Feline H1N1: No Need To Panic

I have been asked by a few people about the possibility of cats getting swine flu. Can they get it? Can they transmit it to me?

I imagine most of you saw this news item that was published a few days ago: The Oregon state public health veterinarian has reported that a pet cat has died from presumed 2009 H1N1 influenza virus infection. The cat was one of 4 cats in the household and became ill approximately one week after a child in the household had a flu-like illness. It developed labored breathing and was presented to a veterinarian on November 4. The cat was not coughing or sneezing but had pneumonia. The cat's condition deteriorated over the next 3 days, and it died on November 7. Samples were obtained and tested positive for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. Additional samples were sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) for confirmation and are still pending. At this time this is a presumed, not confirmed, case of 2009 H1N1 influenza infection.

The three other cats in the household also became ill with different degrees of sneezing and coughing, but recovered from their illnesses. Samples collected from these cats were negative for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.

For more current information about H1N1 in cats, check out these resources:

2009 H1N1 Flu Virus Outbreak

Frequently Asked Questions by Veterinarians about 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus

The messages to cat owners remain the same. This is not cause for panic, but underscores the importance of taking pets to a veterinarian if they are showing signs of illness. This is especially important if someone in the household has recently been ill with flu-like symptoms.

To date, all of the sick pets became ill after a person in the household was ill with flu-like symptoms. There is no evidence to suggest that cats have or will spread the virus to humans or other animals. At the moment, it seems more likely that people can spread it to their cats, rather than the other way around. Proper hygiene and sanitation measures should be followed to limit the spread of the influenza virus.