Can Your Cat Catch The Human Flu?

cats can get the flu

The flu is the most debilitating, most miserable and most awful feeling in the world. I’ve had it one time in my entire life, and I will never, ever, ever, ever allow that to happen to me again (I’m aware I have absolutely no control over that). For six days I lie feeling like death in my bed with a daughter in VPK and another daughter who was only 2 at the time. My husband’s bank had recently merged with another bank and he was in the middle of meetings he could not cancel or get out of. I remember feeling as if I might die if I had to move, get up or do anything. I slept when my daughter slept, I slept as soon as my husband came home, and I felt like absolute hell for six days. Six days of being unable to eat, drink, move or function was rough on both me and my kids, as well as my husband.

I’m a mom of four, and nothing gets me down. I might feel as if I could die a thousand deaths with a head cold or strep throat, but I can push through for my kids. With the flu, I couldn’t even push myself out of bed to use the restroom. The flu is no joke; and if you are not sure you’ve ever suffered from the flu, allow me to tell you that you have not suffered from the flu.

I was terrified I’d pass on my illness to my kids or my husband that week, and I did everything in my power not to do just that. Fortunately, none of them ended up sick. However, it never even occurred to me at that time that I might be exposing my cat to my flu. He was the only living creature in our home brave enough to come near me that week, cuddling up to me in bed every single day for six days. He was very sweet, and I appreciated his companionship in an otherwise very lonely time.

He did not get my flu. That’s because cats are not very likely to catch a flu virus from a human. In fact, there are very few flu viruses that are actual flu viruses. We like to say that they are, but they are not. There are some variants of the flu virus that might affect animals, and that’s something you could worry about. However, it’s highly unlikely that your cat will catch your human flu. That said, cats can suffer from a flu, and it’s one that we need to be careful of. The traditional flu is one thing, but the H1N1 virus is another. We, at one point, referred to this as Swine Flu, though rather inaccurately. It’s not a flu virus that is contagious only to swine, but to humans and cats and other animals as well.

While this particular flu virus is a real concern for humans, it’s also important for cat owners to understand how it can affect your pets. It’s not something you want to mess with, particularly, so we thought we’d bring to you a little help understanding what to look for in your cat if you suspect the flu.

Signs and Symptoms

It’s not always easy to determine whether or not a cat has the flu. Some cats display flu-like symptoms in bulk, others only a few at a time and some not any symptoms at all. Naturally, if your cat falls into the latter category, it can be quite difficult to diagnose your cat with the flu at home. If your cat does have some symptoms of the flu, they will likely fall into the following categories.

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Labored breathing
  • Fever
  • Lethargic behavior
  • Runny nose
  • Runny eyes
  • No appetite

If your cat is suffering from all these symptoms, there is little doubt he has the flu. It’s imperative that you get him to the vet right away. However, if your cat suffers from only a few of these symptoms, it could be another issue you have to worry about. Your cat might have a cold, might be suffering from another illness or disease, or might just be a little tired from a long day or night. The good news is that very few cats actually die because of the flu, and many show so few symptoms you might not even realize there is an issue with your cat’s health at all.

If you have suffered from the flu and your cat begins to show these symptoms, it might have been more than just a common flu for you. It’s a good idea at this point to get your cat to the vet for diagnosis. Your cat’s vet will be able to perform a physical exam that will tell him whether or not the cat suffers from the flu, and then he can check for more severe issues, such as a flu that has turned into pneumonia.

Treatment of Cat Flu

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if your cat has the flu or not; there is nothing you can do to make it better for your cat. The best you can do is make sure your cat is not dehydrated or too sick, and you can keep their eyes and their ears clean. However, it’s still important even without treatment that you get your cat to the vet right away if you suspect he has the flu. Other health related issues can arise with the flu and those can be treated.

If you do have the flu and want to prevent your cat from catching it, be very careful. Wash your hands, keep your cat away from you as much as possible and, as difficult as it might be, stay away from your cat and do not cuddle him or encourage him to come near you. His health is more important than your desire to have a little bit of cuddle time with him when you are unwell.

Photo by Getty Images

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