritional support.

Home Care Remedies for Cat Flu Symptoms

Good nursing care at home is the key to a faster recovery for your cat. Things you can do to help your cat are:

Preventing Cat Flu

Vaccination against Cat Flu is vital for preventing and reducing the severity of this disease. Kittens should start their course of vaccinations between 6 and 8 weeks of age and complete their full course of kitten vaccinations as recommended by your vet. Booster vaccinations are usually given every twelve months. Kittens need to be kept indoors and away from other cats until they are fully protected.

Further Reading

New Kitten Guide

Stress and Anxiety in Cats

Dental Care for Kittens

What are the Best Cat Treats?

Flea, Tick and Worming Guide for Cats