The world of cats can often seem like an idyllic land of cozy naps in sunny spots, pleasant kneading and purring, and the occasional goofy antics. Unfortunately, there are some harsh realities in catland, one of which is the Feline Panleukopenia Virus, commonly known as distemper in cats.

Just the name of this disease is scary enough, but the reality is much more terrifying. This illness is not something any cat owner wants to hear, which is why it's vital to be informed. Read on to find out more about distemper in cats, its symptoms, causes, treatments, and how to prevent infection.


  1. What is Feline Distemper
  2. Symptoms of Distemper in Cats
  3. Causes of Distemper in Cats
  4. Distemper Shot for Cats
  5. Treatment of Distemper in Cats
  6. Monitor Your Cat Using a Petcube Play 2 Wi-Fi Pet Cam
  7. FAQs
  8. Final Thoughts

What is Feline Distemper

Feline distemper, also known as Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FVP), is a highly contagious viral disease that wreaks havoc in the feline population. The term "Panleukopenia" translates to "a decrease in the number of all white blood cells," a symptom that is characteristic of this disease. This reduction in white blood cells leaves infected cats vulnerable to secondary infections.

The virus responsible for this feline distemper is highly resilient, can withstand extreme temperatures, and can survive in the environment for extended periods.

Kittens are particularly susceptible, with the disease often proving fatal if contracted at a very young age. Feline distemper in kittens can progress alarmingly fast, with severe symptoms appearing within mere hours.

Symptoms of Distemper in Cats

Feline distemper manifests as a severe and often deadly disease, especially in kittens. Recognizing the symptoms of distemper in cats early is the key to possibly saving a cat’s life. Some prominent signs include:

  • Lethargy: Your cat may become notably less active or unresponsive.
  • Loss of appetite: Affected cats will refuse food or show decreased interest in eating.
  • Fever: A cat that has contracted feline distemper will very often present with an elevated body temperature.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea: Severe vomiting and diarrhea can result in rapid dehydration, which can be life-threatening.
  • Neurological symptoms: In advanced stages, cats may develop coordination issues or even seizures.

If you suspect that your cat may be exposed to feline distemper, contact your vet immediately. The sooner you catch the disease and begin treatment, the better the prognosis for your cat.

Causes of Distemper in Cats

Feline Panleukopenia Virus, the cause of distemper, is highly contagious and can affect cats of any age, although kittens, sick cats, and unvaccinated cats are at an increased risk. The virus is resilient and can survive in the environment for years.

How do cats get distemper? Transmission can occur through:

  • Direct contact: Cats can contract the virus from direct interactions with an infected feline.
  • Fomites: The virus can reside on objects or fomites, such as bedding, bowls, or even a human’s hand, leading to transmission.
  • Fleas: These common pests can act as vectors, transferring the virus from one cat to another. Just one more reason to ensure your cat is regularly treated with flea protection.

Distemper Shot for Cats

Vaccination is the most effective preventative measure against distemper. The vaccine, often known as the FVRCP vaccine, protects against feline panleukopenia as well as other diseases like rhinotracheitis and calicivirus, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine research. The feline distemper vaccine is generally administered as follows:

  • Distemper vaccine for kittens: Start as early as six weeks, with boosters every 3–4 weeks until they reach 16 weeks.
  • Distemper vaccine for adult cats: Those who’ve never been vaccinated should get two doses 3–4 weeks apart, followed by a booster a year later, and then every three years.

Treatment of Distemper in Cats

If a cat contracts distemper, immediate veterinary care is essential. While there’s no cure for the virus itself, treatment once infected focuses on supportive care:

  • Fluid therapy: To combat dehydration and electrolyte imbalances resulting from severe vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Anti-nausea medications: These help reduce vomiting, preserve hydration, and stimulate the return of an appetite.
  • Antibiotics: These are usually prescribed to prevent any secondary bacterial infections.
  • Blood transfusion: In severe cases where there's a drastic drop in white blood cells, a transfusion may be recommended.

Because of the severe nature of the disease, we would never recommend attempting feline distemper treatment at home. Always contact your veterinarian and follow their advice closely.

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Monitor Your Cat Using a Petcube Play 2 Wi-Fi Pet Cam

In today’s digital age, keeping an eye on your feline friend has never been easier. With devices like the Petcube Play 2, you can monitor, interact, and even play with your cat remotely using your phone. Its features include:

  • Video streaming: High-quality camera to observe your cat’s activities. The 1080p wide-angle view and night vision ensure crisp visuals even at night.
  • Interactive laser toy: The built-in human and pet-friendly laser toy can be controlled from your phone or set to autoplay to ensure your cat is kept stimulated both mentally and physically even while you’re not there.
  • Two-way audio: Chat with your best fluffy friend and hear them talk back.

If your cat has recently recovered from an illness or is under treatment, a pet cam like the Petcube Play 2 is an invaluable way to monitor their progress and provide peace of mind when you can't be at home with them.


Can cats get distemper from dogs?

No. While both dogs and cats have diseases called 'distemper,' they are caused by different viruses and are not transmissible between species.

Is feline distemper the same as canine distemper?

No, feline distemper is not the same as canine distemper. Despite their similar names, they’re different diseases caused by distinct viruses.

How long is a cat contagious with distemper?

A cat can shed the virus for up to six weeks after recovery. It's essential to keep them isolated from other cats during this period. Make sure that you also thoroughly sanitize any blankets, bowls, toys, and beds that may be carrying the virus.

How long can a cat live with distemper?

Cats that receive and respond well to aggressive therapy early enough can go on to make a complete recovery. Unfortunately, the prognosis declines for cats with low protein levels, low temperatures, and low white blood cells. Cats with existing health issues are at higher risk of extreme illness, often resulting in death within 12 to 24 hours.

What are the side effects of the feline distemper vaccine?

For the most part, the distemper vaccine for cats is very safe. Rare or uncommon side effects can include pain and swelling at the injection site. Severe vaccine reactions are rare but include symptoms like red splotches or hives on the belly or swelling of the face. Call your vet immediately if you see these.

Does distemper calm cats down?

There is limited evidence that the distemper vaccine for cats has a calming effect on cats. At best, the vaccine may result in general lethargy for a day or two after the vaccine while the body responds by making antibodies. This is actually a good sign.

Final Thoughts

Feline distemper, while daunting, is preventable with proper knowledge and care. Vaccination is still your best bet when it comes to prevention, and swift treatment can mean the difference between life and death.

As cat owners, our feline friends rely on us for their well-being, making it essential that we are informed and proactive in their care. Whether it’s through regular vet check-ups, vaccinations, or even tech devices like the Petcube Play 2, ensuring their health and happiness is our primary duty.

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