Cat Flu Facts for Kids

This is about cat flu. It is written in plain English. It is also written in a way which makes the information more simple. There is more to cat flu than I have mentioned here.


Cat flu is a bit like human flu but different germs cause it. In both cases it is caused by what is called a “virus”. These are very, very tiny living creatures called “microorganisms”. They live inside the cells of the cat where they multiply. Quite quickly, there are more and more of these tiny organisms inside the cells of the cat. It is this which makes the cat ill.

The “microorganisms” travel from one cat to another. A cat who has flu has liquid containing these microorganisms around his eyes, nose and mouth. This liquid (a “discharge”) is left on litter boxes, water bowls and human hands. A cat who does not have the flu may touch a cat that has the flu. A cat who does not have the flu may pick up the microorganism from a litter box or water bowl. Or the cat with flu will sneeze and drops of liquid containing the germs come out of his mouth and are breathed in by another cat. In this way, this tiny germ travels from a cat that has the flu to a cat that does not have the flu. The healthy cat becomes “infected”. This germ then enters the cells of the healthy cat and makes him ill. The germ has been “transmitted” from one cat to another. This can happen quite quickly in a home or a cat shelter where there are rescue cats. It is very important to stop transmission of these germs.

There are two types of flu germs which cause illness and I will mention their full names: herpesvirus group and calicivirus group. These germs can also live outside of the cat for about 24 hours but sometimes for about 10 days.

A cat with the flu feels ill just as a person would. About 2 to 17 days after the germ enters the cat you start to see the illness. The cat will sneeze for about two days. There will be liquid coming out of the cat’s eyes and nose. Then the cat won’t feel hungry anymore. He will feel fed up and have a fever. Because he can’t breathe through his nose he will breathe with his mouth open.

Cat flu can be quite serious. It can damage the cat’s eye. It can also cause ulcers to form in the mouth. An ulcer is when the “skin” of the mouth becomes damaged. When this happens the cat cannot taste his food. He may stop eating and drinking. He may drool. Drooling is when saliva comes out of the mouth.

What can you do to help your cat when he has cat flu? You may well need to take your cat to a veterinarian and this is a good idea anyway. The ill cat should be kept away from other cats for about four weeks so that he does not pass on his germs to the other cats. Where he sleeps and where he eats should be disinfected with bleach. The cat’s owner should wash their hands often and change their clothes.

The cat should be kept in a warm room. Veterinarians (animal doctors) talk about using a “vaporiser”. This is a machine which produces steam which can help the cat feel and breathe better. You might keep your cat in the bathroom while you shower as this causes the bathroom to be steamed up. This might help your cat. Try and get your cat to eat and drink. The food should be very tasty. It should be strong smelling. Baby food with added water might be a good idea. A cat might become dehydrated. This means the cat loses fluids which can make the cat feel weak. A syringe can be used to inject fluids into the cat’s mouth. This is normally a job for a veterinarian or skilled cat owner.

When the cat begins to eat and drink the worst of the illness is over. The liquid around the cat’s eyes nose and mouth can be wiped off with a moist cotton ball.

Sometimes another germ called a “bacterium” may also enter a cat who has cat flu. This is a different kind of germ and it causes an illness which is similar to the illness caused by a virus. It can cause the eyes to become very sore and red. This is called conjunctivitis.

There’s two more things to mention. Almost all the cats who get cat flu will carry around inside them the germ which caused the flu. It may not cause a cat to be ill but if the cat is stressed the illness may come back.

All cats should be injected with what is called a “vaccine” which normally stops cats from getting flu. Nearly all the cats in America and in Europe are injected with this vaccine.




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