Cat Flu

What to do if your kitten has cat flu

“Cat Flu” is the common name given to upper respiratory infections in kittens and cats, and can be caused by Feline Herpesvirus, Feline Calicivirus or Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, and it is very common amongst young, stray kittens. It can cause:

  • Ocular and nasal discharge

  • Sneezing

  • Increased respiratory effort/noise

  • Decreased appetite

  • Pyrexia/Fever

  • In severe cases, pneumonia

Kittens that contract Feline Calicivirus can develop oral ulcers (which can making bottle feeding and eating quite painful), and they can also develop lameness and inflamed joints. Kittens may need to be tube fed if they are struggling to feed (especially if they have oral ulcers).

Cat Flu is highly contagious, especially in young kittens who have vulnerable immune systems, so treatment should not be delayed. Older cats that may be in contact with these kittens should always be up to date with their vaccinations, as unvaccinated cats of any age can contract Cat Flu. It's important to quarantine all new kittens that come into care, to prevent the spread of these contagious diseases, and ideally do not mix litter trays, food bowls, toys and blankets between infected and uninfected kittens.


Cat Flu should be treated aggressively in young kittens, starting with antibiotics (oral and ophthalmic dispensed by a Veterinarian) and supportive care including:

  • Frequently cleaning any ocular and nasal discharge with a warm, gentle swab/tissue to help clear and prevent any crusty build up.

  • Monitoring the kitten’s hydration levels and providing them with oral electrolytes or administering subcutaneous fluids if required (should only be performed by experienced carers).

  • Supplementing probiotics into their diet, as antibiotics can upset a kitten’s healthy gut bacteria (causing GIT issues like diarrhoea).

  • If a kitten is struggling to feed, syringe or tube feeding may be necessary to ensure they are receiving their required calorie intake.

  • To help open up a kitten’s airways, you can sit them next to a steamy bath or shower for 10-15 minutes. If you have access to a nebuliser, this is even more beneficial for a kitten’s airways, and your Veterinarian can dispense a nebuliser solution for you to use.

If you notice your kitten is having difficulty breathing (increased respiratory rate, wheezing, or open mouth breathing) please take them to a Veterinarian ASAP. These symptoms can be a sign of pneumonia, and in young kittens it can be fatal. Early intervention will give them the best chance at surviving.

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