Can Cats Get Viral Fever From Humans?


Viral fever is an acute condition that occurs when viruses infect the body, often causing symptoms like high fever, body ache, headache, and sore throat [1]. These viruses spread easily from person to person.

While our pet cats don’t get the exact same viral infections, they can catch certain viruses from humans. Cats and humans can transmit viral infections to each other just like humans pass colds between themselves. This brings up an important question – can cats specifically get viral fever by catching viruses from humans?

Symptoms of Viral Fever in Humans

The most common symptoms of viral fever in humans include:

  • High fever – Fevers from viral infections can range from 101°F to 104°F (38.3°C to 40°C), depending on the specific virus.
  • Muscle aches – Body aches and pains often accompany viral fevers as the immune system responds to fight off the infection.
  • Chills – Shaking chills are common with viral fevers as the body struggles to regulate its core temperature.
  • Fatigue – Feeling exhausted and lacking energy are typical during a viral illness while the body directs its resources towards combating the virus.
  • Loss of appetite – Poor appetite frequently occurs with viral fevers since digestion becomes a lower priority for the body.
  • Headache – Many viral infections lead to headache pain due to inflammation or dehydration.

Other symptoms can include a sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, rash, nausea, and vomiting depending on the particular virus involved. Viral infections often make people feel miserable with body aches, weakness, and an overall ill sensation in addition to the common fever and respiratory symptoms.


Causes of Viral Fever in Humans

Viral fevers in humans are caused by viral infections. There are many different viruses that can cause fever in humans, including:

  • Influenza viruses
  • Adenoviruses
  • Dengue virus
  • Enteroviruses
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Measles virus
  • Rubella virus
  • West Nile virus
  • Zika virus

These viruses are transmitted in a few different ways:

  • Airborne droplets – Coughing, sneezing, or even talking can spread viral particles through the air. Viruses like influenza, adenovirus, and measles spread this way (1).
  • Contact with infected surfaces – Touching objects contaminated with viruses and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth can lead to infection. Viruses like influenza, adenovirus, and norovirus often spread through surface contact (2).
  • Mosquito bites – Mosquitoes transmit viruses like dengue fever and West Nile virus when they bite you (3).

Can Cats Get Human Viral Infections?

Cats can become infected with some human viruses like influenza and herpesvirus, but they are not susceptible to all human viruses. According to the CDC, influenza viruses that infect humans can sometimes spread to cats[1]. Cats and humans can transmit flu viruses between each other. The feline herpesvirus that causes upper respiratory infections in cats is believed to have adapted from human herpes simplex virus[2].

However, cats do not appear to be susceptible to other common human viruses like measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, or smallpox. The differences in human and feline cell receptors, immune responses, and physiology likely prevent most human viruses from infecting cats. While cats and humans can share some illnesses, cats generally do not catch most viral infections that commonly spread between humans.

Symptoms of Viral Infections in Cats

Some of the most common symptoms of viral infections seen in cats include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, sneezing, nasal discharge, and the development of ulcers in the mouth. Specific viral diseases like panleukopenia can also produce symptoms such as vomiting, severe diarrhea, and dehydration.

Fever is one of the hallmark symptoms of viral infections in cats. An elevated body temperature is a key sign that a cat’s immune system is actively fighting a viral invader. Fevers in cats tend to range between 103-104°F when caused by a virus.

Lethargy and loss of appetite also frequently occur with viral infections. Viruses can sap a cat’s energy and make them less interested in food or play. A normally active cat that starts sleeping more or loses interest in their favorite foods may be showing signs of a viral illness.

Upper respiratory infections from viruses like feline herpesvirus or calicivirus often cause sneezing, nasal congestion and discharge. The eyes may also water and discharge may become thick and discolored.

Oral ulcers are common with calicivirus infections as the virus attacks the mouth tissues. Ulcers may make eating painful.

With panleukopenia from the parvovirus, cats may experience severe vomiting, bloody diarrhea, rapid weight loss, and dehydration as the virus attacks the intestinal tract and bone marrow. Kittens are particularly vulnerable to life-threatening complications.

Catching viral infections quickly is important, as early treatment and supportive care can greatly improve outcomes. Monitoring a cat’s energy levels and appetites closely makes it easier to identify concerning symptoms that warrant a veterinary visit.

Diagnosing Viral Fever in Cats

There are several methods vets use to diagnose viral infections in cats:

Physical Exam: The vet will do a complete physical exam, looking for symptoms like fever, respiratory issues, skin lesions, or swollen lymph nodes that may indicate a viral infection. The physical exam provides important clues for diagnosis.

Lab Tests: The vet may run lab tests on blood or other body fluids like viral cultures to check for the presence of viruses. Common lab tests include a complete blood count, biochemical profile, urinalysis, and testing for specific viruses like feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) [1].

Virus Detection: There are kits available to test for the presence of specific viral antigens or antibodies in the blood. For example, combo tests can check for both coronavirus antibodies and antigens to diagnose conditions like feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) [2] [3].

Biopsies: For skin, gastrointestinal, or neurological symptoms, a biopsy of affected tissues may be examined for evidence of viral infection.

While diagnosing viral infections in cats can be challenging, the combination of a thorough physical exam, lab tests, and specific viral screening can often determine the causative virus.

Treating Viral Infections in Cats

There is no cure for most viral infections in cats, so treatment focuses on supportive care and managing symptoms. According to a 2020 study published in PMC, the main treatment goals are providing nutritional support, maintaining hydration, and addressing any secondary infections (

Veterinarians may administer intravenous or subcutaneous fluids to prevent dehydration. Appetite stimulants and nutritional supplements can help cats maintain strength while fighting infection. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat or prevent secondary bacterial infections.

In some cases, antiviral medications like famciclovir or valacyclovir may be used to treat viral infections in cats, according to sources ( However, these drugs only work against certain viruses and must be used cautiously under veterinary supervision.

Vaccines are available to protect cats against common preventable viral illnesses like panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and rabies. Keeping cats up to date on these key vaccines is important to reduce the risk of viral infections.

Preventing Viral Transmission Between Humans and Cats

There are several steps both cat owners and non-owners can take to reduce the risk of viral transmission between humans and cats:

Handwashing is crucial. Thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water after touching cats, before preparing food, and after using the bathroom or blowing your nose. Hand sanitizer can be used in a pinch (CDC).

Avoid close contact with your cat if you are sick with a fever, cough, or other viral symptoms. Have another member of your household care for the cat until you recover (Cornell Feline Health Center).

Disinfect surfaces like countertops, doorknobs, and litter boxes frequently. Use a disinfectant approved to kill viruses (Pagani et al.).

Keep cats indoors to reduce exposure to sick humans and other animals. Cats can get viruses through contact with infected surfaces outside the home (Cornell Feline Health Center).

Vaccinate cats against common feline viruses to protect their health. Consult your vet about recommended vaccines (Pagani et al.).

When to See a Vet

If your cat is showing concerning symptoms like fever, lethargy, or loss of appetite, it’s important to have them seen by a veterinarian. Cats with viral infections can go downhill quickly, so it’s best to have them evaluated promptly. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, “Severe upper respiratory infections may require hospitalization for supportive care such as fluids, feeding tubes, broad spectrum antibiotics and injectable medication.”

You should also have your cat seen if there are viral illnesses present in human family members. While transmission risks are low, it’s a good idea to have your vet examine your cat and determine if any preventative care or separation is needed. As WebMD notes, “Keep your cat away from any family member who has a cold or the flu.”

It’s also wise to have your cat evaluated after potential viral exposures like boarding, contact with stray/outdoor cats, or introducing new cats to your home. Your vet can examine for early symptoms and advise on any necessary quarantine or testing.

Overall, it’s best to err on the side of caution and have your vet examine your cat promptly if you notice ANY signs of illness after viral exposure. Catching infections early greatly improves the chances of effective treatment and recovery.


In summary, while cats and humans can transmit some viruses between species, the list of transmissible viruses is limited. Feline viruses like feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus cannot be passed from cats to humans. Likewise, human viruses like measles and mumps do not spread to cats.

However, some common human viruses like influenza, rhinovirus, and coronavirus can infect cats. Cats may show flu-like symptoms if they catch one of these viruses from an owner. And feline herpesvirus can spread from cats to humans, causing eye infections.

Prevention is key to reducing viral transmission between cats and humans. Good hygiene, avoiding direct contact with sick individuals, keeping cats up-to-date on vaccines, and limiting interactions with outdoor/stray cats can all help stop the spread of viruses. While viral transmission may not be completely avoidable, following vet recommendations can minimize the risk.

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