Cat Flu or Feline Respiratory Disease, is caused by one of many strains of two viruses, a herpes virus and a calicivirus. It is spread by contact with an infected cat; or contact with infected objects, such as combs, food & water bowls, bedding, owner’s hands etc.; or inhaling infected air. The clinical signs appear from 1-10 days after exposure, and the disease usually persists for 1-3 weeks, or even longer.
Cats with this disease tend to exhibit some or all of the following signs:
- Decreased appetite
- Discharge from eyes and/or nose
- Sneezing and/or coughing
- Snuffly nose
- Ulcers on tongue
Other than the drugs we prescribe for your cat, nursing at home is the single most important part in treatment. The following are some things to try to make your cat feel more comfortable:
- Keep your cat inside in a warm place and isolate from other cats in household
- Frequently wipe away any eye or nasal discharge with damp cotton wool
- Plenty of TLC (Tender Loving Care!)
- Groom your cat. Often an unwell cat will not groom itself and consequently feels uncomfortable.
- Feed strong smelling foods eg. tinned fish, as a cat that can’t smell often won’t eat. A lot of encouragement may be necessary, but getting your cat to eat is VITAL.
- Fluid intake is also vital. Try anything: water, milk, broth.
- To help clear a blocked nose try:
- Using a child’s electric steam vapouriser in the room with your cat
- Sit your cat in the bathroom whilst you have a shower. The steam will help loosen the mucous.
Time and effort on your part will greatly assist your cat to the most rapid recovery possible.
It is common for our flu cat to relapse throughout their lifetime, age and a compromised immune system may make them more susceptible to relapse. What we also know is that ‘stress’ plays a very big role in relapse. ‘Stress’ to a cat can be anything from a family member being away to a new canine member of the household, a visit to the vet or a stay at the cattery. These are stressful situations to cats and it is important to recognise potential stressors in your cat’s life and to try and prevent relapse. Speak to your veterinarian on ways to minimise stress and manage cat flu in your household.