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7 symptoms of cat flu

By Ashley Murphy Content Writer

Updated on the

Does your kitty seem a bit low on energy? Have they started coughing and sneezing? If so, they might have a dose of the cat flu. Here are 7 cat flu symptoms to look out for.

Just like human flu, cat flu is quite common. A young cat or a kitten will often catch one in their first few months, mainy due to living in close proximity to other cats. An adult cat can catch cat flu at any time, although they’re especilly at risk of a stay in a cattery. Most infected cats will display the same sort of symptoms of the human flu. Luckily, most cats make a full recovery within a few weeks.

7 symptoms of cat flu

1# Runny nose and watery eye

A runny nose and watery eyes are a common symptom of cat flu. A runny nose can be inconvenient (and a bit gross), but it's an important part of fighting the flu. The extra mucus and other gooey stuff help expel the virus from the body.

2# Sneezing 

Because the body is producing more mucus, there’s more chance of irritating the mucous membranes in the nose and throat. This often leads to sneezing. When a virus gets into the nasal passage, the body produces natural anti-inflammatory chemicals such as histamines, which causes extra irritation and sneezing.

Cats don’t use tissues! This means their sneezes travel a fair few metres, and so does the virus! If you've got any other pets, try to isolate the poorly kitty.

3# Lethargy

You know what a bad cold feels like; a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and a complete lack of energy or enthusiasm! You don't feel like doing anything, and anything you have to do is a major struggle. It's no different for your cat. They may start sleeping more, appear sluggish, or just seem a bit “off.” This is because their body is using most of its energy to fight off the flu, meaning there’s little left over for anything else. 

4# Secondary infection

Because the immune system is busy fighting the flu, it can miss other nasty pathogens trying to get into your cat. This can lead to secondary infections. The most common is an eye infection called conjunctivitis. Symptoms include a reddening or a swelling, as well as green and yellow mucus in and around the eye. Take your cat to the vet; they may need some antibiotics.

5# Coughing

Coughing is natural reflex intended to rid the respiratory system of dust, mucus, irritants, and annoying viruses like the flu. 

6# Mouth ulcers

Some cats with the flu may develop mouth ulcers, although these are quite rare. 

7# Fever 

Your cat will almost certainly have a fever, or at least feel hotter than normal. This is another one of the bodies tricks for dealing with stuff it doesn't like. Certain viruses can't survive in high temperatures. Turning up the internal heat helps kill them off

Fighting off the cat flu symptoms

Unfortunately, just like the human flu, cat flu has no known cure and there many different sources of infection. However, there are a few thing you can do to put them on the road to recovery. These include:

  • Take the infected cat to the vet. They can prescribe some antibiotics.
  • Make sure they stay hydrated. Encourage them to drink as much fluid as possible. Fluids help lubricate the mucous membrane which can then expel more of the bad stuff!
  • You also want to keep their bodies fuelled with enough energy to fight the virus. Cats with the flu will sometimes lose their sense of smell, making them less inclined to eat. So put out some really “smelly” foods like roast chicken,  sardines, pilchards, and mackerel. These foods have a very disticnt and pungent smell which will attract your cats attention and encourage them to eat.
  • When you're having a bath or a shower, bring the kitty into the bathroom. Exposure to steam is a great way of loosening up the mucus and phlegm.

Does my cat need to see a vet?

It depends. Cats are tough little creatures with strong immune systems. These natural defence systems will normally fight off the virus within a week or so. In the meantime, try and make your cat as comfortable as possible. If you don't see any improvement in their condition, or they take a turn for the worst, then get them to your local vet.

Is there anything I can do stop my cat getting the flu? 

Colds and the flu are part of kitty's life. Most are relatively harmless, but there are things you can do to limit their chances of catching one. Vaccination is the first option. It can be very effective in preventing the flu, but it's not suitable for every cat. Speak to a vet about this one.

Managing your cat's overall health will reduce their chances of contracting any illnesses, including the flu. The right foods coupled with the right environment can do wonders for your cat's well-being.

It's never nice when our beloved cats fall sick. It can be a stressful and worrying time, especially when we feel like there's nothing we can do.  Just remember, the flu can't be cured, but it can be managed. So focus on making your cat feel as comfortable as possible; their natural defence system will do the rest.

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