Flu Symptoms in Cats – Duration, Contagion and Treatment

Few diseases are as contagious and difficult to prevent than feline calicivirus. This type of cat flu is very easy to spread and its strains mutate very easily. However, do not be alarmed, if your cat does not have contact with the outside, you take care of its hygiene and it is vaccinated, the chances of contagion are considerably reduced.

In fact, the colonies of stray cats are the most prone to suffer from it due to their inevitable contact and their precarious health conditions. They are not vaccinated and they have no one to take care of their daily grooming. In this post, we show you everything you need to know about this pathology that, if not treated, can be fatal.

  • You may also be interested in: How to know if a cat has a fever

Why is calicivirus so contagious?

Feline calicivirus (FCV) is an upper respiratory disease whose milder symptoms are rhinitis and sinusitis. The virus responsible for these annoyances belongs to the Caliciviridae family and remains latent for 28 days in the objects (feeder, toys or bed) of the infected cat and can infect any other.

Puppies, older cats and those immunosuppressed by other diseases or by the ingestion of drugs are the group of felines with the highest risk of infection. This is produced by saliva and, to a lesser extent, by feces. Direct contact with the objects handled by the sick cat or with its space spreads the disease.

Its strains mutate very easily, causing even vaccinated cats to become ill . In turn, a feline can become infected and become asymptomatic, acting as a healthy carrier for life. Not surprisingly, it is estimated that 80% of cured kittens are carriers up to 75 days after they have healed and 20% are so chronically.

It is not a zoonotic disease , so calicivirus cannot be spread to humans.


Calicivirus symptomatology in kittens

As the virus penetrates through the mouth or nose, its most immediate symptoms are manifested in the lymphoid tissue, which can damage your pet’s lungs. Its symptoms appear 2-10 days after being infected and materialize in:

  • Nasal mucus
  • Constant tearing
  • Sneezing
  • Conjunctivitis, which can cause corneal ulcers from scratching.
  • Ulcers in the oral mucosa that will prevent you from feeding.
  • Ulcers on the palate.
  • Ulcers in the nose
  • Cutaneous edema and ulcers on the skin.
  • Stiff walking and joint pain.

If left untreated, it can lead to pneumonia or systemic inflammation due to liver necrosis or pulmonary edema. Some strains can cause fever and lameness.

Systemic virulent feline calicivirus

A recent strain has turned out to be especially aggressive , endangering the cat’s own survival in the most severe cases, those that have not been treated properly and on time. We refer to the systemic virulent feline calicivirus (FCV-VS). To the symptoms already mentioned, we must add the following:

  • Jaundice.
  • Inflammation of the face and extremities.
  • Gingivitis.
  • Hair loss
  • Ulcers on the pads of the feet and on the ears.

Treatment for feline calicivirus

This type of feline flu usually lasts for 4 weeks and receiving the appropriate treatment a high percentage of affected cats recover . Your vet will need a culture of the oropharyngeal mucosa to certify the calicivirus and identify the strain.

In general, the required care consists of fluid therapy and the intake of antibiotics, analgesics, antivirals and drugs that promote the expulsion of mucus and facilitate breathing. This way, your cat will feel relieved.

It is convenient that you ask your veterinarian to carry out the relevant tests to rule out leukemia or feline immunodeficiency , since if your cat is sick with calicivirus, it is more prone to developing these pathologies. There is no natural treatment for calcivirus that we can provide at home, a veterinary consultation is essential.


Care for a kitten with calicivirus

For your part, you should provide a comfortable, warm space, without drafts and without contact with the outside or with other cats, if you have them. Isolation for at least 3 months is essential to avoid new infections, even though it has already been cured.

In addition to your company and your caresses, you must take care of the hygiene of his eyes and his nose that will be filled with tears and mucus. You should clean them with a cotton swab dipped in water or saline to prevent other lesions in these areas caused by bacteria .

Extreme cleaning of the space you frequent and disinfect your belongings. Protect your hands with gloves and don’t forget to wash your hands and face after caring for your kitten. If you have multiple cats, take care of the sick one last to prevent calicivirus transmission.

Do not underestimate the need for vaccination

In addition to plenty of fluids, you should offer him a soft, or even liquid, diet using a syringe. Try to do it gently and without stressing your pussy. As you can see, despite being a very common feline ailment and its prognosis, in general, is positive.


Although calicivirus strains in cats mutate easily and are capable of being especially virulent, it is a priority to vaccinate your kitten . Vaccinated cats can get sick but their symptoms will be milder and they can even be asymptomatic. Don’t hesitate to go to the vet if you notice anything unusual about him.




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