Four-month-old kittens Cherrim and Hattrem came into Cats Protection’s Cornwall Adoption Centre with three other siblings from the same litter, one of which died.
They were from a multi-cat household where they were allowed to roam freely outside from a young age and had received no veterinary care, mainly due to the cost of keeping them.
As a result of cat flu, their eyes were so badly inflamed that it was feared they’d have to have them removed and Cherrim had to be operated on for entropion – a condition where the eyelids turn inwards forcing the eyelashes to push permanently against the eyeball.
“We’re not sure many people realise that cats can catch flu and that it can be life threatening,” said manager of the centre, Samantha Lawton. “Hattrem and Cherrim were lucky we got to them in time and their sight was saved. Often it’s too late and the poor cat has to live with only one eye or none at all.”
In light of this, Cats Protection is keen to communicate that the easiest way to stop a cat from getting severe cat flu is by getting them vaccinated.
It says it won’t prevent them from catching it but it will help prevent them from getting severe symptoms and greatly reduces the chance of them needing extra treatment and hospitalisation.
“Although blind or one-eyed cats can live a normal life, they won’t have depth perception so won’t be able to judge distances or heights very well,” said Sarah Elliott, the charity’s
Central Veterinary Officer.
“Like humans, cats most likely to be worse affected are the very young, very old or those with a damaged immune system, as they find it more difficult to fight off infections. Although the symptoms might be similar, humans can’t catch cat flu but it’s highly contagious between cats. So, if you have more than one cat, it’s really important to keep them all vaccinated and, if one of your cats gets flu, make sure you wash the bedding and bowls they use thoroughly to help reduce the chances of spreading the flu between the cats.”
Su Taylor from Wigan adopted three kittens who had to have eyes removed because of flu from Cats Protection’s Warrington Adoption Centre in August.
“The centre offered lots of helpful advice on taking care of them and they’ve settled in wonderfully and run around like normal cats,” she says. “Despite having no eyes at all, Team is absolutely fearless and is living her best life, quite often jumping around when a toy isn’t even there. But it’s a real shame they had to lose their eyes as it didn’t need to happen. It’s so easy to get them vaccinated.”
According to Cats Protection, the signs of cat flu are very similar to a cold or flu in humans and it advises contacting a vet if a cat displays any of the following symptoms: