Your Cat’s or Kitten’s Cold Could Actually Be Feline Calicivirus

If you have a kitten or young cat with a severe cold, it could actually be a virus known as feline calicivirus (FCV). Known as one of the most common causes of upper respiratory infections in cats, it’s not just young felines that can get it. They just tend to suffer from it more severely. So, where does it come from, and what do you need to know about it? Hang tight because we’re about to lay it on you. Widespread, cats across the globe suffer from it because it’s highly contagious and mutates quickly. While rare, calicivirus can mutate to a fatal form known as virulent systemic feline calicivirus (VS-FCV).

sleeping kitten
Photo: Pixabay/super-mapio

Feline Diseases

Like so many illnesses, there’s a heightened risk of contracting FCV in crowded conditions. They can include feral cat colonies, abandoned or stray cats living in dense community areas, animal shelters and rescues, boarding kennels, and even multi-cat homes where felines come into contact with other neighborhood cats. Stressed kitties also have a higher risk, as well as those that are immunosuppressed or already harbor other upper respiratory pathogens such as feline herpesvirus.

How FCV is Spread

FCV is spread through secretions from the eyes or nose. This is most commonly accomplished through coughing, sneezing, and rubbing their faces on surfaces. Your cat can catch it just by playing with or grooming another cat. It can also spread via shared food bowls. Basically, contact with contaminated individuals or items can spread it, including unwashed hands. Signs of FCV generally appear 2-10 days after initial exposure, but cats can spread it for roughly 2-3 weeks after infection. Unfortunately, some felines will become lifelong carriers with the possibility of intermittently shedding the virus.

cat shielding its eyes
Photo: Pixabay/Shanon

Calicivirus Symptoms

Besides eye discharge, coughing, and sneezing, symptoms can include sores in the mouth or on the nose, poor appetite, drooling, inflammation of the pink tissue around the eye, and bad breath. It can also cause joint pain that can result in febrile limping syndrome. If you notice a combination of any of these things after assuming your pet merely has a cold, consult your veterinarian before too much time passes. FCV symptoms generally subside in 5-10 days, but severe cases may last as much as a month. Some cats develop chronic stomatitis (inflammation in the mouth) that could require lifelong management.

Treatment of FCV

Treatment generally aims to relieve respiratory and oral symptoms. Antibiotic drops might be required for eye infections. Secondary bacterial infections are treated with oral antibiotics. Significant congestion can be addressed via a nebulizer or by placing them in a steamy bathroom for 10-15 minutes. If your cat needs fluids, your vet can provide them under the skin and show you how to do it. In severe cases, intravenous fluids may be required. For mouth ulcers, there are oral and topical pain meds. If your cat hasn’t eaten in two or more days, call your vet for an appointment.

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