A cat’s sneezing needs to be monitored. There are many reasons why cats sneeze, aside from having a cold. Sometimes it’s just because your pet is over-excited, or something has tickled their nose. More often, however, it’s a sign of health complaint.
Colds in cats are also known as feline upper respiratory disease. Usually, they’re the result of contagious viral or bacterial infection. If your cat encounters another feline with a cold, they could catch it too. In such a scenario, the virus will run its course, and your cat will fully recover.
This guide explains how cats are struck down by the virus, and what to do about it. Perhaps more importantly, we’ll explore the causes of feline colds and how to protect your cat from colds.
My Cat is Sneezing and Has Watery Eyes
If your cat is sneezing constantly but has dry eyes, they’re unlikely to have a virus. It’s possible that your cat put their face too close to something that tickled their nose.
Alternatively, they may have been exposed to an irritant. Air fresheners or cigarette smoke can often provoke a sneezing response in a cat. Allergies to food or the environment may also be to blame.
If your cat also has watery eyes and nasal discharge, however, they almost certainly have a cold (feline upper respiratory disease.)
The word ‘disease’ always sounds worrying, but this is not a terminal condition. Most cats will bounce back within ten days. However, the term disease is used because some cats never entirely rid themselves of the infection.
What sparks a cold in a cat can lay dormant within their bodies for life. It’s when a feline encounters something that brings the disease to life that they come down with a cold.
What Are the Symptoms of Colds in Cats?
Sneezing is the most obvious symptoms of a cold in your cat, but here are the other signs:
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy and depression
- Excessive drooling and gagging
- Ulcers around the nose and mouth
- Fever (typically a body temperature above 102OF)
What Causes Colds in Cats?
A cat cold is almost always caused by exposure to a virus-carrying feline. If your pet stays in a shelter or cattery, they’ll mix with a variety of cats.
Likewise, if your cat roams outdoors, there is no way of knowing who they’ll meet. As cats often rub faces to interact, contagious viruses can be quickly be passed on.
Four prominent infectious diseases cause cat colds:
- Feline Herpes (aka FHV)
- Feline Calicivirus (aka FVC)
- Bordetella Bronchiseptica
- Chlamydophila Felis
Also, considerably more serious infections can bring on cold symptoms in cats. These include Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).
FIV, as the name suggests, is comparable to HIV in humans. This disease, usually passed on through bites and scratches, attacks a cat’s immune system and systematically breaks it down.
FeLV has a similar impact, though any cat can be struck down with this condition. It’s passed on through basic social interactions, and sharing communal food and water. Thankfully both conditions are comparatively rare, and can be vaccinated against.
What is Feline Herpes?
Feline herpes or feline viral rhinopneumonitis (FVR) is extremely common and highly contagious. Unvaccinated cats will experience it at least once in their life.
Unlike the human condition of the same name, feline herpes is not a sexually transmitted infection. Instead, this is an infectious disease that is caught by sharing food or water, or grooming an infected cat. The symptoms are similar to those of the common cold.
Most cats make a full, prompt recovery from feline herpes. However, it can be uncomfortable for your pet to live with. It will typically be treated with antibiotics and plenty of rest.
However, you can also arrange a vaccination with your vet. If kept up to date, this will prevent your cat from ever developing the condition.
What is Feline Calicivirus?
Similar to FHV, FCV is a contagious condition that provokes cold and flu-like symptoms in cats. It can be passed on by interacting with an infected cat, or even through the environment. Traces of FCV can be difficult to eliminate, even with disinfectant.
It attacks the respiratory system and leaves your pet coughing, sneezing and releasing discharge. Also, FCV can provoke arthritis and limited mobility, especially in older cats.
Vaccination is advisable against this condition. In senior or vulnerable cats, FCV can lead to pneumonia. If the symptoms are recognized, an unvaccinated cat should seek medical treatment.
What is Bordetella Bronchiseptica?
Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterial zoonotic disease. This means it can be passed to other animals, and even humans. In dogs, Bordetella bronchiseptica is responsible for the condition known as kennel cough. In humans, it usually manifests as whooping cough.
As a bacterial disease, Bordetella bronchiseptica is not quite as contagious as FHV or FCV. However, cats that live nearby can easily pass the infection along. The symptoms are very familiar – coughing, sneezing, fever, and discharge from the eyes and nose.
Bordetella bronchiseptica can be vaccinated against. This usually involves your cat inhaling medicinal drops. Even if your cat is not vaccinated, it’s rarely life-threatening.
The condition is treated with antibiotics, and usually passed quickly. All the same, it’s better to avoid the inevitable discomfort that Bordetella bronchiseptica causes if possible
What is Chlamydophila Felis?
Chlamydophila felis is a feline equivalent of a human STI. In this case, we’re talking about chlamydia. Also like FHV, however, a cat will not need to mate to develop this condition. Chlamydophila felis is a bacterial infection that can be passed on through close contact in shared living arrangements.
Aside from the typical cold symptoms, the main impact of chlamydophila felis is conjunctivitis. If your cat’s ‘third eyelid’ is visible and inflamed, get them to a vet ASAP.
Conjunctivitis highly infectious, and could even infect humans. Also, it can have severe repercussions for your cat’s long-term vision. In some cases, it may even cost your cat the sight in one or both eyes.
Vaccination is available to protect against chlamydophila felis. If your cat is struck down, however, they can be treated with antibiotics. Conjunctivitis can become serious if ignored.
Should I See a Vet if My Cat Has a Cold?
A cat cold will also clear itself up with time. However, there is usually an underlying reason for a feline cold. It is safer to get your pet thoroughly checked over by a professional.
Vets will check for any ulcers, and other potential causes for the infection. They will also prescribe antibiotics if necessary, and advise on how to make your cat comfortable.
If you must take a wait-and-see approach, give it a week. If your cat has not made a full recovery, it’s time to make that appointment. If your cat experiences any trouble breathing, escalate the appointment to urgent status.
Of course, while you’re there, you can also ask about vaccination. At the risk of repeating ourselves, vaccination is vital for felines.
While a cat cold is rarely dangerous, it can have an impact on their health and immunity. In addition to the general unpleasantness associated with illness, this can be avoided through vaccination.
Do Cats Get Colds Like Humans?
A cat catching a cold is similar to the human experience. They’ll be exposed to germs through interactions with other felines, and become ill as a result. Sadly, cats also lack the human instinct to avoid anybody that is coughing or sneezing.
Your cat can also become sick by getting cold and wet. This is especially likely if your cat likes to roam outdoors. They may get caught in a downpour, and struggle to find shelter. In such a scenario, they’ll develop hypothermia, which is much more serious.
Cats generally need to run a body temperature close to 100OF to stay healthy. If their temperature drops below 95 OF, they can get very sick.
The symptoms of hypothermia resemble a cold at a glance, but they’re much more serious. Your cat will be lethargic, struggle for breath, and cough and sneeze. They will also shiver, however, be ice cold to the touch.
If your cat has been out in the cold and is suffering as a result, you must increase their body temperature. Use a hot water bottle and blankets for this. It’s also advisable to see a vet. Most cats make a full recovery from hypothermia, but there is nothing to gain by taking chances.
Can Cats Catch Colds from People?
When you have a cold, you’ll want comfort from your pet. The good news is that your cat can safely keep our company. The common cold that impacts humans cannot be passed onto a cat.
This is because colds and flu that leave us feeling like death are targeted toward the human immune system. Our bodies are built differently to those of cats. Even when a virus mutates, it’s engineered to tackle human immunity.
Are Cat Colds Contagious to Humans?
Just like a human cannot pass on a cold to a cat, a cat cannot share their cold with a human. The germs are not compatible.
This does not mean that cats can never harm humans. There are a handful of zoonotic diseases that originate in felines. Toxoplasmosis is the most notable, which is found in feline waste.
If your cat is unwell, wash your hands thoroughly every time you handle them. You will not catch their cold, this much is true. You may, however, still be dealing with bacteria that do not agree with you.
Can Cats Catch Colds from Dogs?
It’s possible that your cat will catch a cold from a dog. It’s very unlikely, though. Just like with humans, most viruses among animals are species-specific.
The only exceptions are the bacterial infections that we previous discussed – bordetella bronchiseptica and chlamydophila felis. The illness will not be identical, but the bacteria can be shared, making both animals sick.
This would require the cat and dog to be in constant, close contact, however. Very few cats and dogs will tolerate each other enough to pass on the virus.
90% of all cat colds stem from feline herpes or feline calicivirus. The clue is in the names when it comes to these infections. They are feline-specific, and will not originate within a canine companion.
How Do Indoor Cats Get Colds?
It may seem unlikely that an indoor cat will catch a cold. How can they, when they rarely interact with other felines? It all stems from the stubbornness of that pesky feline herpes.
This virus never leaves a cat’s body. It just lies dormant, especially if your pet is vaccinated. It can remain in an environment for seven weeks, though. Have you had a sick cat come to visit? Has your cat had another illness, and thus their immune system is weakened? Is your cat stressed?
The latter is arguably the most likely cause. Stress can be a trigger for feline herpes. It’s easy to think that pets have nothing to be stressed about, but you’d be surprised.
They may not need to worry about mortgages or jobs, but cats easily grow discombobulated. Changes in routine, new arrivals in the home and a lack of attention can all spark feline stress. This, in turn, leaves a cat susceptible to a cold.
Do Cat Colds Go Away on Their Own?
Typically, a cat’s cold will clear itself up. However, that’s just the cold itself – not necessarily the underlying reason. This is why it is always advisable to seek veterinary advice. It may be a case that there is more than can be done.
A cat’s cold lasts anywhere between one and four weeks. Typically, the symptoms of the cold will last around ten days. However, you should also incubate your cat for at least a week after they recover.
Just because a cat isn’t showing symptoms, it doesn’t mean the virus has left their system. They could still infect another feline, or come down with another sickness themselves.
With the aid of home treatment, you can speed up the process of your cat’s recovery. It all comes down to rest and recuperation. It’s a fine line between catering to your cat’s needs while giving them peace and quiet.
How to Treat Cat Colds at Home
Treating a cat at home largely revolves around letting the virus runs its course. AnimalWised has advice on helping a cat recover from their cold.
Your cat will need plenty of sleep, so move their bed to an empty room. This needs to be a warm, dry location with limited footfall. A cat with a cold will sleep a lot, much like a human.
This means that they can’t be around young children, or anything noisy like a TV or stereo. The temptation to remain alert will be too much, and they won’t get sufficient rest.
Also, provide plenty of blankets, and other creature comforts. A few toys are fine, but nothing that will get them too riled up or excitable.
Humidity will also help a cat with a cold. It will help them breathe easier, and clear their nose and throat. If you have a humidifier, pop it in their room. If you don’t run a hot tap in the bathroom and close the door.
Head in with your cat, and keep them in the room for around fifteen minutes. There’s no need to wash them. That’s inadvisable. They’ll just get stressed, and being cold and wet won’t help. Breathing in the steam, however, has the same impact as a humidifier.
You’ll also need to ensure that your cat gets plenty of fluids, and eats properly. Cats rarely drink enough, and this dangerous when they have a cold.
It can be very easy for a sick cat to become dehydrated. Ensure that your cat is drinking, and if they outright refuse, offer them a chicken broth for dinner.
A cat with a cold will often also lose their appetite. In such a situation, heat their dinner up a little. If your cat has a blocked nose, they’ll struggle to smell their meal.
Felines take their first metaphorical bite of dinner with their nose, so this is an issue. Heating cat food will release some all-important aromas, and tempt your cat into eating. If they refuse to eat for 24 hours, it’s time to go back to the vet.
If your pet shows no sign of recovery after a week, you need professional advice. This suggests that your cat is living with something more than just a common cold.
How Can I Prevent My Cat from Catching a Cold?
Vaccination is the only way to prevent a feline cold from taking hold.
Limit your cat’s time with strange felines. If you are going away, ask a friend or family member to take in your cat. This environment is less likely o expose your pet to viruses than a cattery.
Discourage your cat from sharing water, and keep them home if they seem prone to colds. This suggests that your cat is mingling with stray or feral cats that carry viruses. Over time, this could have a serious impact on your pet’s long-term health.
You must also keep your home clean at all times. Bacteria can quickly cause sickness. If your cat has been unwell, thoroughly clean up after them.
Some viruses can only be passed on through contact, but others linger in the environment. Also, ensure that they live a happy, contented and stress-free life.
Cats can develop a common cold, just like humans. It’s just how they catch it that differs. If your cat is sneezing, take a look at their other symptoms.
If they don’t appear to be struggling with anything else, don’t ignore the issue. They’re still sneezing for a reason, and may have an environmental allergy. If they do have a cold, however, you’ll need to help them through it.
For a robust and healthy cat, it’s not particularly dangerous. This doesn’t mean that it’s anything to take lightly, though. Just like you feel wretched when you’re ill, so will your cat.
It may be frightening for your pet too, as they don’t understand what’s happening. Offer your cat plenty of reassurance, but also give them their space. This, along with medication prescribed by a vet, will see them bounce back to full health in no time.