How Cats Catch Colds
While sneezing, sniffles, and fever are all signs that your cat has a cold, you may wonder how this happened in the first place. We've had many concerned kitty owners call us and ask, "My cat has a cold. What can I do to help them get better - and keep them from getting sick again?"
Cat colds are contagious, just like human colds. This means that cats that spend time outdoors are more likely to catch a cold virus than indoor cats. This is because they are more likely to interact with other cats.
Also referred to as upper respiratory infections (URI), cat colds are caused by a virus or bacteria. Though we can't catch our cat's cold, cats can transmit this illness. This is especially true in compact conditions like a home or boarding facility. So, if you've boarded your cat recently and they have now developed a cold, it's likely that your kitty was near another cat suffering from a cold.
While cat colds are relatively harmless, symptoms may lead to more serious infections and illnesses.
Signs & Symptoms of a Cat Cold
If your cat is displaying severe or prolonged symptoms, such as those listed below, schedule a wellness exam with your vet at Ellenton Animal Hospital.
- Loss of appetite
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
Does my cat have allergies or a cold?
The signs of a cold are very similar to the symptoms of allergies. Both can include symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing, coughing, or watery eyes. Typically, if your cat has allergies rather than a cold, it will be a chronic issue that you might notice consistently popping up over time or happening during a specific instance.
For example, if your cat is allergic to a component of their litter, you may notice they sneeze while using the litter box. In addition, allergies can often be accompanied by symptoms like digestive upset (gas, bloating) or skin itchiness and irritation, two things not commonly seen with colds.
If your cat is experiencing symptoms and you are unsure of the cause, it's always best to have your cat examined by a vet.
What to Do If Your Cat Has a Cold
Our veterinary team at Ellenton Animal Hospital understands that watching your cat cough and sneeze when they have a cold might make you feel somewhat helpless. However, we encourage you not to despair. There are a few things you may be able to do to help your kitty feel better.
You can use a clean cloth to wipe their runny nose, and a saline solution to wipe their runny eyes. Consider running a humidifier if the air is especially dry.
If your cat seems to be stuffed up, this can make breathing difficult. After you've secured them in their pet carrier, place a bowl of hot water in front of their cage, and cover both with a blanket for 15 minutes.
Make sure your cat continues to eat and drink so they can heal at a quicker pace. Warming their food up may make it more appealing to them and easier to swallow. They also need to stay warm, so you may want to place an extra blanket on their bed or favorite area to give them a warm space to curl up.
Do not ever give human cold medication (or administer any medication without your vet's advice) to your cat. Always ask your vet what they recommend for your pet.
When to Seek Veterinary Care
In most cases, cat colds are harmless and will typically be completely gone within 1-2 weeks. You do need to monitor their condition, however. If there is no sign of improvement by the fourth day, you should visit your vet as a cold that does not get treated properly may develop into pneumonia.
Cat colds can lead to more serious infections if left untreated. It is particularly important to contact your vet if you have a senior cat, young kitten, or immune-compromised cat, as they may be more susceptible to the effects of a cold. Cats that are nursing or haven't been vaccinated are also at risk for more serious effects of illness.
In any case, if your cat begins coughing, has difficulty breathing, or stops eating, they need to see a vet as soon as possible.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.