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Cats & Colds: Can They Get Them & What To Do?

Just like people, cats can catch colds and experience symptoms such as coughing, runny nose or sneezing. Our vets in Seattle share more about cat colds and when to bring your feline companion in for veterinary care. 

Can Cats Get a Cold?

Cat colds are contagious, which means that outdoor cats that are in more regular contact with other cats are at higher risk of catching a cold virus than indoor cats. 

Viruses or bacteria can cause these upper respiratory infections (URIs). While people cannot catch cat colds, our kitties can easily transmit these colds to one another, especially if they are in a small, confined area. 

Has your cat recently stayed in a boarding facility? He or she was likely near another cat suffering from a cold. 

Choosing a reputable boarding provider can help to reduce the chances of your pet's stress levels rising, and help reduce your cat's risk of developing an upper respiratory infection. 

Signs & Symptoms of Cat Colds 

With the average cat colds, you might see their eyes water, their nose run or sneezing and sniffles. If theirs is a more severe cold, they may have a decreased appetite, cough or fever. 

What to Do If Your Cat Has a Cold

Many a worried kitty owner has called us saying, "My cat has a cold. What should I do?"

You can clean the nose with a wet, warm paper towel or soft clean cloth. Clear runny eyes with a cloth and saline solution to make them feel better. You may also want to run a humidifier in the house so that the air in your home is less dry. 

If they are stuffed up, cats can have difficulty breathing. You might be able to help your cat breathe more easily by placing them securely in their pet carrier, leaving a bull of steaming water in front of the cage, then using a blanket to cover the cage and bowl for about 15 minutes. 

Your cat will begin to feel better more quickly if they continue eating and drinking. Some cats find it easier to swallow food that has been warmed slightly. Warming may also make the food smell more appealing to them.

Try to keep your cat warm while they have a cold. Place an extra blanket in their favorite spot or in their bed, to help keep them cozy.

Never give your cat human cold medication! For advice on how to help your cat feel better and recover quickly from their cold, contact your vet.

Does My Cat Have Allergies or a Cold?

The symptoms of a cat cold and allergies are very similar. You may see watery eyes, coughing, wheezing or sneezing with both. Typically, if your cat has allergies versus a cold, these issues will be chronic and you might see them remain over time or happening during a specific instance, such as around the litter box if they are allergic to a component in their litter. 

Allergies may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as skin irritation and itchiness, stomach upset (gas or bloating) - two things we don't usually see with colds.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

In most cases cat colds are harmless and go away within 1-2 weeks. Keep an eye on your cat's cold, if there's no improvement by the fourth day, make an appointment to visit your vet. A persisting cold could develop into pneumonia.

If your cat's eyes become red, inflamed and start to bother her, your veterinarian may recommend an ointment, drops or eyewash to help. A saline wash can flush clear discharge from the eyes, then be gently cleaned from the fur. Additional treatment may be needed if the discharge from your cat's eyes becomes green, yellow or thick. 

Be extra cautious with older cats, kittens, nursing cats, unvaccinated cats and cats with other health conditions. If your cat falls into one of these categories and develops a cold, schedule an exam with your vet immediately.

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.

Are you worried about your cat's cold? Contact our vets at Aurora Veterinary Hospital today for advice or to book an exam. 

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