RSPCA NSW Blog
Cat-choo kitties looking for homes
When a human gets the sniffles, we don’t think twice. But when a cat gets the sniffles, it could mean they spend months waiting for a forever home. We have affectionately named our cats with cat flu, cat-choo cats. We also use this name for cats who have recovered from cat flu, or have been exposed to it, or shown symptoms of it. Cat flu has historically had a bit of a negative reputation and can often deter people from adopting cat-choo cats. But in fact, many cat-choo cats will live very happily in their new home, only having flu or cold-like symptoms temporarily, until they recover.
What is cat flu?
Cat flu is usually caused by infection with one of two viruses (feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus), and sometimes results in secondary bacterial infections. While the majority of cat flu cases are caused by these viruses, some primary bacteria e.g. Bordetella, can also cause cat flu symptoms.
Humans can’t catch cat flu but other cats can catch it. Cats who are very young, old, weakened immune system, stressed or sick are more at risk of catching cat flu.
How is cat flu spread?
Cat flu is spread by droplets containing the virus, passing from cat to cat through sneezing, direct contact or shared food bowls. Infected cats spread the virus in their saliva and nasal discharges. People can spread the virus from cat to cat when handling them. Because cat flu is resistant to many disinfectants and can live in the environment for up to seven days, it can be easy for the virus to spread. Separating cat-choo and non-cat-choo cats is the best form of prevention. That’s why RSPCA NSW always takes the precautionary measure of housing these cats separately.
What are the symptoms of cat flu?
Symptoms of cat flu are similar to those for colds and flu in people and can vary between cases. Symptoms can include:
- Conjunctivitis and discharge from the eyes
- Discharge from the nose
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth/eye ulcers
- Some strains of cat flu can also cause lameness (limping)
How do you treat cat flu?
Each cat with cat flu needs to be treated individually as symptoms and severity can vary. Some cats need to be treated in hospital and given supportive veterinary treatment as required. Other cats can be treated as outpatients and nursed at home.
Treatment of cat flu is largely supportive, as specific anti-viral treatments are not available. Antibiotics are often used to control secondary bacterial infections. Good nursing care is also crucial and involves gently removing discharge from the eyes and nose when needed, ensuring good quality nutrition is provided and ensuring cats stay hydrated.
Taking a cat-choo cat away from a shelter environment and into a warm and caring forever home can be the best cure-all!
Many cats will recover from cat flu. Some cats can have periodic flare-ups, for example, when stressed (by being put into boarding, or if there are visitors staying at your home). Some cats may snuffle (breathe noisily) all the time.
Can you adopt or care for a cat with cat flu?
Yes! At RSPCA NSW shelters, every cat-choo cat and kitten has been assessed by a veterinarian, so many of them are able to be adopted. Because cat flu is only transmissible between cats, RSPCA NSW requires for your new cat-choo cat be rehomed alone, or with another cat-choo cat. That way, cat flu won’t be passed on. As humans and other animals cannot catch cat flu, a cat-choo cat can potentially be rehomed with other types of pets, without concern about flu being passed onto other species of animal.
Where do you go to adopt?
Visit adoptapet.com.au to find all of our beautiful cat-choo kitties ready for adoption. Or visit your local RSPCA shelter. As always, your cat-choo kitty will be desexed, microchipped and vaccinated. RSPCA NSW staff will also give you a consultation about caring for your new cat.
If you have any concerns about your cat’s health, or if you notice any changes, contact your local RSPCA veterinary hospital immediately.