Most of us are all too familiar with the sniffling, sneezing, aches, and chills that are the dreaded harbingers of cold and flu season.
Every year, we take all of the recommended necessary precautions to make sure we stay safely away from those crazily contagious colds; but do we take those same precautions for our cats?
And do we really need to?
The answer, of course, is yes!
After all, cat colds are just as common and contagious as human colds, much to the surprise of long-time and first-time pet owners alike.
So naturally, the next question is: What should I do if my kitty companion contracts a cold this coming season?
Table of Contents
The Common Cause of Kitty Colds: Why Cats Get Sick
When looking out for your cat’s health and well being, it’s important to keep in mind that outdoor cats are far more likely to contract colds and other contagious illnesses than indoor cats.
Three times more likely, in fact, according to a study conducted at Auburn University in Alabama.
This is because they have increased contact with potentially un-vaccinated strays or animals that may have a contagious illness that they can then pass on to other animals that they come into contact with.
If you have one or more cats that intermittently spend time both indoors and outdoors, the increased risk of catching a cold or other contagious illness also applies.
It is pertinent and very important to take this into consideration when helping your cat through the recovery process and contemplating ways to significantly lower your cat’s risk of falling ill again in the future.
We all want what is best for our little furry friends after all, and want them to stay healthy and happy.
So, what exactly causes these kitty colds in the first place?
Much like their human counterparts, cat colds are caused by a virus that results in an upper respiratory infection, or URI.
There are two primary sources of this virus; namely, feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. (1.)
The viral nature of this infection makes it easily communicable between cats, though humans are unable to contract colds from their furry feline friends.
Simply put, cats can only contract colds from other cats.
This virus can be transmitted in one of two ways: through contact with the infected cat or contact with the bodily fluids of an infected cat.
These include, but are not limited to, saliva, nasal discharge, and seepage from the eyes.
The common occurrences of such hazards are heightened in the haunts of outdoor cats, and therefore help to explain the increased risk of infection that outdoor cats face.
That being said, if you start to notice the sickly signs of a kitty cold manifesting in your cuddly companion, don’t be too alarmed!
Most feline colds only last seven to ten days and typically pose no serious risk to your cat’s long-term health.
Additionally, the signs and symptoms are relatively easy to pick up on, which means that there is no immediate need to take your cat to the vet if you find them a little under the weather.
Are Cats Colds Contagious to Humans?
You don’t have to really worry about this, since your cat can not give you his cold.
Other cats, on the other hand could get the cold as it can spread between cats.
So, you won’t be able to get sick from your cat’s cold, but if you do have another cat in your home he might be at risk of catching it.
Thankfully, there is no known virus that can cross between humans and cats, and make us both have upper respiratory symptoms.
Maybe there will be a virus that can do this some day in the future as these things often tend to mutate or develop, but not yet which we can be thankful for.
So no, your cat will not infect you with his cold most likely.
Can Cat Sneezing Infect Humans?
Most viruses that cause a cold tend to be specific to each species so your cat probably did not get it from you, in case you were wondering…
So there is no need to feel guilty for that.
You don’t have to worry about your cat sneezing on you in most cases as you can’t get the “common cat cold” from them.
But, cats do sometimes get sick from something called “chlamydia psittaci”, which is basically chlamydia in cats. (1.)
I know, it sounds awful, and it is, but it is not quite the same as it is in humans and it is not a sexually transmitted disease when it comes to cats.
It causes sneezing in cats and runny eyes, and can on some occasions be spread to humans but it is relatively rare.
It is always a good idea to wash your hands if your cat has sneezed on you, just to be on the safer side.
Also, you would still wash your hands if some person sneezed on you, even if you knew they weren’t sick right?
It is just a matter of good hygiene so remember to always wash your hands regularly.
Can Cats Get Sick From Being too Cold?
These animals can handle the cold pretty well, but if the temperature drops below freezing, they can be at risk for hypothermia and frostbite.
They should always have a safe and warm place to retreat to, so they don’t get too cold.
Signs and Symptoms
Considering their close resemblance to the colds that we as humans are all too acquainted with, cat colds share many of the same signs and symptoms that make them relatively easy to detect.
The following are all common indications of a feline upper respiratory infection:
- watery eyes
- sneezing (usually wet)
- runny nose
- mild fever
The presence of one or more of these in your feline friend is not an immediate cause for concern.
However, it would be wise to seek veterinary assistance if these symptoms persist for more than the standard period of time (that is, five to ten days), if symptoms worsen or do not improve four days after their onset, or if your cat begins to show any of the following:
- excessive sneezing
- congestion with breathing through the open mouth
- reduced appetite or loss of appetite completely
- abnormally high fever
- ulcers around the eyes, or in the nose or mouth
These are clear indications of more serious underlying illnesses such as pneumonia or calicivirus (a viral upper respiratory infection that solely affects felines and if often referred to as a “cat flu”). (2.)
It is imperative to closely monitor these cases in order to effectively treat them and prevent these illnesses from devolving into more serious conditions with longer lasting health effects.
Also read: The different types of cat breeds.
At-Home Kitty Care
Nothing hurts the heart a kitty caregiver more than having to see their furry friend suffer.
Luckily, there are a variety of actions that you can take to help ease your cat’s symptoms and help them hurry along on the road to recovery!
Discharge from the eyes and nose is not uncommon with feline upper respiratory infections.
While this may cause your cat a little discomfort and difficulty breathing, fortunately it has a relatively simple solution.
Gently wiping your cat’s nose with a clean cloth can help eliminate the discharge and make your cat more comfortable.
For watery eyes, you can use a saline solution with gauze or a clean cloth to carefully wipe the area around the eyes and reduce the presence of the emission fluid.
Most of us know from experience just how annoying congestion can get as we struggle to breathe with a “stuffy nose.”
Unfortunately, it remains a major symptom of colds in both humans and cats, and considering that cats can’t quite blow their noses like we can, you’ll have to rely on alternate methods of helping clear your cat’s nasal passages.
One way to help ease your cat’s congestion is to keep an environment in your house where the air is moist and humid, making it easier for them to breathe.
For example, putting your cat in the bathroom after you have taken a hot shower will allow the damp air to loosen their congestion and clear their nasal passages (just don’t forget to let your cat out after 10 to 15 minutes!).
The most effective way of easing this congestion, however, is to carry out steam inhalation treatments.
These require putting your cat in their travel carrier or cage, securing the door, and placing a bowl of hot water in front of it.
It’s important to note that you should not add anything to the water unless explicitly instructed to do so by a veterinarian.
This includes any and all decongestants and special inhalation products, whether they are intended for human or feline use.
The presence of these may cause your cat increased discomfort rather than congestion relief, and it is always wise to consult a veterinarian before giving your cat any sort of medication.
Next, cover the bowl and the carrier with a cloth and let them sit for 15 minutes.
You can repeat this treatment two to three times a day, depending on the severity of your cat’s congestion and their individual needs.
Another side effect of congestion may be the impairment of your cat’s sense of smell.
They may not immediately take to their food due to a lack of appetite caused by their inability to smell it.
Therefore, there are several important actions you can take to make sure that your feline friend is still receiving their daily nutrients.
First, carefully heating up their moist food for a short amount of time may make the process of eating more appealing to them.
Especially if they are suffering from an irritated throat (which may also explain their avoidance of dry kibble or treats, even if they have consistently been a normal part of their diet while they were in good health).
It’s also necessary to closely monitor how much your cat is eating to make sure that they are still maintaining their standard daily caloric intake.
Cats are likely to eat less when suffering from an illness such as a cold due to the inability of their senses to stimulate their appetite.
It’s important to make sure that they aren’t losing weight during their illness so that they can recover and get back to their regular standard of health as soon as possible.
Another common symptom of a kitty cold is the presence of a low-grade fever.
As a result, your furry friend may feel a little chilly compared to usual, so you might consider putting out an extra blanket or two in their bed or favorite sleeping spot to help them stay warm.
Knowing When You Should See the Vet
When providing at-home care for any pet, it’s critical to refrain from giving them any sort of medication, whether intended for humans or animals, without the prior approval and/or prescription of a licensed veterinarian.
Most feline upper respiratory infections will go away on their own in five to ten days, so your focus should be to ease your cat’s symptoms and help them maintain their normal nutritional patterns until their health has been restored.
So, when exactly should you seek professional health for your kitty’s cold concerns?
While the average time frame of an upper respiratory infection is between five and ten days, signs of improvement should begin to become apparent to you by the fourth day.
If you notice symptoms worsening, such as an increased loss of appetite or more frequent wet sneezing, you should contact a veterinarian to schedule an appointment.
Though this is not often the case, some colds can develop into pneumonia if they are not closely monitored and their symptoms and causes correctly treated.
It’s also imperative to consider the prior health of your cat before they contracted the cold, and whether or not they have any previous conditions that would put them at a higher risk in this instance.
For example, older cats, kittens, nursing cats, un-vaccinated cats, and those with prior health conditions may be more susceptible to the impact of a cold.
If you begin to note signs and symptoms of a feline respiratory infection in your cat who falls into one of these categories, it would be wise to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
While the cold may go away on its own after some time, it’s considerably risky to assume this, and refrain from seeking professional advice immediately if your cat is influenced by extenuating circumstances in regard to their health.
It is always better to go see the vet to be safe and sure!
Finally, if you notice that your cat has difficulty breathing, has stopped eating, or has begun coughing, you should have a veterinarian examine them as soon as possible.
All of these are drastic signs of a worsening condition, though it may be possible to successfully treat this advanced illness by seeking veterinary advice immediately.
Again, this only occurs in the most severe of cases, and therefore should not be taken lightly.
Also read: Can cats eat tuna?
Does a Cat Cold Go Away On It’s Own?
In the vast majority of cases, it is a harmless cold that will go away on it’s own in maybe one or two weeks.
You should always make sure to keep a close eye on your little cat though and see how they are doing and if they are getting better.
If they don’t seem to be getting any better by the fourth day, you should definitely see a vet to check on them.
Also, if they seem to be struggling or getting very sick in any case, go see the vet.
Helping Your Cat Regain Their Strength
It’s not uncommon for us to find our feline friends feeling a little under the weather as cold and flu season starts to roll in.
Luckily in, most cases of feline respiratory infection, the cold goes away on its own with little required of us but the intermittent relief of uncomfortable symptoms.
In conclusion, here are the main symptoms to look out for in your cat, and what you can do to help alleviate some of the discomfort that follows them:
- runny nose – wipe with a clean cloth
- watery eyes – gently wipe with saline solution and a clean cloth or piece of gauze
- loss of appetite – slightly warm up food before serving and carefully monitor eating habits and caloric intake
- wet sneezing – attentively observe to make sure it doesn’t worsen or become excessive
- mild fever and accompanying chills – place extra blankets around your cat’s favorite napping spots to help keep them warm
- nasal congestion – 15 minute steam inhalation treatments up to three times a day
It’s also recommended that sick cats be kept away from any other animals that may be present in the house, due to the rapidly contagious nature of feline respiratory infections between cats.
Make sure your sick cat has easy access to plenty of clean drinking water and a safe place to rest in, without having to worry.
It would be wise to separate your pets as soon as you notice symptoms appearing, in order to prevent spreading as much as possible.
In doing this, you are helping your pets stay happy and healthy, so they can continue to live the peaceful and carefree lifestyle we all want for our beloved companions.