Can Cats Get Flu?

Can cats get flu? This a question often asked by pet parents worried their precious fur babies can catch this common virus. Keep reading as I reveal the truth about colds and flu, and whether your kitty can pick up these illnesses.

In this post you’ll find out if cats can catch the human cold and flu viruses. Plus everything you need to know about cat flu. including what causes it, if it’s contagious, and common symptoms. In addition, we’ll be looking at treatments, and how to make your poorly kitty feel better.

I’m sure you’ve had the occasional cold each winter, and if you’ve been unlucky enough to experience flu, you’ll know how ill you can feel. Well, your kitty is no different, but you’ll be pleased to hear, she won’t ever catch your viruses. It’s rare for any virus to be transmitted between species, and zoonotic diseases such as coronavirus are not that common.

What is cat flu and what are the symptoms?

can cats get flu-ginger cat sneezing

Though an entirely different strain of virus, cat flu has very similar symptoms experienced by humans. Though your kitty can’t tell you how she’s feeling, I’m sure she’d be complaining about the exact same things you would be if you had flu! Symptoms of cat flu include runny eyes, sneezing, nasal discharge, aching joints, sore throat, temperature, coughing, and even ulcers inside the mouth.

Though your cat can’t tell you she has a sore throat, she may show difficulty swallowing food. Cats sneeze for the same reasons as us, which is a reaction to irritants. However, continual sneezing and coughing is cause for concern. If your cat shows these symptoms, it could be due to a number of respiratory infections including feline herpes and feline chlamydia which can cause flu.

Can cats get flu from humans

can cats get flu from humans

You may be wondering if you’d need to isolate yourself from your cat if you were to get a bad cold or flu. You’ll be pleased to here it would extremely rare for this to happen. So if you’re stuck at home with a streaming cold, or bad case of flu, you can still cuddle your kitty for comfort. You can’t catch cat flu though!! The only thing you’d need to consider is passing any of the virus on your hands from your sick cat onto another pet. Using hand sanitiser after touching a cat with flu or other cats in your household is the best way of fighting the virus.

Is cat flu contagious?

Cat flu is highly contagious, and spread by direct contact with other cats. Just as with human flu, it’s more dangerous in the very young and elderly. This is because kittens haven’t had time to build immunity, and senior kitties often have weaker immune systems.

If you have a kitten that’s at least eight weeks old you should get her vaccinated. It could potentially save her life, especially as she starts going outside. The same rule applies if you have a senior kitty. Your cat may seem fit and active in her golden years, but her immune system won’t be as strong.

Whenever you get large numbers of cats together such as a cattery or rescue centre, there’s always the risk of a flu epidemic breaking out. This is why most catteries or boarding kennels won’t accept a cat unless all vaccinations are up to date.

If you have multiple cats in your household, you must get each one vaccinated against cat flu annually. Just as with human flu vaccines, it changes every year depending on the latest strains.
Some cats may carry the virus but show no symptoms. This is why vaccination is so important. If your kitty appears healthy she could potentially carry the cat flu virus and infect other cats.

How to treat cat flu

Though there’s no cure for cat flu, there are ways you can manage it if your cat gets sick. Depending on the symptoms and severity, your vet will prescribe medication. Pain relief can be given such as anti-inflammatories. In addition, antibiotics or antiviral medicine may be prescribed. If your kitty has sore, weepy eyes, your vet will give you ointment to relieve the symptoms. You could also try a few home remedies such steam inhalation. This can help ease breathing problems, just as it would if you get blocked sinuses.

Your vet will create a treatment plan and advise you on how to care for your cat at home. If your kitty has become dehydrated and not eaten for a while she may need electrolytes or in severe cases hospitalised. Feed your fur baby tempting and nutritious foods. These can include a portion of boiled rice with cooked chicken. Open a can of tuna and treat your cat to a fishy treat. Most felines love the taste, and the strong aroma may be enough to entice her to eat.

If you have other cats in your home you must wash all bedding and food bowls. In addition, don’t let your other cats share a litter box. Isolation is important to ensure all other pets stay healthy. Your poorly pet will need a lot of love and support, just as you would if you had the flu. You won’t be able to catch her virus, but wash your hands thoroughly after handling her.

How to prevent cat flu

The only sure way of protecting your fur baby is to make sure she’s vaccinated each year. If she’s already had cat flu it doesn’t mean she won’t get it again. Even after vaccination, some cats remain carriers. It’s even possible a cat could shed the virus under stressful conditions, such as spending time in a boarding cattery.

Young kittens mustn’t be allowed outside until they’re at least 8 weeks old and had all required vaccinations. Although the mother passes on some immunity to her babies through first milk, it’s still vital you keep tiny kittens protected.

Elderly cats or those with already underlying health issues are at a greater risk. If you have a cat with flu in a multi cat household you must use good hygiene rules. Always wash your hands after touching your sick cat before touching the others. The virus could be transmitted from your hands.

It usually takes around 2 weeks for a cat to recover from flu, so you’ll need to keep your sick cat away from other pets until until that time has passed.

Making sure your fur baby keeps healthy

can cats get flu-grey and white cat

I hope I’ve answered your question “can cats get flu?” As you’ve discovered, cats have their own type of flu virus which you and I can’t catch. It’s also extremely rare for an animal virus to mutate and become zoonotic. That being said, it does happen, as with the coronavirus epidemic, but don’t worry, it’s certainly not an everyday occurrence.

The same rules for keeping healthy apply to your cat as they do for you. Regular exercise and healthy food play a key role. In addition, you may choose to supplement your cat’s diet, but speak to your vet if you’re unsure. Lastly, as I’ve mentioned previously, the only way to keep your kitty safe from cat flu is annual vaccination.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful please share. Also, if you have any questions, or would like to share any experiences, please leave your comments below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)
Kathy

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10 comments

  1. Interesting article. Glad cats and humans can not give each other the flu or virus. I’ve had many cats in my life but right now I only have a dog. Its interesting that cats may need to be quarantined from other cats sometimes. And that elderly cats (just line humans like me) are more susceptible. Thanks for this article -Shirley

    1. Thank you Shirley:) Glad you enjoyed my article and yes, elderly animals are no different to older humans 🙂

  2. Hi Kathy, I often wondered about colds and flues with cats as we have a Siamese cat that we adopted around 15 months ago. She’s had the sniffles and sneezed a few times in the past couple of days. She’s a house cat and rarely ventures out especially when it’s cold. so I guess she is pretty safe on that score.

    I guess we just never think about our animals like that at times, but it’s nice to know that we can’t pass such things onto our cats, and vice versa.

    I will certainly bookmark your site for future reference and the wife I’m sure will love your articles, seeing that I converted her from wanting a dog to actually falling in love with our cat Lonie.

    Thanks for sharing what is a great article.

    Mick

    1. Thank you Mick:) Glad you enjoyed my article and that you found the information useful:) Also happy to hear you converted your wife to a cat lover:)

  3. Wonderfully executed! As someone who owns a cat, I found this very informative and educational. I am relieved to know that I cannot pass on the flu to my baby, but i’m sad to hear that my baby can still get a flu. Thanks to your article, I know make a huge difference in preventing her from getting the flu by keeping my baby up-to-date on her shots, and practicing good hygiene.

    You stayed true to answering the question, but you also went above and beyond. It’s because of that, that I can leave more educated in something that is really important to me. I’ll be coming back to read more. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Elise:) I’m glad you enjoyed my article and that it it helped you understand how to prevent your fur baby getting flu and keeping her healthy

  4. Oh man, I remember when one of our cats had the flu when I was a kid. She looked miserable, just slept and had runny eyes and nose but fortunately, it passed in a couple of days. I’ve been trying to read up on COVID-19 and pets as I’d like to know if dogs can get sick with it or become vectors of the virus as our dog might work as an infection path. The information I’ve found is inconclusive, apparently, it’s unlikely they get sick, yet there was at least one report, but they can at least carry the virus for several days in their fur. Do you know if it affects felines?

    1. Hi Jukka, thanks for your comment:) I did create a post on coronavirus and cats a few days ago so hopefully you get to read it:) Yes, cats have their own strain of coronavirus which is entirely different. They cannot get covid-19, or human flu. However, as you mentioned, yes both dogs and cats could potentially pick up the virus on their fur and carry it into the house. It can’t survive for long though, and you could always wipe a dog’s paws. My cat doesn’t go very far, and I brush his fur when he comes back inside.

  5. Interesting article Kathy, Thank you for mentions about the covid-19 I was wondering as I read about the tigers having it in the USA. I remember a few years ago my labrador had a litter of puppies and at about 2 weeks old the whole litter got cat flu and 1 died. I gave the mother and the litter doses of ‘CARE’ it is a GNLD product. https://edelg.com/products/care-1-litre. I have also taken it if you have a really bad runny stomach it tastes like soap but it works wonders. It saved my whole litter of puppies.

    1. Hi Kay, thank you:) So sorry to hear about the puppies, but happy the GNLD product worked. I’ll look into it. Thanks for your input:) Kathy

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