We’ve heard that swine flu can affect turkeys, ferrets and obviously pigs, but now your family pet could be vulnerable to the virus! In late October a family from Ames, Iowa brought their 13 year old tabby cat to the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. They said the cat had stopped eating or grooming himself and was acting lethargic. Then, the family mentioned that they’d had flu symptoms the week before. So the doctors decided to test the cat for H1N1. To everyone’s surprise, the cat tested positive, becoming the only known case of a feline contracting swine flu.
According to MSNBC, there have been several cases of swine flu in mink, turkeys, pigs and especially ferrets. Ferrets are well known to be susceptible to flu; scientists even use them to test flu treatments for humans. However, cats have only ever come down with bird flu, and that normally happens with wild or outdoor cats, who catch and eat contaminated animals. The cat in Ames, Iowa, though, was an indoor cat and never came in contact with other animals. So it looks like he caught swine flu from his family.
It’s rare for humans to pass viruses to their pets, and there’s never been a case where a human gave a cat the regular flu. So, why did the cat from Ames, Iowa get swine flu? Well, the cat was 13 years old, so the vets who treated him think that his immune system was compromised because of his age. He’s also incredibly social, snuggling up with his owners any chance he gets. The close contact definitely played a part. Luckily, the cat made a full recovery, but the vets say they’re getting hundreds of emails from people who want to know if their cat’s next. The possibility is out there. To stay on the safe side, follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control: keep your hands clean, cover your coughs, and if you get sick, avoid close contact with your pets until you’re well.