An Ultimate Guide to Cat Flu

DVM M.Phil (Pet diseases & welfare)

Cats are prone to many diseases, just like human beings, so having a sick cat symptom checker of sorts can be very handy. Cat flu is somewhat similar to human flu. Many cat owners want to know the “signs my cat is sick” and often want to know about cat flu, its pathogenesis, causes, mode of transmission and management.

In this article we will provide a brief overview of feline flu under the light of scientific literature.

What is Cat Flu?

Cat flu is medically known as Feline upper respiratory system infection. This affects the cats of all ages and breeds. Signs and symptoms may vary from one cat to another.


This is a multi-factorial and contagious condition that is caused by a number of viruses and bacteria. Remember, viruses are a major causative agent of cat flu.

Common viruses involved in cat flu are:

  • Feline calicivirus (FCV)
  • Feline Herpes virus-1 (FHV-1)

Miscellaneous causes include:

  1. Bordetella infection
  2. Mycoplasma infection
  3. Feline chlamydiosis

Is There Involvement of Influenza Virus in Cat Flu?

No, cat flu is not caused by influenza viruses. These viruses mainly cause human flu (cold).

How is Cat Flu Transmitted?

This is a contagious condition that spreads quickly from one cat to another through direct contact with an infected cat’s saliva, nasal secretions, tears and other droppings. Indirect mode of transmission includes feeding equipment, water bowls, playing tools, bedding or even human clothing and hands (person who has touched an infected cat).

NOTE: There is no scientific evidence of its zoonotic importance. Cat flu is totally specific to cats and doesn’t transmit from cats to human beings.

sick cat

Sick Cat Symptom Checker

Signs and symptoms of cat flu are extremely similar to human flu. Some key signs and symptoms have been listed below:

  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Difficult breathing (Dyspnea)
  • Cat nose problems (Runny nose)
  • Cat not eating (Loss of appetite, anorexia)
  • High temperature
  • Ulcers in the mouth and around the eyes
  • Coughing and dribbling

NOTE: Your cat may show mild to severe symptoms depending upon the severity of disease. Remember, severe symptoms can lead to life threatening conditions such as pneumonia, lung damage, eye damage and other dangerous complications. Kittens and old aged cats show the worst symptoms because of their poor immune system.


Diagnosis is made upon history, clinical signs and symptoms and lab testing. It is important to note that cat flu is not always threatening, it can go away on its own. But it is necessary to stay in contact with a registered veterinarian.

There are many medical conditions which are often confused with cat flu such as chronic bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory diseases. Your vet can confirm the diagnosis by taking a nasal/throat swab of your cat and testing the virus strain in the lab.

Treatment and Precautions

Precaution is better than cure

As a responsible pet owner, you, of course, want to know how to care for a cat. As you know there is no specific treatment for viral diseases. Only strict precautionary measures can save the life of your beloved cats. Vaccination is available for cat flu. Being a responsible owner, you should get your kitten vaccinated against cat flu as early as possible (consult your veterinarian).

Supportive therapy includes various supplements, antiviral agents and antibiotics (to stop secondary bacterial infections) and fluid therapy. Your vet can recommend you the best possible cure and precautionary measures.

Quarantine is a very crucial thing to limit the spread of cat flu to other cats if you have multiple cats in your home. Keep the infected cat isolated and wash all the feeding equipment carefully.  Give humidifiers and a soft diet to your cat.

It is important to note that cats with mild flu recover within five to ten days normally. But severe cases take approximately six weeks to fully recover.

NOTE: Cats with herpes virus 1 become the carrier for the rest of their life. Although, feline calicivirus flu is not that much worse cats remain carriers for up to a few months to years.

Final Comments

Cat flu can be extremely serious for your pet yet it is preventable with vaccinations. It is very important you get to know your pet and their habits so you identify any change in behavior early enough to seek advice or treatment. There is no doubt your cat puking is a sign of illness but other changes can be more subtle such as a change in appetite. Following the sick cat symptom checker is a great start to determining whether your cat needs to see a veterinarian.