Can Cats Get Colds? Yes, and Here’s What to Do if Your Cat Has a Cold

The weather outside is frightful and your cat has been feeling less than delightful. She’s sneezing an awful lot lately and there’s some kind of funky discharge coming out of her nose and eyes. She’s breathing through her mouth as well, which you’ve never seen her do before.

Reminds you an awful lot of what you went through recently during flu season…is it possible that your cat caught your cold? Wait…can cat even get colds?

Can Cats Get Colds?

Yes, dear human – cats can catch colds. The cat version of a cold is called feline upper respiratory disease and it’s actually pretty common, just like the common cold is for us humans.

The good news for you (and your guilt) is that your cat certainly did not get it from you. The most common cause for a human cold is a rhinovirus, while cat colds are usually caused by feline herpes virus or calicivirus.

So if both you and your cat are feeling under the weather, feel free to keep each other company without worrying whether you’ll catch one another’s cold.

How to Tell if Your Cat Has a Cold

The most common reason to suspect a cat cold is sneezing. But not every sneeze is cause for alarm. Even if your cat has been awful sneezy lately, it could be due to dust bunnies or even the dust from their litter box. Some cats also suffer from their own version of seasonal allergies so if it’s springtime, you’ll just have to wait ’til the flowers have finished blooming.

But if your cat is sneezing excessively and displaying one or more of the following cat cold symptoms, it might be time to schedule a visit to the vet.

Common Cat Cold Symptoms:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Excessive coughing
  • Nose and eye discharge
  • Ulcers in nose, eyes, or mouth
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite, refusing favorite foods
  • Dehydration
  • Congestion and mouth breathing

Your vet can test cultures taken from affected areas in the nose, mouth and throat for the presence of viruses that cause feline upper respiratory disease. He may give you medication designed to boost your cat’s immune system and interfere with the reproduction of herpesvirus.

If you want to make treatment painless and the cold isn’t bad enough that the cat is refusing food, be sure to ask for this in the form of a cream with an attractive scent and taste that you can squirt on your cat’s food. Your vet may also give you an antibiotic to help your cat fight off secondary infections like pneumonia.

What to Do if Your Cat Has a Cold

Watching your beloved cat suffer from a cold is tough, but the good news is that most cat colds are generally not serious and only last at most seven to ten days.

So the best thing you can do in the meantime is to make sure your cat is getting plenty of rest, food and liquids to help her recover from the cold.

An apparent loss of appetite may mean that your cat can’t smell her food and she may refuse to eat even her favorite treats if the cold is bad enough. You probably dislike the idea of force-feeding a cat, so try a simple tip like heating up canned food. The warmth intensifies the scent, which can help entice your cat and encourage her to eat.

It’s especially important to keep your cat warm and dry. Cats prefer temperatures above 70 degrees even when they’re not sick. If your cat gets wet (which will usually be because she had an accident), dry her off with a towel or hair dryer on low power or make sure to keep her in a warm place while she dries off.

If you can place a space heater in the area where your cat normally sleeps or get a heated cat bed, this can also help prevent chills while your cat recovers.

You’ll also want to check out some home remedies for cat colds that will help to clear up the congestion while your cat recovers.

Lastly, keep in mind that although most cat colds aren’t serious, the virus that caused the cold never completely leaves your cat’s system, even with treatment. That can lead to recurring sickness or even a more serious secondary infection so be sure to monitor your cat closely for signs of recovery or worsening symptoms.

How Can You Prevent Cat Colds?

If you have multiple cats and one of them starts developing a case of “the sniffles,” isolate that cat from the other cats so that the infection won’t spread. (Yes, even if the cat is used to having the run of the house and gives you a fight over being quarantined!)

Your cats should always have access to clean food and water and a clean litter box. Your house should also be kept clean to prevent an environment in which germs can breed. If you hate housekeeping, you might consider obtaining a Roomba that is pretty good at sweeping up pet hair.

Your house should be kept above 70 degrees so your cats won’t catch chills, especially during the winters. And if you give your cat a bath or if they get wet for any reason, dry them off as quickly as possible. You might also consider asking your vet about vaccines that can prevent infections.

Colds usually aren’t all that serious, especially if you can create an environment in which your cat won’t catch an infection all that often and seek treatment as soon as possible when she does catch a cold. If you suspect that it might be something other than a simple cold or you don’t want your cat suffer more than necessary from a cold, be sure to take your cat to the vet right away when you start noticing symptoms.

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