Cat Flu
By Jean Sutherland

     Yes, even hardy felines can come down with upper respiratory infections, better known as flu. Cat Flu, like the common cold in humans, is a viral illness that results in weepy eyes, a runny nose and perhaps sudden sneezing attacks. In adult cats this highly contagious condition will usually clear up on its own in a week to ten days.

For Cats Only

     Fight it with food. While a sick cat is rarely a hungry cat, it’s important to encourage her to eat. To stimulate her appetite, try giving her a warm meal. Add warm water to her kibbles to make a gravy or just pop her food in the microwave until it’s warm. Order something odoriferous. Since your cat probably has a stuffed-up nose, you can tempt her taste buds by giving her something with big flavor — and smell. Canned tuna is always a good choice. Cats also like high-protein foods like cottage cheese, scrambled eggs and chicken. It’s not a good idea to give human food to cats for more than a few days. Once she starts to feel better, switch her back to her regular chow.

Lend a Hand

     If your finicky feline just sniffs your special offerings and walks away, try dabbing a little food on her nose or paw for her to clean off. If your cat won’t eat no matter what you give her, try running her food through the blender or food processor to make it liquid. Even pets that don’t feel like eating are often willing to lap a tasty and nutritious gravy.

Give Her a Hankie

     Cats with flu often get an uncomfortable buildup of mucus around the eyes and nose. To help your pet breathe easy and feel more comfortable, keeping the eyes and nose clean is important. Dampen a soft washcloth or cotton ball with warm water and gently swab away the secretions or you can use pre-moistened baby towelettes, which contain soothing ingredients like lanolin and aloe vera.

Soothe with Saline

     If your cat is having difficulty breathing, giving her saline nose drops will thin sticky mucus and help clear her nose. With the dropper in one hand, tip her head back with the other. Place one or two drops in each nostril, then keep her head elevated for a minute to give them time to work. You can repeat this twice a day, or more often if it seems to help.

Give Eye Relief

     You can also use saline drops to help relieve sore, weepy eyes. (If you use the same dropper, however, be sure to rinse it thoroughly between uses.) Just put a drop or two in each eye; repeat three to five times a day or you can use over-the-counter eye-drops containing boric acid.

Help with Humidity

     Putting extra moisture into the air with a humidifier will help ease congestion and improve breathing or another alternative is to take your pet into the bathroom when you bathe or shower.

Take Protective Measures

     Veterinarians often recommend a vaccine that’s very effective at preventing cat flu. While it doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, it will dramatically improve your cat’s chances for staying healthy. Even if she does get sick, the symptoms will be less serious.

When To See the Vet

     Cat flu is generally no more serious among the feline crowd than the common cold is for us. Sometimes, however, the germs stick around longer than they should. Some cases can get really serious. In severe cases, cat flu can lead to problems like pneumonia, anemia or dehydration. And in kittens, it can be extremely dangerous. So if your pet seems unusually sick or if secretions from her nose or eyes are thick and discolored, call your vet right away.