Can Cats Catch Colds?

Sneezing, nasal discharge, coughing, fever, or the sniffles - just like us, cats too can catch colds! Known as feline upper respiratory disease, and generally quite common, the majority of these conditions are caused by the herpesvirus and calicivirus.

Most feline colds last about seven to ten days and are generally not serious, usually spread by wet sneezes. Even with treatment, however, the virus never truly leaves your cat’s system, making it possible for the sickness to recur. Some upper respiratory diseases can be serious and may lead to pneumonia if not closely monitored.

What Should I Look Out For if I think my Cat has a Cold?

If your cat is exhibiting any of the following, it’s time to schedule a visit with your local Banfield veterinarian:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Excessive coughing
  • Discharge from nose or eyes
  • Painful ulcers on the eyes, nose, or in the mouth
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Congestion with open-mouth breathing
 

How Is the Cold Diagnosed and Treated?

If ulcers are present, your veterinarian may take cultures from your cat’s mouth, throat, or nose to be examined for a definitive diagnosis. Although antibiotics don’t fight off viruses, most feline upper respiratory infections are treated with anti-bacterial medications to avoid any potential complications due to secondary bacteria taking advantage of your pet’s weakened immune system. Oral medications, eye ointments, medications meant to stimulate your cat’s immune system, and other medications that interfere with the herpesvirus reproduction may also be prescribed to help combat the virus.

A vaccine is available to help fight against upper respiratory infections, and it has been added to the basic distemper injectable vaccine in a combination injection.

How Can I Help?

If your cat is congested, you can help keep his or her eyes and nasal passages clear by removing the discharge, increasing the humidity in your home with a vaporizer, and using a nasal decongestant if prescribed by your doctor. Make sure that your cat takes in plenty of food and water. It may seem uncomfortable, but you might have to force feed your cat if her ability to smell her food is affected by the sickness clogging her nasal passages. If this is the case, then your cat will resist eating normally, so checking her food bowl and making sure she is well fed is especially important in times of sickness. In the most severe cases of upper respiratory infections, hospitalization may be needed to perform a variety of precautionary measures, such as fluid therapy, the administering supplemental oxygen, or the placing of a feeding tube.

Need More Information?

If you have any other health concerns about your cat, feel free to reach out to your local veterinarian with any questions you may have, or to schedule an appointment. To find the answer for any other health concerns, look through our Pet Health Resources library or our Ask a Vet library.