Cats Protection Inverurie
Avian Influenza (‘bird flu’)


In light of current media coverage related to the death of a domestic cat in Germany from bird ‘flu, Cats Protection is urging pet owners not to panic about their pets’ health, or their own health.

Beth Skillings, Head of Veterinary Services for the charity, agrees with both leading health protection professionals and the President of the British Veterinary Association, that the risks to cats, and humans, from the H5N1 virus is small.

The charity suggests pet owners keep things in perspective. There is no need for owners to rehome their cats, or have them euthanized, because of fears of infection with bird ‘flu. Furthermore, there is no need to keep cats indoors.

The risk of cats catching bird ‘flu is small – it mainly happens through felines eating infected poultry – but let’s remind ourselves that the H5N1 has not been found in this country. And even in areas of the world where bird ‘flu is present, there has not been large numbers of deaths in mammals from the disease.

There have been no recorded cases of cat to human infection from the virus. Cats do not have their own influenza virus (unlike humans or poultry) so the concern of cats acting as a host in which the virus changes to become transmissible between people is extremely unlikely. Furthermore, there is limited evidence of cat to cat transmission of the virus in a non-laboratory environment.

The charity suggests that concerned owners could do the following:

  1. Try and keep their cats away from wild waterfowl and poultry.
  2. In line with DEFRA guidelines, use rubber gloves to safely dispose of any wild birds and poultry carcasses that their cat presents in a sealed bag in household rubbish outside .
  3. Don’t feed raw meat or poultry to cats, not only because of avian flu, but because of the risk of salmonella and other infections.
  4. In the case of predating cats, try and keep pets in at dawn and dusk to lessen predatory activity.
  5. Observe normal hygiene practices when handling cat or bird faeces.

Please note that no vaccine is licensed to prevent bird ‘flu in cats.

Spring migration of waterfowl heading east will start soon. Infected waterfowl will then hopefully carry the virus in the opposite direction to the UK. In the meantime, any unusual deaths of waterfowl or waders should be reported to the DEFRA Helpline (08459 335577).