South Waikato veterinary Services

Cat Flu


Cat Flu, or ‘snuffles’ is the generic term for a condition that can be caused by any one of three infectious organisms:

• Feline Hepesvirus Type 1
• Feline Calicivirus
• Feline Chlamydia

Feline Herpesvirus
This virus is the most common and is usually the cause of the typical ‘cat flu’ symptoms such as sneezing, fever, conjunctivitis and nasal discharge. Cats may present with symptoms as mild as sneezing only, or as severe as the cat that has a blocked nose, and crusted over or ulcerated eyes who will not eat and may develop pneumonia. Cats of all ages may be affected, though the disease is most common in kittens. Vaccinating your kitten (or cat) offers very good protection against developing cat flu, thus we highly recommend it. Treatment for an unvaccinated cat will often end up being more than what it would have costed for vaccinating in the first place. The other unfortunate characteristic of Feline Herpesvirus is that once a cat is infected, it will carry the virus for life. Often, once a kitten has recovered from cat flu, it will not show signs ever again. However, other cats will intermittently ‘flare up’ in times of stress or other illness (i.e. when placed in a cattery, or when new pets are added to the household). These cats also shed the virus occasionally throughout their life, posing as a source of infection to other animals and any new kittens you may bring into your household.

Feline Calicivirus
Calicivirus may occur at the same time as Feline Herpesvirus, or on its own. Some symptoms are similar, such as sneezing, but Calicivirus also shows characteristic ulcerations on the tongue, eyes and occasionally the nose. Rarely, cats may also develop arthritis or a fatal bleeding disease. Again, kittens are the most commonly affected age, but the disease is also seen in unvaccinated adult cats.

Feline Chlamydia
Unlike in people, Feline Chlamydia causes respiratory signs as the bacteria multiplies in the respiratory tract. Cats will present similar to the above two viruses - with upper respiratory signs, sneezing, coughing and heavy breathing. None of the above three organisms are transferable to humans i.e. you cannot catch these diseases from your cat, or give your cat your flu either.

Treatment often consists of a combination of supportive and antibiotic therapy. Supportive therapy involves keeping a cat warm and hydrated (as cats with blocked noses often do not eat or drink). Antibiotics are indicated to treat Chlamydia and any secondary bacterial infections involved with Herpesvirus or Calicivirus. Unfortunately, there is no direct treatment for viruses, so affected cats need time and care to help them fight the disease with their own immune system. It may take weeks for a cat to stop sneezing, and some will sneeze on and off for life. Others will have eyes that chronically weep or discharge. Some cats which develop eye ulcers will need treatment for these. Treatment involves either eye ointment, surgery to protect the eye surface while an ulcer heals (3rd eyelid flap placement) or eye removal in severely affected cases. L-Lysine (available from your local chemist) has been shown to have virucidal effects. Please contact us if you would like to explore this option and we can write you a script to take to the chemist.

Vaccination is an effective preventative for the above forms of feline respiratory disease. We commonly see unvaccinated kittens and cats with cat flu here in the South Waikato, and unfortunately the disease is common in rescue cats and kittens. Prevention is better than cure, so if you have recently acquired a new cat or kitten, or own an unvaccinated cat, bring them in for a checkover and their first vaccination. MicrochippingVaccinationsParvovirusSkin & EarsLab TestingEmergency CareDentistryX-Ray and UltrasoundJoints and ArthritisDesexingNutritionBehaviourFleas, Mites and WormsCat FluPregnancy & Raising Puppies


The South Waikato Veterinary Services team is committed to providing top quality and extensive professional services to the Tokoroa, Putaruru, Whakamaru, Mangakino, Tirohanga and Atiamuri areas.

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2 Satco Drive, Tokoroa

75 Tirau St, Putaruru

108 State Highway 30, Whakamaru

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