Ask P&A: Does my cat have the flu?

Learn about cat flu and what you can do if your pet has symptoms.

When you hear the term "cat flu," you might imagine the human flu—a severe viral infection causing fever, sweating, and fatigue in your feline friend. However, cat flu is not related to human influenza at all. In this article, we will delve into the details of this common yet generally mild illness in cats.

What Exactly is the Cat Flu?

"The cat flu" is, in reality, an upper respiratory infection in cats triggered by one of two viruses: feline herpes (FHV) or feline calicivirus (FCV). Its name comes from the fact that the symptoms of both conditions resemble the flu symptoms experienced by humans. It's worth noting that while cats can get influenza, it's relatively rare.

Is Your Cat Affected by the Cat Flu?

The primary symptoms of cat flu overlap with those of many other viral illnesses. If you observe sneezing, coughing, puffy eyes, fever, general lethargy, or nasal or ocular discharge in your cat, they may have "the cat flu." The more symptoms your cat displays, the more likely the diagnosis.

Another symptom to watch for is decreased appetite due to uncomfortable lesions on the tongue. If such lesions appear, either on the tongue or skin, the feline herpes-1 virus could be the culprit.

Vaccination and the Cat Flu

If you're diligent about vaccinating your cat, chances are they are protected. However, it's essential to note that vaccines may not cover every virus strain. Consequently, your cat could still contract a less common form of a highly prevalent virus.

Cats that frequently interact with other felines are at a higher risk, as are young cats and elderly ones with weakened immune systems. Additionally, some cats are born with the feline herpes virus, and symptoms may not manifest immediately.

How Can You Care for Your Cat with the Cat Flu?

Regrettably, viral infections in cats cannot be "cured." The goal is to provide your cat with comfort while the virus runs its course. Ensure your cat has access to plenty of water during the healing process and encourage ample rest. If your cat loses interest in eating, consider warming or moistening their food. Introducing a humidifier into their environment, if tolerated, can help ease breathing difficulties.

If you suspect your cat has the cat flu, it's advisable to consult your Parker & Ace veterinarian. In some cases, viral infections can significantly impact a cat's health, and your vet will want to assess their progress. They might also recommend antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, which tend to strike when your cat's immune system is compromised.

Keep in mind that cats often hide their discomfort and illness. Even if they seem relatively normal, subtle changes in behavior could be a sign that something is amiss.

If you notice any unusual behavior or symptoms in your cat, it's always a good idea to contact your Parker & Ace veterinarian for guidance and reassurance.