Cat flu is the common name for feline upper respiratory tract disease. This syndrome (group of diseases) is caused by several indivual organisms, none of which are related to human flu! The common organisms behind cat flu include:

  • Feline herpes virus (feline viral rhinotracheitis)
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Chlamydophila felis

We commonly vaccinate against the first two diseases. Vaccines are also available for Bordetella and Chlamydophila, but these are considered “non-core” vaccines – only required for cats in high risk situations.

What to look out for?
Signs of cat flu include sneezing, coughing, sore eyes, mouth lesions and anorexia. As cat flu can be caused by different organisms different signs can be seen with different combinations of the disease. Calci virus often causes mouth ulcers and can be associated with long term dental problems, while herpes virus often causes more eye problems.

How do we treat?
Cat flu is caused by both viruses and bacteria. Bacteria can be treated with antibiotics, and anti-viral treatment may also be used. However, the most important part of the treatment is “supportive care” – keeping the cat warm, happy and fed while their own body fights the disease. This may involve hospitalisation, and even tube feeding. However, with the proper care, the prognosis is good.