Bird Flu is Now Taking Out Cats and Dogs with Increased Frequency

Another cat here in the U.S. has died of H5N1 avian influenza, aka bird flu. This brings the total up to six infected felines since January 2023, all of which were confirmed to have succumbed to the lethal virus. The news raises further concerns over the spread of the disease in mammals — particularly since a dog in Canada reportedly died last week from it, too.

Of the confirmed feline deaths, three of the five kitties came from Nebraska and two were from Oregon. All died within a three-month period between January and March 2023.

The sixth cat was said to have tested positive for the virus in Wyoming in January. Determined to be a barn cat, the State Veterinary Laboratory stated, “This is the first report of HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) in a domestic cat in Wyoming, and it likely became infected from ingesting meat from wild waterfowl.” The cat later died.

Dr. Myrna Miller, the lab’s supervisor of virology, noted that in addition to the infected feline, several semi-feral cats and skunks were recently found dead at or near the property. Those animals have not been tested.

cat on birdhouse
Photo: Pixabay/Kapa65


According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the most recent feline to die in Nebraska fell ill in late March while displaying symptoms of lethargy and weight loss. There was no news on how it became infected.

The other two cats in Nebraska were recorded in a case report published in February. Dr. Sarah Sillman, of the University of Nebraska’s Veterinary Diagnostic Center, noted that the first cat experienced a “rapid decline” in health with multiple symptoms including seizures, tremors, and loss of proprioception (sense of your own body).

There were said to be three other felines in the household considered to be at risk of bird flu, and one of them developed symptoms and tested positive shortly after the first cat that was impacted.

“The cat was described as somnolent and had episodes of walking in circles,” Dr. Sillman wrote. “The cat was responsive to stimuli and seemed to eat and drink normally. It lived 10 days with neurologic impairment when the cat suddenly became laterally recumbent with continual tremors, necessitating euthanasia,” Sillman added.

It’s thought both animals contracted the virus from an infected bird rather than each other.

Regarding the two cases of bird flu in the Oregon felines, according to BNO News, the cats lived in a backyard near chickens that had tested positive for bird flu. The range of symptoms included labored breathing, weight loss, depression, and dehydration – both died in January.

cat and chicken
Photo: Pixabay/falinobordercollies

Avian Flu in Animals

The virus has decimated bird populations worldwide over the last two years, but it also affects other animals, including seals, otters, porpoises, and foxes.

All this comes as experts fear the virus could mutate, making it even more dangerous to humans than it currently is. The World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) warned that mammals could act as “mixing vessels” for different viruses, which could ultimately lead to a new variant that is even “more harmful” to humans.

cat near water fowl
Photo: Pixabay/krzysztofniewolny

Avian Flu in Humans

The H5N1 strain currently has a fatality rate of approximately 50 percent among people (870 people have been infected with bird flu over the past 20 years, 457 of which have died).

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