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What is Cat Flu?

Cat Flu is a common disease of cats caused by a virus (feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus or sometimes feline chlamydia). It is very similar to the human a cold. It is usually not life threatening unless the cat is very young, old, immunosuppressed or unvaccinated. The herpesvirus strain can cause permanent eye damage.


Signs of Cat Flu may last from a couple of days to several weeks, and usually include one or a combination of the following:

- Sneezing

- Clear or coloured discharge from the nose and/or eyes

- Ulcers on the nose, lips, tongue or eyes (herpesvirus)

- Fever, lethargy, loss of appetite

- A high temperature


A cat showing symptoms of Cat Flu can spread the disease to other cats while symptomatic and on occasion may shed the disease once the cat has recovered. These cats are called “carriers.” Some Cat Flu carriers can from time to time become unwell from the virus.

Can Cat Flu be spread to people?

Cat Flu is not zoonotic which means that it does not transmit to other species of animals or to humans. Times of stress may also bring on bouts of Cat Flu in carriers.


How common is Cat Flu?

Cat Flu is a common disease of cats worldwide. Most of the feline population in Australia has been exposed to the viruses.


How is Cat Flu prevented?

Vaccinating your cat is the best prevention of Cat Flu. As with all vaccines it does not guarantee that your cat will not get Cat Flu however it will lower the chance and if they do get Cat Flu it can lessen the severity of the disease.

How is Cat Flu treated?

As with the human flu, antibiotics are not effective unless there is a secondary bacterial infection (green or yellow discharge). Antibiotics, pain relief and/or eye ointment may be prescribed depending on symptoms. Sometimes when the cat has not been eating or drinking well, fluids may be administered either subcutaneously or by a drip.


Supportive care is often the most important care a cat suffering from Cat Flu needs. This often involves a combination of the following:

- Encouraging your cat to eat and drink is very important if it has lost its appetite as food and water provides essential nutrition to aid recovery. A cat’s nose will often become blocked when they have Cat Flu resulting in inappetence. Offering strong smelling food (such as fish) or warming the food can often encourage eating. Hills Prescription A/D food is often palatable to sick cats and is specially formulated for animals that are sick and recovering from disease. You may need to offer several different types of food to your sick cat to find something it will happily eat. Some cats also respond to being patted while near their food to encourage eating.

- Syringe feeding may be required if the above measures do not result in your cat eating. Veterinary staff will instruct you on how to syringe feed.


- Placing the cat in a steamy environment will help clear congested nasal passages. You can place the cat in the bathroom with the door shut while you are having a warm shower, or use a vaporizer if you have access to this. Please do not add essential oils to the vaporizer as many are toxic to cats.

-Ensure that fresh clean water and a clean litter tray is within easy access.

- Keep your cat comfy and warm.

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