Just like their owners, a cat is capable of catching a cold. Here, our Hermitage vets explain the causes and symptoms of a cat cold, as well as what to do when your cat has a cold.
How did my cat catch a cold?
Sneezing and sniffles are signs that your cat has a cold, but you may be wondering how your cat even caught a cold in the first place. And, more importantly, how you can avoid it in the future.
Just like colds in humans, a cat cold is contagious. This means that outdoor cats are more likely to find themselves with the cold virus than indoor cats because they are more likely to interact with other cats.
Cat colds are upper respiratory infections (URI) caused by bacteria or a virus. It is not contagious for humans, but can easily transmit among cats, especially in compact conditions. So if you've boarded your cat recently and they now have a cold, it's likely your pet was near another cat suffering from a cold.
Signs & Symptoms
If your cat does in fact have a cold, you will notice at least a few of the following symptoms"
- watery eyes
- runny nose
- mild fever
- loss of appetite
More Severe Symptoms
- reduced appetite
How to Care for Your Sick Cat
If your cat has a cold, you can help them feel less uncomfortable by wiping their runny nose with a clean cloth, and runny eyes with a cloth and saline solution. You can also run a humidifier so the air isn't too dry.
If your cat seems to be stuffed up, making breathing a little difficult, secure them in their pet carrier, put a bowl of hot water in front of the cage, and cover both with a blanket for about 15 minutes.
It's important for your cat to continue to eat and drink so they can get better quicker. Food that is warmed up and easier to swallow might make this process more appealing for them. They also need to stay warm, so place an extra blanket in their bed or favorite area to curl up.
Never give human cold medication (or any medication without the advice of your vet) to your cat. Always speak with your vet to see what they recommend for your pet.
If your cat's eyes are red and inflamed and the discharge is clear you can cleanse and soothe your cat's watery eyes by applying a saline solution with gauze pads. You should contact a vet if the discharge becomes yellow, green, or thick.
When to Seek Veterinary Care
As with humans, it's important to be careful with older cats, kittens, and cats with other conditions that may make them more susceptible to the effects of a cold. This is especially true of cats that are nursing, or that haven't been vaccinated. If your cat falls into one of these categories, make an appointment immediately.
In most cases, cat colds are harmless and symptoms will go away within 1-2 weeks. Their health and behavior do need to be monitored, however, and if there is no sign of improvement by the fourth day, you should make an appointment with your vet. A persisting cold that does not get treated properly may develop into pneumonia.
In any case, if your cat begins coughing, has difficulty breathing, or stops eating, they need to see a vet as soon as possible.