Critter Culture
What You Should Know About Cat Colds

What You Should Know About Cat Colds

Critter Culture Staff



Cats are curious creatures that prowl their domains with a combination of grace and hilarity. When they catch a cold, owners often spiral into a state of worry. Fortunately, most cat colds aren't a major cause for concern. When you have the right information, you can support your cat through their recovery and help them return to a state of good health.


Signs your cat has a cold

bright red cat sweetly sleeping on the couch, the cat fell ill infinityyy/ Getty Images

Much like humans, cats display a distinct set of symptoms when they have colds. Typically, they include

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Mild fever
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Eating less than usual

Of course, all these symptoms aren't exclusive to a virus. Together, they could also indicate an allergy. However, one or two symptoms on their own may suggest another feline condition. The trick is to observe their symptoms for two to three weeks, then contact your vet if symptoms have not resolved.


Ways to treat your cat's cold

Careful veterinarian trainee in blue uniform embraces adorable tabby cat at table in modern clinic office. Medical care of pets dima_sidelnikov/ Getty Images

When they have a cold, your cat will certainly appreciate a little extra love and care. Try using a humidifier to increase their comfort levels. If your cat's nose and eyes are runny but they'll let you touch them, wipe these areas gently. Make sure you provide your cat with a warm and comfortable place to rest. Even if they have a poor appetite, continue feeding them as normal and ensure they have plenty of water. Like people, cats benefit from drinking fluids to support their immune system when they're sick.


Knowing when to call the vet

Cute blue-eyed cat is lying on the table while being examined by the veterinarian vadimguzhva/ Getty Images

Sometimes it's necessary to call an expert. If your cat hasn't recovered after two to three weeks, contact your vet for advice. You should also contact your vet if the following scenarios arise:

  • Your cat is lethargic and difficult to rouse
  • Their breathing appears unusually fast
  • They're no longer eating and drinking
  • They're struggling to breathe


How your vet may diagnose a cat cold

Cute cat getting a checkup bymuratdeniz/ Getty Images

Your vet will start by asking a few questions about your cat's medical history. They'll likely observe your cat's vital signs, as these give them a baseline idea of how severe the cold is. Depending on their initial findings, they may want to take blood tests, an upper respiratory PCR panel, or an x-ray. Each test allows the vet to measure the severity of the infection and potentially identify the root cause.


Viral cat cold causes

Care and care of pets, treatment of sick animal, hair combing, tenderness Larisa Stefanuyk/ Getty Images

Most cat colds are caused by one of two viruses: Feline Herpesvirus (FHV) or Feline Calicivirus (FCV). FHV spreads from the saliva or wet eye and nose membranes of another cat. In addition to typical cat cold symptoms, FHV may cause conjunctivitis. FCV spreads via direct contact or airborne particles. In addition to the usual cat cold symptoms, your cat may experience mouth ulcers if they have FCV.


Bacterial cat cold causes

Tired and bored cat lies on a book near his owner. Dmytro Varavin/ Getty Images

Bacterial cat colds are less common than viral ones. Problematic bacteria include chlamydophila and bordetella. A cat with chlamydophila may experience red eyes as well as classic cold symptoms. Bordetella is more likely to generate chest symptoms than chlamydophila. Your cat may also start gagging with no apparent cause if they catch bordetella.


How vets treat cat colds

Vet listening to a cat's heart with a stethoscope, no faces shown Carlos Andres/ Getty Images

Antibiotics are appropriate for treating bacterial colds. Your vet may start with a broad antibiotic that covers multiple bacteria and then move on to one that's more specific when the PCR results return. Both viral and bacterial infections may require one or two days of hospitalization. Usually, hospitalization is necessary when your cat shows signs of dehydration and is unwilling to drink. By providing your cats with supportive therapies, your vet makes it easier for them to recover.


Preventing the spread of cat colds

Close up of a man’s hand stroking a British Short Hair cat’s head with his thumb as she sleeps on a grey sofa in a house in Carlos G. Lopez/ Getty Images

Although you can't vaccinate against all cat cold germs, maintaining your cat's vaccine schedule is important. You'll provide them with protection against the most common viruses, and their immune systems can usually fight off anything else. If you have an outdoor cat, try encouraging them to spend more time indoors during the winter, which is the season when viruses are most prevalent. Doing so prevents them from interacting with too many other cats. Otherwise, ensure you provide them with a stress-free home, clean water, and a balanced diet.


Protecting other cats in your household

Beautiful european cat is relaxing in the soft white blanket on a sofa Alikaj2582/ Getty Images

Cats usually catch colds from each other, so it's natural to want to protect the other cats in your household when one of them gets sick. You may be tempted to isolate the ill family member, but such measures aren't always effective. The infectious period may start well before they show symptoms, which means the other cats might already have the virus.

Many of the measures you employ to treat a sick cat can also help protect your healthy ones. For example, provide them with a warm and cozy cat bed, use a humidifier, and keep them well hydrated.


What not to do for cat colds

Ill cat lying with high temperature Vladdeep/ Getty Images

Never give your cat a human cold remedy. Their liver and kidneys don't work in the same way as a human's, which means such medications may prove fatal. You should also avoid giving them an expired cat prescription—especially antibiotics. You may also want to avoid bathing your cat, as the stress of bathing can weaken their immune system at a point when they need it to function well.



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