In early 2006, the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) H5N1 of the Asian lineage caused the death of wild aquatic birds in Northern Germany. In the mainly affected areas, a trans-species transmission of HPAIV H5N1 to mammals occurred between birds and domestic cats and 1 Stone Marten (Martes foina), respectively. Here, we report lesions and distribution of influenza virus antigen in 3 cats infected naturally with HPAIV H5N1 A/swan/Germany/R65/06. The hemagglutinin partial nucleotide sequences of the viruses were genetically closely related to a H5N1 HPAIV obtained from a dead Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) of the same area. At necropsy, within the patchy dark-red and consolidated lungs, there was granulomatous pneumonia caused by Aelurostrongylus sp. Histologically, the main findings associated with influenza in all cats were bronchointerstitial pneumonia and marked random hepatic necrosis. In addition, all animals displayed lymphoid necrosis in the spleen and Peyer's patches and necrosis of the adrenal cortex. Immunohistochemically, nucleoprotein of HPAIV was present intralesionally in the lungs, liver, adrenal glands, and lymphoid tissues. Oropharyngeal swabs were shown to be suited to detect HPAIV by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in these cats, despite the paucity of influenza virus antigen in the upper respiratory tract by means of immunohistochemistry. The results show that outdoor cats in areas affected by HPAIV in wild birds are at risk for lethal infection. In conclusion, hepatic necrosis was, besides bronchointerstitial pneumonia, the primary lesion, suggesting that in naturally infected cats, damage to the liver plays an important role in the pathogenesis of H5N1 influenza.