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Do Cats Get the Flu

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sad calico cat lying on carpet

People are all too familiar with the term ‘flu’ and all the cruddy symptoms that come along with it, but did you know our feline friends can also catch the flu? Plus, they share many of the same symptoms as people.

Do Cats Get the Flu?

Cats can get the flu, just like a person would a cold. This highly contagious virus is typically categorized as an upper respiratory infection in felines. Knowing this, three common questions that usually pop up are:

  1. How common is cat flu?

    Cat flu is relatively common, so there is no need to panic if your cat is diagnosed with this condition. However, that’s not to say that you don’t need to take all necessary measures to treat your cat as soon as possible.

  2. Is cat flu serious?

    In most instances, cat flu is not a serious condition—it’s a common infection that many cats will experience at least once in their life. Like people, though, each case is different, and the flu may be worse for some cats. A cat’s age and health can alter how the flu affects them. For instance, a kitten or a senior cat may have more difficulties.

  3. Do cats get colds or flu?

    For people, colds and the flu have many overlapping symptoms, with the flu being a worsened or more intense version. The same is nearly true in cats, though the viruses they contract usually lead to upper respiratory infections.

Although this is a relatively common health condition for felines, there is no guarantee that your cat will ever develop the flu—they may be one of the lucky ones.

Cat Flu Symptoms

Since there’s a reasonable chance your cat could one day catch the flu, it’s essential to learn the most common symptoms.

  • Runny nose or watery eyes
  • Loss of appetite/drinking less water
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing

By keeping an eye out for these symptoms, if your cat were to have the flu, there will be a greater chance that you’ll catch the problem earlier on, which means treatment can begin that much sooner as well.

Though some of these signs may not be the most noticeable at first, you know your cat best. If you suspect something is out of the ordinary or they are acting much differently than usual, go ahead and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Until the time of your cat’s check-up, continue to monitor their condition and take notes on anything unusual.

It’s additionally helpful to keep track of your cat’s health because some of the common signs of the flu can overlap with those for many other feline health conditions. For instance, there could be many different reasons your cat isn’t eating, and frequent sneezing could mean that your cat has allergies.

Have you noticed some other weird behaviors from your cat that have nothing to do with them being sick? There may be a perfectly logical explanation.

Cat Flu and Other Cats

Knowing what cat flu is and recognizing its symptoms are just the first steps to understanding this health condition. Perhaps the next helpful tidbit for cat parents is to know how their cat can contract this infection.

Similar to how the flu spreads from one person to another, cat flu can also easily spread from one cat to another. So, if you’ve been wondering, “In the feline world, is the flu contagious to cats?” The answer is most definitely yes—this is a highly contagious condition.

A cat with the flu can come into direct contact with and spread their germs to another cat in multiple ways. These can include playing or sleeping next to one another and sharing toys or food and water bowls. An infected cat sneezing or coughing near a healthy cat may also be enough to pass their germs along.

While there’s no need to fret about your cat passing the flu on to your dog, you do need to take some precautions if you have other cats in the house. Until your sick cat is treated and given the “all clear” from their veterinarian, you will need to keep your cats, their bowls, toys, beds, and even litter boxes away from one another.

Can I Give My Cat the Flu?

If you or another member of your household are currently down for the count with the flu, there’s no need to worry about passing it along to your feline friend. Rest assured, they can still cuddle up next to you on the couch as you binge-watch movies.

Can You Catch the Cat Flu?

In the instance that your cat is officially diagnosed with the flu, you will need to keep them away from any other cat in the household, but you do not need to worry about catching the flu yourself. With that said, it’s still a safe idea to take some extra sanitary precautions, such as thoroughly washing your hands after cleaning out your cat’s litter box or handling their food and water bowls.

You may also want to get in the habit of washing your hands after petting or holding your cat. Individuals with certain health conditions, weakened immune systems, or that are pregnant should take extra precautions.

gray tabby cat being petted while cuddling with human

How to Treat Cat Flu

As a loving cat parent who is naturally concerned about their cat’s wellbeing, an automatic question that comes to mind after hearing your cat is sick is, “Can cat flu be cured?” While there is no exact cure for cat flu, there are multiple treatment options to consider, which may answer your other question, “Can cat flu go away on its own?”

Cat flu cannot be resolved on its own, so do not wait to get your cat the treatment they need. The longer you wait to schedule the appointment with your veterinarian and get the medicine your cat needs, the worse their condition could get.

Treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms as much as possible until your cat’s immune system is strong enough to clear the infection entirely. Some common treatments can involve antibiotics or fluids to help prevent dehydration, eye drops, and supplements if your cat has lost their appetite. Depending upon your cat’s condition, you may also need to set up a humidifier for them so that they can breathe more easily.

How Long Does Cat Flu Last?

If it goes untreated, cat flu isn’t going away anytime soon—it’ll stick around and just get worse. With proper treatment, recovery time is usually close to two weeks, though this time frame can vary from one cat to the next. Just like when people are sick, though they may start feeling better in just a week, some symptoms may try to linger around longer.

Even after your feline friend is back to normal and has recovered from the flu, they may still be a carrier of the virus, even if they show no signs. If your cat is a long-term carrier, they can have the virus and possibly “shed” it for around an entire year.

That said, if your cat has already had the flu and recovered, but a few months later you notice some of their symptoms popping back up, it’ll be necessary to take them back to their veterinarian and have them treated again.

Learn some helpful tips on how to give your cat a pill.

Preventive Measures

As a responsible and caring pet parent, of course, you would do everything in your power to prevent your cat from getting sick in the first place. Although you may not be able to keep the flu away for your cat’s entire life, there are some preventive steps you can take to hopefully lessen your pal’s chances of catching the flu anytime soon.

  • Get your cat vaccinated.

    Most shelters or rescues require all their cats to be updated with necessary vaccinations before they are sent home with their new family—but this isn’t always a guarantee. Always check with your veterinarian to ensure your cat is up to date and check when your cat will need a booster shot.

  • Wash your cat’s belongings regularly.

    While this is an important task to do when your cat is sick, you shouldn’t wait until your cat has the flu to start cleaning their stuff. Regularly, wash out their food and water bowls and throw their blankets and beds in for a thorough wash.

  • Keep your healthy cat away from sick cats.

    This may be a little easier said than done since you might not realize the other cat is sick. Even if you notice another one of your cats showing just a few possible signs of the flu, go ahead and separate your pals to help ensure that your other cat(s) stay healthy.

By familiarizing yourself with each step of the ‘cat flu’ process, you can be better prepared in the instance that your cat becomes sick. Though this part of being a cat parent may not be as fun as researching how to make homemade cat treats, it can help you prioritize your best pal’s health.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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