Calicivirus: This Much I Know

I’m writing this from first-person experience to help others who may encounter calicivirus as a pet owner or foster home. I’m not a vet, vet-tech, or any other form of expert. I’m a foster mom … we ran head-first into this challenge with our foster kittens. I believe four vets (in 3 separate practices) saw these cats and said that it was calicivirus – but it is not conclusive since I didn’t pay to have the lab test done (there was no benefit or change in how this would have been treated).

I have never paid attention to what was in the annual shots my cats got. This time fostering, I learned that one part of the shot is for calicivirus. It is a common upper respiratory infection that many cats have been exposed to.

What Is Calicivirus?

Calicivirus (FCV) is a virus (duh, I know!). It is contagious from one cat to another and can be caught from direct contact (licking, sneezing, playing together etc) or secondary contact (sharing a space, sharing food bowls, litter). There are a number of different strains of this – and it is constantly mutating. It makes it very hard to contain. It tends to surface in highly populated areas of cats – shelters or homes with a high density of cats.

First of all, calicivirus is not transferable from one species to another (it’s not zoonotic) – so a sick cat cannot affect you or your dog. (There are unrelated strains of calicivirus which manifest in humans – one is known as the Norwalk virus.) However, it is very easily communicable from one cat to another. A cat is contagious as soon as the virus takes hold- before there are visible symptoms. This was proven in our home. The cat is also potentially contagious for weeks after the infection as the virus is ‘shed’ from their bodies. Some cats who are exposed to the virus are carriers of the virus for their whole lives and continue to ‘shed’ the virus.

The virus does not have a ‘cure’. Once your cat is exposed to it and develops symptoms, she must go though the virus on her own. The vet can test for the virus (blood test) or visually confirm that it is calicivirus (usually by mouth ulcers), and treat the secondary symptoms such as bacterial infections or pneumonia with antibiotics. The antibiotics don’t solve the virus, but only treat the infections resulting from it.

Calicivirus does not usually kill the kitty, but it can. Some strains can be mild and barely noticeable. Kittens are the most at risk of catching this virus. The most dangerous instances are when it attacks a young kitten who’s immune system is low, and when it attacks a cat who’s immune system is already compromised from another type of illness. However, there is at least one strain that is very, very contagious, attacks adult cats the hardest, and has a higher-than-normal mortality rate (as high as 60%).

I am still not sure how our foster kittens caught this virus. They could have caught it from the dirty and crowded conditions they came from (17+ cats in a hoarder’s apartment). It might have even been passed to them from their mother. However, if this is the case, then the symptoms and virus should have manifested sooner than 6 weeks after they arrived at my home and were quarantined. Additionally, the other cats rescued from this situation have not come down with the virus. The second potential exposure point was the vet’s office where the first 2 kittens went for their shots and surgery. Although this is a clean establishment, a close-proximity sneeze by one sick cat could be all it took. The symptoms manifested in the first kitten about 4-5 days later.

How Can You Tell If It’s Calicivirus?

The signs of the strain we encountered were stopping of eating and drinking, a fever, extreme lethargy, sores on the tip of the nose (2 kittens) and in the mouth (3 kittens).  There was no sneezing, runny noses, or weepy eyes during the infection which are also ‘typical symptoms’.

When we first noticed a sick kitten, we assumed that the neuter surgery was the cause since it was about 3 days post-op and the symptoms matched. We syringe fed the kitten pedialyte and then ‘slurry’ (blended pedialyte with a pate-style cat food). Since there was no improvement in 48 hours, he went to the vet. The kitten was force-fed, given subcutaneous fluids, started on amoxicillin antibiotic at the vet’s office. He returned home that evening (12-hrs in hospital) in hopes that a familiar environment would help him recover. The vet suspected a virus. He was put on a 10-day antibiotic cycle – dosing every 12 hours. Although he was weakened and had lost weight, the kitten recovered slowly over the next 5 days. Regular syringe feeding and pedialyte was needed until he began eating again. A few days later he was fully recovered and eating very healthily: it was approximately 8 days from the onset to his recovery and eating sufficiently on his own.

During the recovery period, the other kittens also began to come down with this virus. We began antibiotics at the first signs of the virus. This time the vet noticed some visual cues to indicate that this was calicivirus. All kittens were given the same treatment as the first: amoxicillin antibiotics administered orally in liquid form. All kittens were syringe fed slurry multiple times a day to avoid anorexia.

The kittens who had the antibiotics at first visual cues of the virus had less pronounced symptoms, less ‘down days’, and faster recovery periods. Two kittens developed lesions on their noses. The first kitten developed a few small scabs on his body (about 5) as he was recovering. About 3 kittens had ulcerated gums or tongues, which I believe were the symptoms that vet used for diagnosis.

When the kittens began showing signs of the virus, they were kept in a quarantined space. However prior to them showing signs, they were allowed into our front room where they met their adopters. This space is shared space in that for some hours each day the kittens were in this space with the door closed. When the kittens were not in the space, my own cats were allowed to walk in and use the space at their leisure.

Mav6

Maverick was the first ill – and showed no outward signs of illness. He was extremely lethargic and stopped all eating and drinking. This is Maverick about 3 days into his antibiotics – the worst of the danger was past. He was sick the longest since he was the first kitten to come down with this – and it took longer to get him started on the antibiotics

My Cats:

As the kittens were recovering, my own three cats displayed symptoms of this strain. The illness was incredibly more pronounced in my two older cats:

Cat 1 (Healthy, 1 year old – inoculated with all kitten boosters and her annual shots 1 month prior to infection) Showed some lethargy and lack of appetite. It lasted a couple of days and then she was back to normal. Her contact was direct – she played with the kittens when they returned from their vet appointment. It is to be noted that she is in direct daily contact with cats 2 and 3.

Cat 2 (Healthy, approx 8 years old – inoculated regularly and 1 month prior to infection) This cat had no direct contact with the kittens– she infrequently uses the one room of shared space. She began showing lack of appetite and weakness. She then stopped eating and developed lethargy, some sores in her mouth, a red raw nose, and excess salivation. Multiple types of food were tried to encourage eating – warmed, wet, dry, kitten and vet formulas (such as a/d, i/d, recovery) with no results of any eating. She was given amoxicillin every 12 hours for 10 days beginning early in the onset of the visible symptoms. She slept more but remained mobile to the litter. Due to this cat’s strong aversion to pill-taking, she was changed to liquid amoxicillin antibiotic part way through treatment. She was given pain-killer once a day. On day 8 she developed a large sore on her front leg which caused limping. Her nose was crusting over slowly – topical antiseptic cream was used 1x a day on her nose. Almost a month after first symptoms, her nose has only one pink spot of healing, she has been eating on her own for almost 2 weeks, and her leg sore dried but no fur returned for a couple of months.

Cat 3 (Healthy overall, 16.5 years old – inoculated regularly her whole life but 1 month late on her annual inoculation, first diagnosed with moderately reduced kidney levels and mild hyper-thyroidism 1-month prior to infection. Not on any medications. The only illness this cat has ever had was 3x bladder crystals when she was between 3-6yrs old) This cat was not in direct contact with the kittens, but used the one room of shared space. She likely tried to eat some of the kitten’s food from their bowl. Her symptoms began with lack of appetite, fever, and lethargy. Multiple types of food were tried to encourage eating – warmed, wet, dry, kitten and vet formulas (such as a/d, i/d, recovery) with no results of any eating. However symptoms progressed and became severe to include – no eating or drinking for 1.5 weeks, large weeping sores on her mouth, gums and tongue, bleeding sores, her face became significantly swollen, a red raw nose, sores between mouth and nose, difficulty breathing, wheezing, sneezing, excessive drooling, and limping. She slept almost 24 hours a day and was not mobile even to the litter. On day 9 of the visible sores … improvements have been seen in the reduction of facial swelling, she was almost able to use her tongue and was visibly trying to drink water without much success; sores still present but subsiding. By day 11 she began to attempt to eat wet cat food – with difficulty due to breathing problems and the continued existence of large sores in the mouth and on tongue. She became more alert and beginning to gain some mobility after 12 days. Despite some stomach upset, we decided to keep her on the antibiotics beyond the 10-day course to ward off any secondary infections still lingering or emerging. The antibiotics were stopped at approximately day 14 to control the antibiotic-induced diarrhea. At this point the resolution of her sores seemed to slow down, but she slowly, steadily improved. By week 3 she was able to eat on her own but avoided all dry foods (I suspect the existence of throat and back-of-mouth sores still present) – even tiny-sized kitten formulas. Strong smelling food (water-packed low-sodium tuna) was the first food she was drawn to try eating. She was able to drink normally late in week 3. Weight loss has been significant (more than 1/3 of her weight) and this will need to be addressed to aid her full recovery. Her visual symptoms were worse than any I’ve seen (on the web) as she was unrecognizable, bloodied constantly, and the sores were very large and prohibited her tongue and mouth movement. I was too traumatized to photograph this as I was not convinced she would survive.

We needed to give our two very ill cats round-the-clock attention with liquids, slurry-food, medications etc for two full weeks. If this is not possible, a cat as sick as ours would have needed to be hospitalized and had IV and forced feedings for over a week. If it’s possible to give the cat subcutaneous fluids at home, I’d strongly suggest this. It is my opinion that I let her become too dehydrated despite feeding her syringe-fulls of pedialyte several times during every day.

The cost of visiting the vet for a brief physical exam for our two cats and prescriptions for antibiotics, one subcutaneous fluids application, was about $400 (not including medications). The exams showed nothing less than 24 hours before the full onset of the illness: I had taken them in because I’d noticed both older cats were eating less and were more lethargic (this would have been easy to miss but I was watching them). Unfortunately, I could not simply get the required antibiotics without the vet-consultation even though I knew what I was dealing with after the kittens’ illness and symptoms. I don’t have the vet costs for the kittens, since the rescue paid for that.

I suspect that this strain is deadly because the adult, well-inoculated cats became significantly more severely sick and for a longer duration than the kittens. Transmission was 100% even for those cats not in direct contact with the affected kittens. It is suspected that we encountered a more virulent strain. I didn’t get my cats tested for what this is and neither did the rescue – the blood tests would have cost more and they would not have aided with the resolution. The blood-test would have been more academic than helpful. It is also noted that 2/3 vets presented with these cats were not able to identify/detect the virus while it was showing as fever, lethargy, and diminished (or stopped) eating and drinking. Transmission is easier in these circumstances since there is no warning to quarantine early enough to make any difference.

The virus is virtually impossible to ‘clean’ out of a space – it doesn’t die from most cleaning solutions. For 28+ days after the last cat has recovered from all viral signs, our home must be considered contaminated and off limits to cats and those who have cats, to be safe. The virus can apparently live in an environment for that period of time – longer if it’s a cold environment.

As a precaution, we are not having any cats in our home for a period of 3 months post infection. Carpets are being cleaned, wood floors are being steamed multiple times, and the hepa-filter on our furnace (hvac system) has been changed. The hepafilter for viruses is helpful in this case.

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Mouci & Shadow a year after their calicivirus illness. Mouci became deaf (either from old age or through some side-effect of calici) within the 8 months after her illness.

This post on my blog is not intended to create a managed public forum of Q&A, advice, or individual situations. It is meant as a real and detailed account that I hope helps you. There are vet sites and online groups that offer Q&A boards. As always a vet is the best source of advice. I won’t be publishing any more advice inquiries or responses sent to me from this page on my blog. Thanks! Best wishes to you and your kitties!

Resources:

http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/feline-calicivirus-infection/4132

http://www.sheltermedicine.com/node/38

http://www.our-happy-cat.com/calicivirus.html

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34 thoughts on “Calicivirus: This Much I Know

  1. I’m dealing with this right now.
    Thank you for writing this article.
    I’m force feeding one cat 3x a day, lots of drooling, tongue sores, gah!
    My neighbors cat came down with it first, then my 3. The 2 I haven’t caught yet are still eating, tho not much. They are feral, and I’m very limited in what I can do for them besides try to provide wet food and love. The one I’m caring for is more social and she’s more accepting of treatment. I just hope I don’t lose the other 2 who are toughing it out.
    This calicivirus is a bastard. Day 4 so far…..

    • I’m so sorry you have to go through this. It is HARD. Thank you for caring enough about the kitties to try to do what’s best for them. We needed the antibiotics and to give them liquids. The dehydration can be dangerous. So can a situation if the cat doesn’t eat for some time. Your vet might be able to administer an antibiotic shot (so it saves you from pilling the strays 2x a day every day – because you can’t miss treatments or the antibiotics don’t work). Sending you good thoughts. (Our sickest cat did not eat on her own for over 2 weeks… so don’t give up!)

    • Hi, just to maybe help a little my older kitty has come down with this disease after we adopted a new older kitten and we were told he just had a cold. 😠 Anyway my older kitty is eating soft food while growling, he is in a lot of pain from mouth sores. Then I got a great idea-ICECUBES! I took one and rubbed his gums. At first he growled but then he begin to lick it until it was almost gone. THEN I gave him some more soft food and he ate it a lot easier. Plus he got some water in him, I actually gave him a plate full of ice cubes. Hope this helps!

      • Not sure if ice will help soothe the sores but if it works…
        Keep them hydrated…. a few syringe fulls of water or pedialyte each day at a minimum. This often happens – and it’s an honest mistake I believe – vets can’t tell it’s calicivirus unless they see ulcers, which in our cats showed up after the visit to the vet. So vets and others may think it’s just FHV (feline herpes virus – the least dangerous of the kitty-cold viruses) or an unspecified virus. Unfortunately they are ALL very contagious and are airborne. The same mistake was made in our home with our fosters – one kitten was adopted out before there were ANY symptoms or we knew he was sick – and then he got sick and the adopters’ other cat got very very ill with calicivirus. Nearly fatal since the strain we encountered was a bad one. I want everyone to know that this can happen

  2. Hi, my cat got this, I took her last friday when I noticed salivation to the vet. She is getting inyections for pain and antibiotics intraday. Yesterday she woke up with better mood and ate more but today she has a bit of salivation and bit of running nose (she didnt have this yesterday) and she doesnt wanna move from bed. I dont know how “normal” its this, I read the virus goes in 7-14 days.. hope its only that, not sure if theres anything else I can do to help her. Nice article, give people dealing with this a better idea from a experience, the usual information on the internet are just some facts.

    • I’m so glad this helped you! As you see from my 3 cats, the symptoms and down-times can last from a couple of days to 3 weeks depending on both the cat and which strain you’re dealing with. Good luck with your kitty! Watch for dehydration (lack of drinking) and ceasing of eating – those can be dangerous.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. I just got a foster kitten on Wednesday that has calicivirus (or she fits all the symptoms). Unfortunately for her she went several days with out treatment and was rescue hours from death. I’ve been treating her for almost a week… with only small improvement, hopefully she turns the corner soon. I’m also paranoid about my adult cats in the house, not only are there mine but there also are two adult fosters, including a diabetic one! Everybody is up to date on shots… but due this month so keeping our fingers crossed here!

    • I found that the kittens who got the meds early (very early!) had less down-time and faster recovery. You may have a long road back… but keep up with the feedings and fluids… hang in there! You are doing a great thing – thank you for having the courage. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed that you it doesn’t spread to the others; some strains are better than others.

      • Just wanted to let you know the kitten made a full recovery! It took a good two weeks for any visual improvement for her symptoms in general. And we had to do three rounds of antibiotics as she had lingering congestion and the vet wanted to make sure she didn’t develop pneumonia (there was another kitten in another believed to be her brother who died of suspected pneumonia a few days after appearing to make a full recovery.) It also took almost 4 weeks for her to eat on her own. Best of all it didn’t spread to rest of the house. A couple of the adults were a little lethargic for a few days but no signs of the virus. I did give them L-Lysine supplements to boost their immune system. She is now fixed and looking for a furever home with our rescue group.

  4. Thank you for writing this! I got two foster kitties from a shelter a week ago. Both had calicivirus (though I did not know at the time). The six week old girl passed away on Wednesday morning, nearly brok my heart. The eight week old boy seems to be doing ok. Despite bad mouth ulcers and a raw/scabbed nose, he is still eating well. He’s on antibiotics and some pain meds, as well as something that coats his ulcers. I took him to an emergency animal hospital on Wednesday night and got him fluids as well. He still wants to play all the time but I’m trying to limit his activity. I am just hoping and praying he can pull through, I don’t think my heart can take losing this little guy.

    I’m grateful for your shared experience! It gives me hope that he can pull through and some informative new knowledge.

    • Thanks for posting Katie; your situation is exactly why I wrote this. My heart breaks knowing you lost the little girl – but kittens go downhill so fast. Keep up with the fluids – little syringes full of pedialyte a couple of times a day will help. It might be a long road back, but don’t give up… I was ready to give up on my beautiful calico because she was so SO sick with this… but she pulled through. She had lost 1/3 of her weight. Your kitten can’t afford to lose weight… that’s why calici is so deadly to them. Keep up feedings and hydration and my fingers, toes, and everything else is crossed for you!! (PS I put the slurry/pedialyte recipe on my kitchen table wisdom post some time back. It’s very easy to make, provides them with electrolytes, and needs to be fresh daily. It made a huge difference with the kittens)

  5. Thank you for this article. You are describing what we have been through with 17 young kittens. One started with a high temp and lethargy following an adoption event. Within 48 hours most of them were sick. Every single one became ill over the next six days, supported with force feeding, ped if the temp rose to 106. We gave big doses of Albon (because I had it). We gave subq fluids when seemed to really help. At last it was over. We cleaned everything. Unknowingly, a week later, we transefered the sibling of one that had been in a different room. Now that one is sick and much sicker than the others. No adult cats have become ill (fortunately). But every can had already had at least one dose of FVRCP.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience – because it shows just how contagious calici is. Thank you for your dedication to these young lives – you got them through this despite the time and work involved. Your experience is more ‘typical’ than ours: for us the well-inoculated, older cats (multiple FVRCP vaccinations over their lives) became more seriously ill than the kittens. There are different stains because calici mutates constantly and some are up to 70% fatal.

  6. My cats just got this a few days ago. At first we thought one of them just got into a fight from the way his nose looked. But after a couple days another one of our cats got the same thing on her nose. I live with my mom and we both have cats and they are all getting it. We got some antibiotics today for them and was told about giving them the tuna and wet caned food to help them. They are all between the ages of 2 yrs old and up to 5 yrs old and all are pretty healthy cats. I really hope the antibiotics and tuna and wet food help them. They are all still eating and drinking on their own which is good. 🙂

  7. I just learned about this virus, and how it can mutate, the hard way. Well my cat did. I brought a kitten in from a rescue. They had her since she was 10 days old. She was 4 months old when I got her. I was assured no sick cats. Sadly I did not quarantine this kitten- who never displayed any sign of illness from the day I got her on November 19th or any day since. On December 18th my 1 1/2 year old male cat became sick. We took him to the vet. We were told it was “just a virus” and he had a sore throat. He was to have subq fluids every day and a pain medication for his sore throat. The next Day December 19th I came up to the house in the late morning to notice he was mouth breathing. We called the clinic and rushed him in. I was seen by another vet in the practice who said “just a virus” and they would observe him. December 20 I was called in the AM and told I could come pick him up and we would continue with the treatment of Sub Q Fluids. I arrived to the vet clinic at 11:30 that morning paid my bill ($661 for the overnight stay). The vet came out and said your cats temp has soared to 105 and we need to keep him. The next few days I was continually told it was just a virus. In the mean time my other cat also 1 1/2 years old was running a fever. I was treating her with the pain meds and fluids and a fever reducer (oncior).
    Without this getting to long my cat progressed on Thursday to needing an feeding tube put in because of all the mucous his throat was producing. He was also started on an antiviral medication. On late Thursday afternoon the vet called me and said she would be comfortable with him going home with me but with me having Christmas guests the next day she would keep him until Saturday. Imagine my shock when the night vet called me to tell me my cat had “fainted twice” while they were treating him. Another vet came in and it was decided to do surgery for a tracheal tube as he was producing so much mucous. The surgery went fine only to have the cat panic with the tracheal tube upon recover (later realized it probably immediately blocked).(another $1800 at that vet clinic) On Christmas day my cat was transported via animal ambulance in an oxygen carrier to a critical care hospital. (500)

    At midnight he passed of what was described as a virulent form of Calicivirus. He was a young, healthy vaccinated indoor cat.(bill for 12 hours at critical care hospital $1,700) My other cat recovered with just home treatment, only three days of fluids and pain medication. The kitten still has never shown signs of illness.
    We DID do the Viral panel on my cat that passed. He did have Calici and Micoplasma. I will also add that I live on large acreage, with no neighbors, and no cats anywhere in site and my cats are strictly indoors. There was no other chance of exposure except the kitten.

    Rather then do the viral panel on my kitten- who had been with my two sick cats and who would show exposure no matter what, we had my friend test her recently acquired kitten ( gotten one week later then mine) from the same rescue.That kitten had lived with the kitten I had. He was 8 months old so had been at the rescue even longer. His viral panel just came back today and he shows positive exposure to Calici, Herpes and Micoplasma.

    I am not only heartbroken but guilt ridden for having brought this to my home and for my beloved young boy to have paid the price with his life.

    To think healthy looking cats could be lifetime or even short time carriers of this virus is terrifying to me.
    We will never bring another cat into our home, as there is no way to know if she is one of those permanent carriers nor will I risk their lives by bringing in a cat that might be shedding.

    • My heart is breaking with you. For me it brings back those moments on Christmas when I sat holding my cat thinking that she would not make it. She was swollen beyond recognition and bloodied. It was my spouse who refused to give up hope that day. Thank you for sharing your story – I hope it will help others.

  8. Hi,
    I am beginning week three of this with 5 foster kittens. So far the other foster kittens, nor my personal cats have become ill. It started with one kitten and a mystery fever of 105.7 and a sore on his nose. The vet tech thought was Calici but the kitten did not present any other symptoms. Then the second kitten came down with a fever that was 106.4. Over the next few days the others got it and all of them had fevers in the 105.7 to 106.4 range. The rescue paid for one of the kittens to be seen at the fancy Veterinary Specialist Hospital and it was a waste of money.

    Finally, 10 days into the illness, the vet tech,who thought it was Calici all along, found mouth sores to go with the nose sores. It didn’t change the treatment, but at least I know if I can keep them alive for another week they can recover. We just transferred the other litter out of my house because they had no signs and the other foster is well versed in the virulence of the illness.

    My cleanliness protocol: Keep kittens in crates, off the floor. (Remember sneezing can spread it.) I am very, very, very frightened of making just one little mistake and having everyone die. Last year I lost two personal cats from a virus a foster cat brought into my house.

    1) I make sure to wash my hands for at least 30 seconds.

    2) Change clothes when entering and exiting the room. Watch the door knob and shoes as a source of contamination. I don’t wear gloves because I tend to think I’m safe when I am not.

    3) I wash my hands constantly.

    4) I have two sets of everything–thermometers, scales, food dishes.

    5) I wash every finger on my hand and every side of every finger, it takes about 30 seconds.

    6) I have a Clorox basin of water that I drop food dishes into during the day and wash and change at night. All food dishes are run through the dishwasher.

    7) Anything that leaves the room is bleached. Bedding, medical waste, clothes. (Except my hands, I just wash them for 30 seconds.)

    8) Cat litter is double bagged and taken directly outside to the garbage.

    Treatment:

    1) Pain meds.

    2) Medication for pain.

    3) SQ fluids every 8 hours. It’s really hard to overdose a kitten running a 106.4 fever. The fluids cool the kitten off so that the fever doesn’t cook their brains.

    4) Did I mention pain medication?

    5) Ice Packs. Make sure you pile the hard plastic ice packs ($1 from Dollar General) in one corner of the crate so the kittens can get on and off. I was shocked when I walked into the room and found all five kittens sound asleep in top of the ice packs.

    6) Syringe feeding every 2 to 4 hours. I used Ad/KMR/Fortiflora/Tb-spoon of rice cereal. (A bottle feeder told me about the cereal for diarrhea.) My kittens have lost nearly 1/4 of their body weight, so far, they are still very sick. It hurts so much for them to eat that I have to hold them down to feed them.

    7) Pain meds

    8) I make sure they are still playing, and recovering or at least not slipping downhill. I think, considering all I am doing for them, if they continued to slip down hill… Well there is a fine line between torture and treatment. I think if they just lay there and are not happy to see me, I would call it.

    9) And finally, please, please, please use pain medication!! The good stuff. Don’t play around, use the max dose of the strongest you talk or beg the vet into! The kittens aren’t going to become addicts and hang around on the street corner selling themselves for a fix! USE PAIN MEDICATION!

    I hope this post makes sense, I am very tired.

    • This is one of the best/smartest posts I’ve seen about treatment of the bad strains. Thank you for sharing – I think those who read this will learn from you. Did they all make it? I hope so – they got great care from you – thank you for all you’ve done to help them.

      • Hi, I kind of cringe when I read it now because I was so tired. I stand by what I wrote, I just wouldn’t repeat it. Seriously, though, pain medication is your cat’s best friend! The rescue vet tech really strongly believed in giving animals pain medication. (And her vet agreed.) I think the pain medication saved them.

        To answer your question: yes, they all lived. One had a major head tilt for about a month, but had no impairment the vet could find. Another one had a minor head tilt for about two weeks and has shown no other signs of brain damage.

        When they started to recover enough that all they needed was food, water, and loving, the rescue placed them with a dog only foster. They waited (I think) 90 days before putting them up for adoption. (And then did full disclosure on the two that have been adopted.)

        The rescue vet tech had me paint the room they were in and then wait 90 days before I put any cats in it at all. And then scrub the room again with 1 to 10 bleach solution. The bleach solution has become my normal cleaning method now. Their tests came as I think it was considered the second worse kind of the virus.

        They think the mother was a carrier and when she wean them, they got it.

        Thanks for your blog, it helped.

  9. Thank you so much for this article. I have been fostering kittens for a few months now and also bottle feed the babies in the nursery at our local no-kill shelter. I follow very clean protocol at the center, spray the bottoms of my shoes before I leave, and when I arrive home, I immediately strip off my clothes and change into fresh clothes. Unfortunately, all this did not help, and 5 days ago, 2 of my 3 adult, fully vaccinated cats have contracted what I believe to be Calici. My youngest (6 years) has it the worst and has the most awful ulcers in her mouth (and they smell). She also has a lesion above her left eye, which now, after reading your article, makes sense. I’ve been force feeding both of them A/D slurry with Nutrical mixed in, and also giving several syringes of water morning and night. The youngest is also on Buprenorphine for pain.

    Thanks so much for posting your experiences, as it will help me know what to expect in the coming weeks. My biggest fear is them dying on me, but seeing your success gives me hope. Purrs and headbutts to all.

    • My thoughts are with you! If there was soemthing I did wrong it was not giving them enough water (pedialyte through syringe orally and especially subcutaneous). Please consider switching from water to pedialyte – receipe is here and I got it from a 15year veteran of rescue – https://thekittenkaboodle.wordpress.com/this-much-i-know/our-kitchen-table-wisdom/. A/D slurry and nutrical (in small doses – they had ulcers in their throats – hard to swallow) were our friends. I’d also get them pain medication earlier – for each cat. When adult fully-inoculated cats get it, there is a good chance that it’s the really bad strains. My eldest cat was unrecognizable… and I didn’t think she’d make it. She lived, recovered and lived 2+ years until nearly her 19th birthday. Don’t give up.

      PS Despite your excellent clean and careful protocols (cudos by the way!) for volunteering, please stop volunteering asap – for at least 1-2 months after your kitties are fully done with this. Like us, I think you met a very bad strain and don’t want to let it spread. The usual ones don’t attack healthy adult inoculated cats to that degree. And thanks for all you do to better the lives of cats. The world needs more of you.

      • Hi Tashakatt – yes, I’ve cancelled all my volunteer shifts and notified the volunteer coordinator, but my current fosters are staying, as either they are carriers or have already been exposed (but are super healthy as we speak). Since they came to us feral, it would be too traumatic to take them back right now. I also have not gone to my mom’s house at all as I don’t want to infect her cat, nor had any cat-owned friends over.

        Day 9: My middle cat Holly (8 years old), is almost normal and taking wet food in small doses. She is very active and has one active ulcer in her mouth. Annie (6 years old) is continuing to make progress. We have her on pain meds 3x a day, Sucralfate for the ulcers, mirtazapine for appetite, and giving her subQ fluids every day. Her ulcers are much better, and she’s actually more alert and giving purrs and headbutts. She loves to lick me and I actually got a few kisses this morning. Biggest news – she’s grooming! She’s also made it to the litter box on her own. Still force feeding the A/D and Nutrical slurry (and I’ve added a bit of meat baby food in there as well) along with plain water to wash it down. A few days ago, I swear we were going to lose her, but now I think she’ll make it. Thanks again for your post and giving me the hope and strength to help my babies beat this nasty virus!

  10. Hi! I’m writting to check if you can help me, as I can only imagine you know Calicivirus very well from this experience.

    My now 10 week kitten got the Calicivirus vaccine at 9 weeks. 5 days later started limping, for which we went to the vet ER where he had an X Ray (where everything was fine) and then high fever (40 degrees celcius). We went back to the vet, where he had blood work done – hemogram – the results showed that he was fighting an infection. The vet told us it was probably a vaccine reaction as the symptoms fit. He is on antibiotics now and looks much better, but I’m worried because I don’t know if being a vaccine induced reaction it is the same as getting the virus. Is it? Is the environment contamined when its just a reaction to the vaccine? I’m worried he will get reinfected or infect my friends’ cats when they visit (my friends, not their cats). My vet says I shouldnt worry but I don’t know.

    Thank you in advance for your help! I’m astonished to see the very good job you’ve done with your cats in this situation, I would’ve panicked 🙂

    • I honestly don’t know. I’m not aware of incidents of the shot (which is part of annual/biannual shots all cats get) bringing on calici. I’m wondering if he had the virus already and it just began to show at a period of stress. It’s a virus and airborne… so IF he has it, then the area is contaminated and I wouldn’t let another cat visit you for 3+ months after he recovers. Not sure about people – if they get home and wash their clothes right away. Make sure he stays hydrated (PS Thank you – I did panic and cry… I really thought my elder cat was dying… she was on death’s door for days and I almost gave up)

      • It seems that there isn’t much information about this really.. I know it is possible to get some symptoms from the vaccine – it actually is stated on the vaccine information leaflet – and that it goes away on its own in a few days, but I cannot find anything saying if it is the same as getting the virus. I’m not allowing cat visits for 3+ months, but my mom has a kitten too and probably we won’t be able to visit each others house for a few months? That is somewhat scary but well..

        He was on fluids for a night and a day (although not showing skin signs of dehydration) and now I’m just controlling the water intake and giving plenty wet food along with the dry one. He is also getting daily antibiotic shots until thursday to help fight that infection. I’ll probably ask the vet for a virus blood check maybe? Vaccines are important, I know, but I was shocked to learn he was sick from something I’ve done to him 😦

        Regarding your oldest cat, I can only imagine.. I lost my first cat ever a month ago to a renal failure I still don’t know why got her, she was a 2 year old that changed our lives and it was the worst thing ever to watch her going from apparently healthy but not eating to having to be euthanised for not responding to fluids in a week (had fluid in her lungs, even with Furosemide and manitol..) I couldn’t believe my eyes as we lost her… So I know its hard and have to thank you as an animal lover for all the effort you put in your kitties health 🙂

      • I am so sorry that you’ve had so much to go through – but it’s obvious that you love your pets and they can count on you to do what’s in their best interest. Sending you good thoughts – I hope it’s a simple reaction to the shots and he feels better soon!

  11. It really is hard! But I cannot thing in a different way, they’re our responsability so only whats best! 🙂
    Yesterday we went in for a second antibiotic shot and the vet is convinced it was the mix of the triplice vaccine (which includes calicivirus) and the FeLV that caused this reaction. For some kittens is too much to take them together. He is great now, jumping around and eating and feeling great. I hope it will continue that way 🙂 Thank you so much for your help and your kind words 🙂

  12. I had two cats before I moved to the US. My parents had 3 cats plus a stray that comes into the house sometimes.

    When I moved, my two cats temporarily moved in with my parents. Within a month, both of my cats had a severe fever, were lethargic, and lost their appetites. (An identical fever and passed around my parents’ cats a couple of years previously.)

    The fever lasted almost two weeks, and did not respond to anitiotics. All cats eventually recovered on their own, but two of my parents’ cats were left with heart murmurs (unknown if related).

    Anyway, fast forward to 10 months later and I had one of my cats shipped over to the US. Within days of being here, she had crusty eyes (my mum said she had that there too, but never previously) and chin acne. Now the vet also said she has bad gingivitis (she’s only 3).

    Does this sound like calcivirus? None of the cats have had sores or ulcers.

  13. I’m a foster parent for a rescue here in New Mexico, & about 2 1/2 weeks ago I got a kitten that has calicvirus all I was told about it was “it’s just like a cat cold” so I quarantined the kitten & didn’t think anymore about it until recently when 1of the other kittens became sick. She went from her normal self to lethargic & very needy, I named her Fearless cause that’s what she is on a daily basis she even rides on the shop vac when I’m using it. So I looked it up & found your post. All the info from you & the feedback from everyone else is indispensable. I have 10 kittens between 8weeks to 6months including 2 of my own that have been exposed 3that are sneezing w/watery eyes fearless (6months) is the worst a couple others that r lethargic but nothing else & a couple others that have sores in their moth or on the nose or elsewhere. It seems like the virus has been generous enough to split apart & given each one of the cats a piece of itself. So basically I’ve got the Whole Damn virus here just split up into 10 different cats, which makes some sense. Thanks to your info & all the feedback, the cats are doing better. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for all the help that you’ve given me so I could get through this horrible “cat cold” Yeah I’m not using that vet anymore ever.

  14. Thanks for any other excellent article. The place else may just anybody get that type of info in such an ideal manner of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m at the look for such information.

  15. It is heartbreaking to read all of your posts. We have 8 cats, ranging from 1.5 years to 16 years. We also used to foster kittens for a cat rescue. A few months ago our 3 oldest cats (14, 15, and 16 years of age) began to lose weight. We took them to the vets and had dental treatment done. Each had a couple of teeth removed and antibiotics for gum ulceration. We thought that would be the end of it. Our 14 year old cat had undergone several courses of treatment and was still haviing gum problems. Our 2nd eldest also developed an indolent eye ulcer. None of our cats (including our past fosters) have shown any signs of flu and are all indoor cats, so you could imagine our surprise and horror at finding out that this cat had Calicivirus. The vet is assuming all 8 of our cats now have it. We have spent thousands on vet bills in the past few months, and the 14 year old has just gone back to the vets today for yet another course of antibiotics for her gums. I was very careful with hygiene (being a nurse myself) and had quarantined the foster kittens. As no cat showed symtoms we do not know where the calicivirus came from. It could have come from our own cats as they were added to our family or it could have come from the rescue.. I just don’t know. I am feeling very guilty that I may have brought this horrible disease into our home. I am so very grateful that none of my cats have experienced the other symptoms, but am still so worried for our oldies and do not know how we can keep affording the vet bills.

    • Despite all your pain and stress, you’ve taken time to share your experience. That will help others. This is an evil and nasty illness… ranging from very mild to deadly. It’s heartbreaking to watch those we love go through this – and crushing for those of us who feel we have done something to bring this upon of fur family. You haven’t – it can come from seemingly nowhere. You are a hero – not only to your own cats, but to those you help. Without people like you, there would be no way … no hope for those left behind. Because they can’t thank you, I will. My heartfelt wishes and thoughts are with you

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