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Cat Flu

A number of infectious agents have been found to cause cat ‘flu but the vast majority of cases will be caused by one of two viruses. What are the signs of 'cat flu'? Signs of cat ‘flu are similar to colds and flu in people. One of the two major viral causes of feline ‘flu (feline herpes virus also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis virus) tends to cause a more severe problem. Affected cats develop a clear discharge from the nose and eyes which becomes thick and purulent as the disease progresses. Cats tend to be dull and depressed. They have a raised temperature and are reluctant to eat. Coughing and sneezing is common. Signs usually resolve in 2-3 weeks but some cats are left with a long-term intermittent nasal discharge or eye disease.

The second virus (feline calici virus) tends to cause less serious disease. A number of different strains exist and signs can be variable depending on the strain involved. Ulceration of the tongue, nose and hard palate is a prominent feature. Some strains of the virus are associated with a lameness and fever syndrome in young kittens. The virus is often found in cats with long-standing inflammation of the gums but the precise role of the virus in this condition remains unclear. In recent years a more severe form of disease has been seen where an apparently new highly virulent strain of calici virus has appeared. Affected cats have puffy faces and paws, fever, jaundice and haemorrhage in addition to signs of respiratory disease.

The viruses are the main causes of cat ‘flu but there are other infectious agents which may cause similar signs. Bordetella bronchiseptica is one such bacterium which is known to cause cat 'flu. Cat ‘flu is rarely fatal nowadays but affected cats may require quite intensive nursing and medical treatment for several days or weeks before they get better and recovered cats can be left with respiratory or eye problems for the rest of their lives.

How is cat ‘flu diagnosed? In most cases the diagnosis is made on obvious signs but we may need to identify a specific cause of the problem. This can be achieved by swabbing the cat's mouth or eyes and submitting the sample to a laboratory where the virus and/or bacterium can be grown and identified.

What treatments are available? As for colds and flu, specific anti-viral treatments are not generally available. Treatment is aimed at controlling any secondary bacterial infections (with antibiotics) and stimulating appetite and thirst. Anti-viral drugs which are used to treat herpes virus infections in people (cold sores) can be used in cats but generally the response is not as good and the drug needs to be used early in the course of infection. (Don’t use non- veterinary medications without consulting your veterinary surgeon). There have been some anecdotal reports of the benefits of interferons in the treatment of Herpes and Calici virus infected cats. The amino acid L-lysine has been advocated as a possible treatment for Herpes virus infections.

What can be done to help an affected cat? Your cat can be encouraged to eat and drink using drugs such as multivitamins and those which help dissolve secretions. Good nursing is vital. Try to keep the eyes and nose clear of secretions by gently bathing with dampened cotton wool. Inhaling steam can help break up the mucus and ease the breathing. Take your cat into the bathroom when you have a shower or a bath or place your cat in a wire basket placed beside a bowl of steaming water and drape a towel over the two. Oils such as eucalyptus should be avoided as they can cause ulceration of the nose. A bunged up nose will cause a cat to lose its appetite so try offering strong smelling foods such as sardines. Warm food to body temperature and try hand feeding- a little bit of pampering may be just what’s needed to help your cat. Severely ill cats may need admission to the veterinary practice to allow specialised veterinary treatment.

How can cat ‘flu be prevented? For most cats annual vaccination alone is sufficient. It’s important to realise that vaccination will not necessarily prevent your cat becoming infected but will drastically reduce the severity of the disease. In multi-cat households, particularly where new cats are continually arriving (rescue or breeding), vaccination alone may not be sufficient to control the problem. In these households isolation and quarantine is also required. Disinfection, whilst an important part of disease control generally, is of limited value in respiratory virus control as most cats become infected by droplets sneezed or coughed out by infected cats. Obviously ill cats, or those suspected of being carriers, should be isolated and handled last, their food bowls and litter trays disinfected and the owners hands, face and boots washed before handling other cats. Where possible separate clothing or overalls should be worn. New arrivals to the group should be quarantined for 7-10 days in case they are developing cat ‘flu. Unfortunately, quarantine will not identify carrier cats. In households where cat ‘flu is widespread, queens should give birth in isolation from other cats and, where possible, the kittens remain in isolation until vaccinated.

What are carrier cats? Carriers are cats who are infected with cat ‘flu but are not showing any obvious signs. Carriers are only infectious to other animals when they are shedding the virus. Viral shedding can be constant or intermittent. Around 80% of cats infected with the herpes virus become carriers for life but only shed the virus during periods of stress (e.g. rehoming, boarding at a cattery). With calici virus infection, the cats usually secrete the virus for several months after the initial infection.

What should I do if my cat is a carrier? Nothing can be done to change the carrier status of your cat so it is important to limit the contact which your cat has with unvaccinated cats or kittens. My cat has had cat ‘flu.

Should I bother to vaccinate it? YES! Your cat is likely to have been infected with only one of the viruses so will still be susceptible to infection with the other.

There is some very useful information leaflets on an external site. Please click here to view.


Grooming Your Ragdoll Cat

Grooming your ragdoll can be a very good bonding experience for you both, Ragdoll cats have soft, rabbit-like fur that rarely mats. You can help reduce shedding and hairballs by grooming your Ragdoll regularly. To help keep matting and shedding to a minimum, comb your cat’s fur using a wide-toothed steel comb, these are very easy to purchase. You can then complete the task with a slicker brush which the ragdoll will often enjoy. A soft toothbrush is an excellent tool to groom the area around the face. Ragdoll cats and kittens quickly become accustomed to their grooming rituals, so you should not have any problems. Be gentle when grooming your cat. If mats have already developed, try doing just a little every day.

Giving Your Cat a Bath

This is a personal choice, grooming your ragdoll cats coat through with a grooming powder, baby powder works very well for this task and can keep the coat in great condition, just remember to carefully groom any excess powder out of the coat.

Bathing your cat on a regular basis helps keep their coat shiny, clean, and healthy, it helps to reduce shedding, and helps to remove oil accumulation. Never! Never! Never! bathe a cat whose fur contains matts .

You can bathe your Ragdoll cat or kitten approximately once a month, and then blow dry until completely dry to avoid a chill. Your cat’s body temperature ranges between 37.7 and 39.4 degrees Celsius., so they will like the bath water fairly warm.

If your Ragdoll has problems with eye goop or if tear staining is a problem, you can gently bathe your cat’s face using a wet washcloth on a daily basis. Fortunately, with their calm, gentle personalities, Ragdolls take well to grooming if you are gentle, consistent, and start their grooming programs when they are young.

Pet Shampoos

Any pet shampoo is acceptable for bathing your cat. No More Tears baby shampoo can be a product that is acceptable to use on cats. However as a general rule do not use ‘human products’. They have additives for fragrance that can be irritating to a cat. Remember that your cat will lick their fur.

Grooming and Hairballs

As cats groom themselves, they accumulate hair in their stomachs and often throw it up. This process is usually accompanied by loud howling, gagging, retching, and gasping noises that can be very alarming. An occasional hairball isn’t much of a problem; however, in long-haired cats, hairballs sometimes become quite large and cause problems. Minimize the problem by grooming out loose hair before it can be swallowed and by using a hairball lubricant like Katalax, please ensure you check the guidance and advice sheet contained in the product, If you are worried please seek your vets advice. These products are not designed to be used continually as they can interfere with vitamin absorption. there are a lot of foods now designed to assist with hairball control. Frequent vomiting, as often as once a week, requires veterinary attention as it could indicate another serious medical condition.

Nail Trimming

Most cats attend to the nails themselves; however, claws can overgrow, tear, and split causing painful infections. Ensuring your cat has access to scratching posts can help assist with this process. If you intend to show your kitten/cat, trimming your cat’s nails regularly is essential, it also reduces the chances of problems occurring and reduces their desire to scratch your furniture. Melys Ragdolls recommend you use nail trimmers specifically designed for this purpose, ask your vet to demonstrate to you the safe way to trim your cats claws. These nail clippers are designed to cut kitty claws at the proper angle without the risk of splitting or crushing the nail.

Get your Ragdoll cat used to having his paws handled from a very young age, while still a kitten. A good time to clips claws is when your cat is relaxed after a nap. It is often easier to have two sets of hands available during nail clipping; one pair to hold and calm your cat, the other to trim. Trimming nails single handedly works well with trusting cats that have confident owners. Remember to cut only the clear translucent tip of the nail and to stay away from the pink part. If you cut in the pink part of the nail the cat will bleed and an infection can occur.