Cat Flu Treatment At Home

What Is Cat Flu?

Cat flu, also referred to as feline upper respiratory tract infection (URI), is a common infectious disease that affects a cat’s upper respiratory system, comparable to the common cold in humans [1]. It is caused by several infectious agents including viruses and bacteria. The most common viruses that cause cat flu are feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1), feline calicivirus (FCV), and feline Chlamydia psittaci. These infectious agents infect a cat’s sinuses, throat, windpipe, and eyes.

Some key facts about cat flu include:

  • Highly contagious respiratory disease in cats
  • Caused by viruses like FHV-1, bacteria like Chlamydia felis, or a combination
  • Attacks upper respiratory tract (sinuses, throat, windpipe, eyes)
  • Symptoms can include sneezing, discharge from nose/eyes, fever, lethargy
  • Treatment includes antivirals, antibiotics, supportive care
  • Prevention includes vaccination and minimizing exposure

While rarely fatal by itself, cat flu compromises a cat’s immune system and leaves them vulnerable to secondary infections. So timely treatment and care are important for cats with this illness.

How Do Cats Get Cat Flu?

Cat flu is highly contagious and easily spread between cats. There are a few main ways cats can catch cat flu:

Direct contact with an infected cat – When cats interact closely, such as playing, grooming, or snuggling, the viruses can be transmitted through saliva and respiratory droplets. Cat flu can spread rapidly in multi-cat households or shelters.

Indirect contact – The viruses can survive in the environment for a period of time. Sharing food bowls, water bowls, litter trays, toys, bedding, or grooming brushes with an infected cat can pass on cat flu. The viruses can also be carried on people’s hands and clothing after touching an infected cat.

Airborne transmission – Respiratory droplets from sneezing and coughing can transmit cat flu through the air to other cats nearby. This makes cat flu highly contagious.

Carriers – Cats who have recovered from cat flu can become lifelong carriers of the viruses. Stress can cause carriers to start shedding the viruses again and infect other cats. Kittens born to carrier mothers are also at risk of developing cat flu. [1]

New cats – Bringing a new cat into a household creates a risk of introducing cat flu viruses and infecting resident cats. Isolating and quarantining new cats can help prevent spreading illness.

In summary, cat flu is very contagious between cats through direct contact, indirect contact, airborne transmission from coughing/sneezing, and carrier cats. Preventing contact with infected cats and their environments is key to avoiding cat flu infections.

Cat Flu Symptoms

The most common early symptoms of cat flu include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

As cat flu progresses, symptoms can become more severe. Cats may develop ulcers in the mouth, bad breath, and discharge from the nose and eyes. In some cases, pneumonia can develop if the infection spreads to the lungs (

It’s important to monitor your cat closely and identify symptoms early on. Even mild signs like sneezing or watery eyes could be indicative of cat flu. Contact your vet right away if you notice any suspicious symptoms to get an accurate diagnosis and discuss treatment options.

When to Take a Cat with Cat Flu to the Vet

While most mild cases of cat flu can be treated at home, there are some warning signs that indicate a vet visit is needed. According to Blue Cross, you should take your cat to the vet right away if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulties or distress
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Severe lethargy
  • Discharge from the nose and eyes for more than 10 days
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Loss of voice
  • Ulcers on the eye

A vet examination is crucial for assessing the severity of the cat flu infection. The vet will check the cat’s temperature, listen to their breathing, examine their mouth, eyes, and nose, and may run tests like bloodwork or cultures. They can determine if antibiotics, anti-viral medications, subcutaneous fluids, or other treatments are needed for more serious cases of cat flu.

According to Cats Protection, kittens, senior cats, and cats with other medical conditions are more prone to severe illness from cat flu. Prompt vet care greatly improves the chances of recovery and prevents lasting damage or complications.

Cat Flu Treatment Options

There are several treatment options for cat flu depending on the severity of symptoms. According to Blue Cross UK, cat flu is usually treated with antibiotics like amoxicillin to prevent secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics don’t kill the virus itself but help control secondary infections. Antivirals may also be prescribed in severe cases to fight the virus. Supportive care is crucial, including keeping the cat hydrated and feeding soft foods they can eat with respiratory inflammation.

The main treatment priorities include controlling fever, secondary infections, congestion, conjunctivitis, and ensuring the cat remains hydrated and nourished. Cats with corneal ulcers or pneumonia may need more aggressive treatment. Hospitalization with IV fluids, oxygen therapy and force-feeding may be necessary in acute cases. Otherwise, most cats can be treated with antibiotics, antivirals if warranted, eye drops, nutritional support and home nursing care. Some vets may prescribe corticosteroids but these should be used cautiously as they can suppress immunity. The key is balancing antiviral and antibiotic treatment with supportive care.

According to Purina UK, mild cases of cat flu can often be treated at home with rest, hydration and proper nursing. But kittens, senior cats or those with severe symptoms should be assessed by a vet as soon as possible. Proper treatment can significantly improve prognosis and minimize lasting effects. Work closely with your vet to determine the right treatment plan.

Treating Cat Flu at Home

If your cat has a mild case of cat flu, it can often be treated at home without medications. However, you should always consult your veterinarian first before deciding on home treatment.

There are several things you can do at home to help your cat recover:

  • Isolation – It’s important to isolate your sick cat from other household pets to prevent the virus from spreading. Keep your cat confined to one room of the house until all symptoms are gone.
  • Provide Soft Food and Water – Offering soft, aromatic foods can encourage your cat to eat when its sense of smell is reduced. Make sure fresh water is always available to avoid dehydration.
  • Keep Your Cat Warm – Sick cats need extra warmth to support their immune system. Provide soft blankets and keep the area warm. Watch for fever and contact your vet if it gets very high.

With supportive home care such as isolation, tempting foods, hydration and warmth, many cats can fully recover from mild cases of cat flu. Always monitor symptoms closely and don’t hesitate to call your vet if your cat seems to be getting worse. Though tempting, avoid over-the-counter human flu medications, as these can be dangerous for cats.

Medications for Cat Flu

There is no specific antiviral medication for cat flu viruses. However, antibiotics may be prescribed by a veterinarian to treat secondary bacterial infections that can occur with cat flu. Common antibiotics used include:

  • Amoxicillin – An antibiotic that can treat bacterial infections of the respiratory tract. The usual dosage is 5-10 mg per pound given twice daily1.
  • Doxycycline – Also used to treat respiratory infections in cats with a dosage of 5 mg per pound given once or twice daily2.
  • Clavamox – An antibiotic combination of amoxicillin and clavulanate. It’s dosed at 62.5 mg combined per pound twice daily3.

Side effects of antibiotics may include gastrointestinal upset like vomiting or diarrhea. Use of antibiotics may also lead to development of antibiotic resistance over time. Always finish the complete course as prescribed by your veterinarian.

Home Remedies for Cat Flu

There are some natural home remedies that can help support a cat’s immune system and ease symptoms while recovering from cat flu:

  • Give your cat immune boosting supplements like echinacea or zinc to help fight the infection.
  • Try natural remedies like elderberry or goldenseal to relieve symptoms.
  • Make sure your cat is getting enough vitamins C and A to support immune function.
  • Use saline nose drops to help clear nasal congestion and make breathing easier.
  • Try an herbal tea with honey to soothe sore throats.
  • Diffuse essential oils like eucalyptus or lavender to help open airways.

Always check with your vet before giving any new supplements or remedies. Some natural products may interact with medications or cause side effects in cats. Home remedies can provide comfort but should not replace veterinary treatment for cat flu.

Caring for a Cat with Cat Flu

Caring for a cat with cat flu requires some extra attention and care. Proper nursing is important to help your cat recover more quickly.

Make sure your cat’s litter box stays clean when they have cat flu. Sick cats may miss the litter box more often, so spot clean frequently. Use a gentle, unscented litter to avoid further irritating their respiratory tract. Scoop waste out of the box daily.

Regular grooming helps cats with cat flu feel more comfortable. Gently brush or wipe your cat’s face to remove dried discharge from their eyes or nose. This can relieve irritation. Avoid over-grooming as their skin may be sensitive.

Monitor your cat closely when they have cat flu. Make sure they are eating and drinking enough, as sick cats can become dehydrated. Weigh them regularly to ensure they aren’t losing weight. Track symptoms like discharge, coughing, sneezing, or lethargy. Report any worsening to your vet.

With attentive home care and your vet’s treatment plan, most cats recover fully from cat flu. Be patient, as it can take a week or two before your cat is back to normal.

Preventing Cat Flu

The most effective way to prevent cat flu is to vaccinate your cat. There are vaccines available that protect against the major causes of cat flu, including feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia virus. According to the Blue Cross, cats should receive an initial vaccination course of two injections, 2-4 weeks apart, followed by annual booster vaccinations. Vaccination helps reduce the severity of symptoms if a cat does become infected. Discuss the appropriate vaccination schedule with your veterinarian.

In addition to vaccination, you can help prevent cat flu through proper hygiene and limiting exposure. Thoroughly wash food and water bowls daily with soap and hot water to kill germs. Disinfect any surfaces the cat contacts using a pet-safe disinfectant. Avoid exposing your cat to stray cats of unknown health status. New cats should be kept separate from your existing cats for at least two weeks to monitor for signs of illness. Proper hygiene and limiting exposure to potentially infected cats are important prevention steps alongside vaccination.

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