Feline Distemper Symptom

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I’ll get straight to the point:

Feline Distemper Symptom

Acute illness is apparent very quickly and the course of the disease can be very short. From infection to death can be 3-5 days. Sometimes the person keeping the cat may not be fully aware that a kitten is ill before she/he dies as the disease acts so quickly. 

Transmission of disease to kitten in the womb:

  • Kittens may develop cerebellar hypoplasia (underdevelopment of the cerebellum of the brain).

    The symptom of this is a loss of balance, head tremor (from 2 weeks of age). No cure but it doesn’t get worse. See video below.


In an adult who has caught the disease the early signs are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe apathy
  • Extreme depression
  • Fever (105°F)
  • May give impression cat is poisoned

Symptoms include:

  • gastrointestinal symptoms:
  • Vomiting repeatedly and immediately after drinking (some cats do not vomit before death
  • Thirsty but unable to drink
  • Bringing up yellow stained bile that is frothy
  • Cat clearly suffering pain (crying in pain and crouching, with the head a few inches above the water bowl)
  • Anorexia
  • Dehydration (skin on back of neck doesn’t go back to previous position when pulled)
  • Vomiting blood suddenly happens sometimes
  • bone marrow severely depressed – lowering of white blood cell count

Later feline distemper symptoms:

  • Diarrhea – stools are yellow or streaked with blood or watery, copious and foul smelling (some cats do not demonstrate this feline distemper symptom before death
  • main cause of death for cats that are not treated is blood poisoning – bacterial infection of the blood stream (scepticemia)
  • another cause of death is dehydration (due to loss of fluid from vomiting and diarrhea)

Transmission of the Disease

This is a serious and widespread disease. The word “distemper” would seem to be misleading as there is no relation to distemper in dogs. It is a highly contagious disease and easily transmitted from cat to cat. It can be transmitted by people on their hands, clothing and feet. It is spread by direct contact with infected animals (cats, mink, ferrets, raccoons and wild cats) and their secretions (e.g. feces). As the virus is “hardy” it can survive in carpets, crevices and furniture for over a year.

The virus is more common in kittens before being vaccinated.

Although the virus can be killed by:

  • Sodium Hypochlorite (commonly called bleach) diluted 1 part bleach and 9 parts water
  • Disinfectants such as Virkon or Parvocide. These are both available at Aug. 2008 and of the two Virkon seems to be more easily obtainable


Intensive veterinary care. Important to diagnose the disease as early as possible. Measures include:

  • Fluid replacement (rehydration) to replace fluids lost by diarrhea and vomiting
  • Keep warm
  • Antibiotics
  • Blood transfusions occasionally
  • Supplemental nourishment

Kittens have a high death rate. Adults usually recover with prompt treatment. Adults can be carriers.


Vaccination is the most effective method.

  • first vaccination at 6-8 weeks
  • second vaccination at 10-12 weeks
  • annual booster vaccinations or bi-annually (there is post on cat vaccination recommendations)
  • for high risk kittens: vaccination at 6 weeks and every 2 weeks until 16 weeks
  • avoid introducing a kitten into a place where the disease has occurred until 6 months after the occurrence.

Other Names

  • Feline Panleukopenia (“Panleukopenia” means depression of the various kinds of white blood cells)
  • Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE)
  • FPV
  • FIE

Photo – Feline distemper symptom : veterinarian’s surgery – published under a creative commons license – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

Feline distemper symptom – Sources:

  1. The Veterinarian’s Guide to Your Cats Symptoms – Drs Garvey, Hohenhaus, Houpt, Pinckney, Wallace and Elizabeth Randolph
  2. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook – Drs Carlson and Giffin
  3. Wikepedia for definitions
  4. Veterinary Notes for Cat Owners – Dr Turner and Jean Turner VN

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3 thoughts on “Feline Distemper Symptom”

  1. my 18 yrs old died.i took her to vet twice..said she was healthy just need little more fluids thats all..she had diarrhea,muscles loss start at back to around kneck then went to other parts of body., she had a good appetite.drank water fine.she kept losing weight..she had no problems to urine.she walk just fine..no fever either.i kick my room mate out.seems like he was here her diarrhea was bad got worse,he leave then seem to calm down.he come back it be bad again he leave calm down.my brother said what he doing trying kill her.i said,i dont think so.but not sure..it just look like something just sucked the fluids out my cat or wasting away..i wish i knowen what she died from.she my friend.when she died she had two loud cries.stretch out all four legs out .had her mouth opened a little..her eyes slighy opened too.. and died.i hate to see it.i did..i ask my ex room mate.what did he think .he said i guess she had diarrhea so bad it killed her..probably gave her dehydrated then ruin her muscles. kidneys.heart..and killed her…my cat did have dehyrated once but vet gave her some fluids and i did also..vet said she sound healthy.if anybody has any idea let me know.i wish i knew what killed her.i miss her alot..

    • Hi, thanks for visiting and asking. It is not possible to diagnose from what you say. However, your beloved cat was 18 years old. This is a good age and an age at which cats die of natural causes. She may have had a few health problems.

      Old cats often have kidney failure. This causes them to drink more and pee more. She had diarrhea which causes dehydration. There are many diseases that cause diarrhea. A combination of health problems due to old age probably killed her.

      I wish you the best of luck and may she rest in peace in a better place than the where we are.

    • I am so sorry you lost your cat, it is very sad to see a cat die.
      I don’t like the sound of the fact that your cat got ill when your room mate was there then improved when he was not there!
      Stress can cause a cat to have stomach problems, vomiting and/or diarrhoea and because your cat was very old she dehydrated quickly and was too weak to recover.
      If you ever give a home to another cat please be very careful about your room mate, you say your ex room mate now so I hope he has gone for good.
      Take care.


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