Bird Flu: What Cat Parents Need to Know

You may have heard that bird flu (H5N1) has been spreading among birds in the United States for the past few years. But did you know there are some cases of it spreading to cats? 

Between 2022 and 2023, at least 29 cats in the U.S. caught bird flu, and wild cats like mountain lions and bobcats have also been affected.

This has raised concerns about the risks for our furry friends – and us.

How Cats Get Bird Flu

Cats that spend time outdoors can catch bird flu from wild birds, even if they don’t eat the birds. Just touching them can be enough. Meghan Davis, a veterinarian at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, explains in a Science News article that cats can also get bird flu from eating raw meat, especially raw poultry. 

Here’s some more contamination risks to be aware of:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture found the virus in a cow, suggesting that raw beef might also be risky.
  • Raw, unpasteurized milk could infect cats. 
  • There is some evidence that cats might be able to pass the virus to each other.

Transmission to Humans

It’s possible that cats can transmit bird flu to people, but unlikely. In 2016, a vet in New York City got sick after working with cats that had bird flu. This year, two dairy farm workers in Texas and Michigan got eye infections from infected cows. Another worker in Michigan developed respiratory symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk for the general public is low, especially if you’re not around sick birds or animals. However, older people or those with weak immune systems might be at higher risk.

Can Other Pets Get Bird Flu?

Yes, other pets can get bird flu, too. Dogs, for example, can catch it. In a study, four out of 194 hunting dogs developed antibodies against bird flu, showing they were exposed. However, none of them got sick or spread the virus. Other small pets like ferrets and mink are also at risk.

How to Keep Your Pets Safe

It’s important to know the symptoms of bird flu in cats, including stiff movements, wobbling, circling, runny noses, and blindness. 

In addition to watching for symptoms, here are some other steps you can take to protect your pets from bird flu:

Keep cats indoors
This reduces their chances of coming into contact with infected birds.

Avoid bird poop
For cats that go outside, keep bird feeders out of reach and clean your shoes after walking where there are bird droppings.

Feed your cat safe food
Don’t feed raw poultry or milk to your pets, as these can carry the virus.

Act fast if you see symptoms
If your cat shows signs of infection, contact your vet immediately.

Handle dead birds safely
Use gloves, a mask, and goggles if you need to move a dead bird. Wash your hands thoroughly afterward. Report large numbers of dead birds to animal control.

Overall, being aware of the risks of bird flu transmission to pets and taking necessary precautions can help keep your furry friends safe and healthy.

Share this:
Posted in Feline Care, unCATegorized and tagged .