Q: What is feline upper respiratory infection?
A: Feline upper respiratory infection (URI) is a highly contagious disease affecting the nasal passages and sinuses of cats and kittens.
Q: How is it transmitted?
A: Feline URI is transferred between cats by fluid discharged from the mouths and noses of infected cats. Cats shed the virus through the air by sneezing, coughing, or breathing; or by direct physical contact with cages, toys, food bowls, even the hands and clothes of people. Cats who have previously had the disease are often â€œsilent carriersâ€.
Q: What are the signs?
A: Symptoms of feline URI include sneezing; fever; runny nose or red, watery eyes; nasal congestion; and ulcers on the tongue, gums, lips, nose, or roof of mouth. Symptoms are generally mild at first and worsen within one to three days. The incubation period (the time period between infection and the first signs of illness) lasts from 2 to 17 days. The illness typically lasts from one to four weeks.
Q: Which cats get it?
A: Any cat who is stressed by overcrowding, poor nutrition, cold or heat, age, or fear. Cats who are especially at risk for infection include unvaccinated cats, kittens (because they have immature immune systems), and cats whose immune systems are compromised by another disease, such as feline leukemia (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), cancer, malnutrition, or parasites.
Q: How is feline URI treated?
A: Feline URI is easily treatable even though there are no drugs available to kill the feline URI viruses. Treatment of feline URI is aimed at strengthening the catâ€™s body and immune system to help the animal fight the virus, and usually consist of vitamins, good nutrition, and good nursing care. Infected cats may stop eating or drinking, and may require special therapy to combat dehydration and malnutrition. The disease can lead to fatal pneumonia if medical care is not provided. A few cats may have chronic (long-lasting) symptoms and some symptoms may recur whenever the cat is stressed or ill.
Q: How is feline URI prevented?
A: Feline URI cannot be totally prevented; many cats will enter the shelter already infected. Sanitation programs, health evaluations, isolation, vaccinations and deworming all play a part in the control of feline URI.