Every good pet parent wants to keep their furry friend as safe and healthy as possible, but it’s not always easy to do with so many nasty bugs out there. There are many ways that a disease can spread from cat to cat. Some diseases spread through contact with infected saliva, blood, or other bodily fluids. However, others will spread via airborne particles released when your cat coughs, snorts, or sneezes. So, which cat diseases are airborne? What signs might your cat show if they have an airborne disease? And how can you keep your furry pet safe from airborne cat diseases?
Which Cat Diseases Are Airborne?
Here’s a list of some of the most important airborne cat diseases:
Feline Herpesvirus is one of the major causes of cat flu. It’s often contracted by cats when they are kittens, and 80 percent become persistent carriers. If your cat is a carrier of Herpesvirus, they will periodically develop symptoms and start shedding the virus, often at times of stress. Then, the virus will become latent once again.
Herpesvirus causes runny eyes and conjunctivitis, along with sneezing and a snotty nose. Cats and kittens with cat flu will often have a fever, making them feel pretty poorly and reducing their appetite. Young kittens are usually most severely affected and can lose weight and become weak and dehydrated. Treatment involves antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infection, anti-inflammatories, and a fluid drip to treat dehydration. Sadly, cat flu can be fatal, especially in very young kittens.
Feline Calicivirus is another viral cause of cat flu, but it can also cause inflammation and ulceration of the mouth and gums. Particles of calicivirus are released into the air when an infected cat coughs or sneezes and can travel up to a meter. This means that it spreads rapidly between cats who share air space, for example, in a cattery.
Thankfully, calicivirus does not cause such severe symptoms as Herpesvirus. However, it can still cause conjunctivitis, sneezing, and a runny nose. Cats infected with calicivirus usually clear the infection on their own within a month or two, but a small number remain infected for life.
Reovirus is a virus that usually affects a cat’s gut, causing symptoms like diarrhea. Because of this, it is often known as Feline Intestinal Virus. However, it also causes inflammation of the gums and can occasionally cause cat flu signs like conjunctivitis and sneezing. Reovirus can be transmitted to other cats through infected poop or airborne particles. Thankfully, Reovirus usually causes mild symptoms that resolve without veterinary treatment.
There are two broad types of Mycoplasma infection in cats – one that causes anemia and one that causes upper airway infection. Upper airway infection is caused by Mycoplasma felis, and although the particles do not live for long in the environment, the disease typically spreads via airborne transmission. If your cat is infected with Mycoplasma felis, you might notice that their eyes or nose are running. They might cough or sneeze, and their eyes might look sore, red, or squinty. Luckily, Mycoplasma responds to certain antibiotics, so the proper treatment can clear the infection and get your puss back to full health.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a serious condition caused by Feline Coronavirus. Don’t worry though, it’s not the same virus that causes COVID-19 in people, and you can’t catch Feline Coronavirus from your cat. The strange thing about Feline Coronavirus is that, although it’s pretty common in cats, most infected cats recover and don’t develop FIP.
In general, FIP isn’t very well understood yet. Still, it’s thought that a mutation of coronavirus during infection might be to blame. Feline Coronavirus is mainly transmitted to other cats through infected feces, but once FIP develops, the virus is contained in various bodily fluids. This means that the spread of FIP can be airborne. Sadly, until very recently, FIP was almost always fatal, but new advances in anti-viral drugs have shown promising results.
Cryptococcus is a fungus that can cause infections within a cat’s nose and occasionally affect its lungs or brain. It usually infects new animals via inhalation; however, sometimes, it is ingested on foliage or another environmental source. The fact that it is usually breathed in explains why the most common place to find a cryptococcal infection is within the nose. If your poor puss has nasal Cryptococcus, they might have a thick, green, or even bloody discharge from their nose, usually from just one nostril. You might notice them sneezing and spot some swelling of the face or nose.
Sometimes, Cryptococcus causes noisy breathing or breathing distress, especially if it’s advanced. If caught early, while the infection is only in the nose, Cryptococcus can be treated with medication. However, the length of treatment is often months or even years.
How to Protect Your Cat From Airborne Infections
Airborne cat diseases thrive in areas with lots of cats in a limited space. Of course, this means that cats in boarding or breeding catteries and rescue centers are most at risk. However, if you live in a household with multiple moggies, it’s worth recognizing that your feline tribe is more at risk.
The most important thing you can do to reduce your cat’s risk of getting sick is to get them vaccinated. Cat vaccinations are effective against Herpesvirus and Calicivirus, the common causes of cat flu. It’s also essential to have good hygiene, especially if your cat seems to be unwell.
Finally, if your cat is coughing, sneezing, or showing other signs that they might have an airway infection, you should get them assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Veterinary treatment won’t just make your poorly pussycat feel better; it might also stop them from shedding infectious disease particles. This means they won’t pass it on to other cats in the household or neighborhood! If you're a new cat parent, Make sure to read up on how to bring home a new cat or kitten, so you can keep them in the best health.
Keeping your cat happy and healthy isn’t always easy when so many germs could be lurking nearby. It’s important to vaccinate your cat to give them the best possible protection against illness, and if you think your furry friend might be unwell, you should seek veterinary advice. You can speak to one of our veterinary team or book an appointment with our mobile vet. We can help get your cat companion on the road to recovery.