The Cat Flu

The Cat Flu:  Feline Herpesvirus 1 (FHV-1)/Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) or Feline Calicivirus (FCV)


The “Cat Flu” is caused by either Feline Herpesvirus Type 1 (FHV-1 also known as Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR)) and/or by Feline Calicivirus (FCV), but usually not a combination of both.  It is an acute respiratory infection characterized by sneezing, nasal discharge, rhinitis (inflammation of the nose), and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelid). It also affects the reproductive tract and can cause complications during pregnancy. It is a very serious condition for kennels and cateries.

Young cats display non-specific acute respiratory tract infection signs including fever, sneezing, loss of appetite, hypersalivation, conjunctivitis, and oculonasal discharge.

The virus is spread by the discharge from an infected cat’s eyes, nose, and mouth contaminating common objects like cages, food and water bowls, litter trays, owner’s clothing and hands and then transferring to an uncontaminated cat.  It is also spread by direct contact, sneezing, and mutual grooming.

Any cat exhibiting such symptoms should be taken immediately to a vet for testing.

Treatment will include broad spectrum antibiotics given systemically and applied topically.  Steam baths (steamy bathroom) an hour a day can help break up the congestion as will a dab of vaporub under the chin.  There is a vaccine for FHV-1 available, but it will not prevent FVR.  Use normal household cleaners to sanitize any contaminated areas.

Additional reading:

BioMed Central

Eye Vet

University of Glasgow