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Feline Calicivirus: What Every Cat Owner Needs to Know

Calicivirus in Cats: Understanding the Viral Pathogen

As a cat owner, it’s essential to be aware of viruses that can affect your feline friend. One of the most prevalent viral pathogens that cause respiratory infections in cats is Feline calicivirus (FCV).

In this informative article, we will delve deeper into the causes, symptoms, and treatment of calicivirus in cats.

Definition and Causes

Calicivirus in cats is a common upper respiratory tract infection caused by a viral pathogen. It’s highly contagious and can spread through direct and indirect contact between cats.

The virus can survive in the environment for several days, making it challenging to control in multiple cat environments such as animal shelters and households with multiple cats.


The symptoms of calicivirus in cats can range from mild to severe, depending on the virulence of the virus and the cat’s immune system. The most common symptoms of calicivirus in cats include sneezing, nasal discharge, ulceration, conjunctivitis, ulcers in the mouth, fever, lethargy, dehydration, pneumonia, joint inflammation, and vasculitis.

These symptoms can be seen as a result of different strains of the virus, leading to varying levels of illness in cats.


Diagnosing calicivirus in cats can be challenging because the symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory diseases, and multiple viral strains can cause the same symptoms. Veterinary professionals may perform a complete blood count (CBC), chest radiographs, blood tests, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and check FCV antibody levels to confirm a diagnosis.

They may also test for carrier status to monitor the risk of transmission to other cats.

Treatment and Recovery

There’s currently no cure for calicivirus in cats. Treatment is primarily supportive, and most cats can recover on their own within two to three weeks with proper nutrition and care.

Antiviral medication, pain medication, antibiotics, and fluids may be administered to help speed up recovery and manage secondary infections. The vaccination is also available, and it’s recommended for cats at high risk of exposure to the virus.

Carrier status cats may require lifelong management to prevent transmission to other cats.

Causes of Calicivirus in Cats

FCV can transmit from cat to cat through shedding or secretions from an infected cat’s mouth, eyes, nasal cavity, or respiratory tract. The virus can also spread through indirect contact, such as contaminated water or food bowls, litter boxes, or grooming tools.

Different strains of the virus can have varying levels of virulence and disease-causing ability. Kittens and young adult cats are at high risk of infection and severe symptoms compared to adult cats.

Risks and Prevention

Multiple cat facilities and households have a higher risk of transmission of the virus. Monitoring for carrier status and proper isolation and cleaning protocols can help prevent the spread of the virus.

Vaccinations for high-risk cats or cats in multiple cat environments can reduce the risk of infection. Using a bleach solution to disinfect surfaces and tools can also help prevent the spread of the virus.


Calicivirus in cats is a highly contagious viral pathogen that can cause mild to severe respiratory infections in cats. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of the virus can help cat owners take preventive measures to control the spread of the virus and manage infected cats.

Although there’s no cure for calicivirus in cats, supporting care and antiviral medication can help manage symptoms and speed up recovery. Remember to vaccinate your cats and maintain proper hygiene to keep them healthy and happy.


Diagnosis and Treatment of Calicivirus in Cats

Cats can contract calicivirus from other cats or surfaces contaminated with virus particles. A veterinarian can make a diagnosis of calicivirus in cats by conducting lab work and tests.

Lab Work and Testing

A complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry can help measure the levels of essential blood components in a cat’s body and identify any abnormalities. Chest radiography can help detect pneumonia and other respiratory conditions.

PCR, swabs, blood, feces, and urine can be tested to identify the presence of the virus. FCV antibody levels can also be checked to confirm the presence of the virus.

Carrier status can be tested to determine the likelihood of the cat spreading the infection to other cats.

Supportive Care and Medication

Cats suffering from calicivirus require supportive care to maintain their health and speed up their recovery. Warm steam therapy helps to create a moist atmosphere that soothes the nasal passages, making it easier for cats to breathe.

Proper nutrition is essential to support the cat’s immune system and replace any lost fluids. Pain and infection may also be managed through the use of antibiotics and pain medication.

Eye medication can be used to treat conjunctivitis. Anti-inflammatory medication can be used to manage joint inflammation and vasculitis.

Fluids may be administered to prevent dehydration and help the cat recover.

Recovery and Management

Cats can recover from calicivirus within two to three weeks with proper care. However, some cats may suffer from prolonged symptoms and chronic inflammation of the mouth, nose, eyes, and throat.

Cats may also develop oral inflammation, leading to painful polyarthritis. Vaccination is an essential part of the prevention plan for calicivirus in cats.

A booster schedule should also be followed to maintain the cat’s immunity.

4) FAQs on Calicivirus in Cats

Contagion and Spread

Is calicivirus contagious to humans?

No, calicivirus is not contagious to humans.

It spreads only among cats. Can cats that have recovered from calicivirus spread the virus to other cats?

Cats who have recovered from calicivirus may still shed the virus in their secretions, meaning they can spread the virus to other cats. How can I prevent the spread of calicivirus in my home?

Wash your hands and clothing frequently, especially when around an infected cat. Isolate infected cats to prevent spreading the disease to other cats.

Use a bleach solution to clean surfaces, litter boxes, water and food bowls. What is carrier status in cats infected with calicivirus?

Carrier status is when a cat continues to shed the virus in its secretions even after the symptoms have subsided. Such cats require monitoring to prevent the spread of the virus to other cats.

What is the recovery time for cats with calicivirus?

Recovery time varies from cat to cat and depends on the severity of the virus.

Mild cases can resolve within two to three weeks with proper care, while severe cases may take longer to recover.


Calicivirus is a viral pathogen that causes respiratory infections in cats. Proper diagnosis, supportive care, and medication can help cats recover and prevent the spread of the virus.

Regular vaccination, maintaining good hygiene practices, and preventing contact with infected cats can help reduce the risk of infection. With proper care and preventive measures, cats can live healthy, happy lives free of calicivirus.

In summary, understanding calicivirus in cats is crucial to maintaining the health and wellbeing of our feline friends. Feline calicivirus is highly contagious, causing respiratory infections, and can have harmful effects on a cat’s overall health.

Proper diagnosis, supportive care and medication can help cats recover from this viral pathogen. Preventive measures such as vaccination, maintaining good hygiene practices, and preventing contact with infected cats can help reduce the risk of infection.

Keeping these takeaways in mind can help keep cats healthy and happy, and ensure they live long, fulfilling lives.

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