Nutro imagery


Enter a keyword below to search for articles and products.

Understanding Cat Flu: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Feline flu is a catch-all term for viruses not unlike human flu.

Share Perfect Fit SHARE
Tired looking cat
Article checked by a vet
Article checked by a vet

Like us, cats can get a cold that can give your cat a runny nose, fever, and other symptoms.

Though flu isn’t typically life threatening in healthy adult cats, it’s important for all cat parents to recognise the signs of this illness and the risk factors that can make it a more serious issue.

In this guide, we’ll explore what this illness is, preventing it with vaccination, how to care for a cat who has it, and the best approach to treatment if you think your pet might have it.

What are the first signs of cat flu?

When a cat first contracts flu, it will affect them in more or less the same way as it would a human, causing sneezing, lethargy and a loss of appetite. If you’ve ever seen signs that have made you wonder “can cats get a cold?”

Here’s a full list of cat flu symptoms that you should look out for:

  • Sneezing.
  • Runny nose/ nasal discharge and eye mucus.
  • Drooling.
  • Your cat not eating or eating less than usual.
  • Sleeping more than usual.
  • Shivering.

If you notice these cat flu symptoms in your cat, it’s essential that you contact your vet as soon as possible. Even though cases of flu aren’t usually serious, detecting it early can make a huge difference to the treatment and outcome.

How long does the cat flu last?

How long a case of flu lasts depends on the severity of each individual case. In mild cases, flu may only last for five to ten days. In severe cases, however, a cat may take around six weeks to recover. 

Treatment options for cat flu

Preventative vaccines for flu are available from any vet, and are generally included in the normal course of vaccinations when you first bring in a kitten for their first appointment. If your unvaccinated cat contracts an illness, then your vet may treat their cat flu symptoms in a number of ways.

These can include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Decongestants to help loosen up mucus.
  • Eye drops and antibiotics if the flu causes an infection.

Caring for a cat with flu at home

If your veterinarian confirms that your cat has flu, they may administer medicine or give you instructions on how you can do this at home. Aside from this, there are a variety of steps you can take to make your cat’s recovery as comfortable as possible at home:

  1. Keep them comfy

    Provide your cat with a warm and comfortable bed in a peaceful part of the house where they can rest properly. Consider moving the litter tray so that your cat can use it easily without over-exerting themselves.

  2. Keep them hydrated

    Keep your cat well-hydrated with a constant supply of fresh water.

  3. Keep them well-fed

    Encouraging them to eat nutritious, balanced meals like Perfect Fit™ Wet cat food. One of the many benefits of wet food is that it can be easily gently heated to be luke-warm to encourage cats to eat, even when they’re under the weather. Gently warming the food releases aromas which can help tempt your cat to eat. Very often cats feeling under the weather will go off their food because they can't smell it. You can help tempt their appetite by cleaning their face to clear the nasal passages before offering food. If the cat still refuses to eat, try topping the food with something strong smelling like tinned mackerel in tomato sauce.

  4. Keep their face clean

    Gently wipe away any discharge that gathers on your cat’s nose and eyes. This is best accomplished with cotton wool pads or cotton balls.

Throughout your cat’s bout of flu, be sure to check in on them frequently and keep a close eye on their symptoms. If you notice new symptoms appearing or any of their symptoms becoming worse, consult your vet as soon as possible. This could be the sign of a secondary, more serious condition caused by the flu. Complications such as pneumonia can be a result of cat flu in kittens and senior cats.

Preventing cat flu: a guide for cat parents

As with any illness, prevention is generally the better policy compared to treating the illness once your cat is already experiencing flu. There are a number of steps you can take to minimise the risk of your cat ever contracting flu and similar illnesses in the first place through veterinary attention, nutrition, and general pet care you can carry out at home.

Here are some of the steps you can take to prevent flu affecting your pet:

  • Learning about the optimal nutrition for cat's immune system, provide a complete balanced diet and encourage them to stay active to maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Having your cat vaccinated against flu. While this won’t stop your cat from ever catching flu, it will reduce the severity of any symptoms they experience, and minimise the risk of your cat needing emergency treatment. Kittens can receive their first vaccination against flu from the age of 8 weeks. We strongly recommend this, as cat flu in kittens can potentially be more dangerous than in adult cats.
  • Clean your cat’s food bowls, bedding, and litter tray often. This will not only help to improve their hygiene, but will reduce the risk of flu spreading from one cat to another.
  • Take your cat for regular veterinary check-ups to help monitor their health and look for early signs of flu.
  • Flu spreads quickly amongst cats that come into contact with each other. If cats in your area have symptoms, you should try to avoid them mixing.

Cat flu: FAQs

Can I get sick from my cat sneezing on me?

The most likely causes of a cat sneezing on you, including flu, are rarely contagious to humans, and generally you won’t have anything to worry about if your cat is sneezing a lot. While there are illnesses that cats can transmit to humans through respiratory droplets, these are exceptionally rare. If you’ve ever wondered “can cats get a cold?” you generally won’t have to worry about passing any nasty illnesses onto your cat or vice versa.

How do cats act when they have the flu?

Cats with flu usually exhibit symptoms similar to those in humans who have flu. These include sneezing, coughing, mucus discharged from the nose and eyes, wanting to sleep a lot, loss of appetite, and fever. While flu is a relatively common illness, these symptoms of flu don’t necessarily mean that your cat has it. If you suspect your cat is under the weather, always consult a vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Is cat flu contagious to humans?

Though the symptoms of cat flu may seem similar to colds and flus you’ve had in the past, it can’t be passed on to humans. Despite its name, this illness is a generic term that refers to two different viruses: feline calicivirus, and feline herpes. Neither of these are dangerous to humans, and viruses that can actually pass from cats to humans are extremely rare.

Will cat flu go away on its own?

Most cases of flu will go away on their own, with mild cases only affecting cats for around five to ten days. Severe cases can take several weeks to recover from, though these are only common with cat flu in kittens, senior cats, or cats who have pre-existing health conditions.

Wrapping up

While this illness usually isn’t anything to worry about, taking the right preventative measures, knowing the symptoms of cat flu, and learning how to help your cat’s road to recovery can all help your pet stay as healthy as possible.

To maximise your cat’s health with a balanced and nutritious diet, be sure to check out our range of Perfect Fit™ Cat food.