Health Advice: Cats with Colds

Sneezing, runny nose, sticky eyes and coughing. These are all symptoms of the common cold…in both humans and cats. While the actual viruses are different, both people and their feline companions can suffer after contracting a cold. In cats, an undiagnosed or untreated cold can become extremely dangerous. Here are some facts, warning signs and treatment suggestions for cat lovers who suspect their cat is under the weather.

  • Although similar in symptoms, cat colds are actually not colds at all. Viruses that cause cold-like symptoms in cats include feline herpes virus (FHV) and feline calicivirus (FCV). In addition, cats are susceptible to feline chlamydia, or pneumonitis, caused by a bacterium, chlamydia psittaci. This infection causes eye infections that are often joined by respiratory symptoms.
  • Be sure to keep your cat’s vaccinations current at all times. Regular vaccinations provide protection from both FHV and FCV. Keeping your cat well-fed, well-groomed and in good health overall will also ensure a strong immune system, lessening their chance of contracting a virus.
  • These viruses cannot be passed between species. This means that your hacking and sneezing last week did not cause your cat’s cold this week! Viruses cannot be passed between dogs and cats, either.
  • These viruses are extremely contagious among cats, however. Be sure to keep other cats away from your sick cat and wash your hands thoroughly after petting your cat. Keeping your cat indoors is the best protection against these highly contagious viruses. Cats are usually at the highest risk of being infected in summer.
  • The main symptoms you’re likely to see from your cat are repetitive sneezing, fever, runny eyes, a stuffy or runny nose, cold sore-like ulcers around the mouth, red, watery eyes, a general lack of interest in activities and coughing.
  • When cats have a stuffy nose, their sense of smell is affected like ours. Because of this, they cannot smell their food. When cats cannot smell their food, most refuse to eat. This leads to a loss of appetite and often, loss of the desire to drink as well. Offering fresh water at all times and canned food (it has a stronger smell) may help encourage your cat to avoid dehydration and loss of energy.
  • If your cat shows symptoms of a cold or stops eating for any reason, contact your veterinarian immediately. While a cat cold lasts for about as long as a human cold (seven to ten days), if it becomes a respiratory infection it can be fatal to the cat. These respiratory infections can also reoccur easily, weakening your cat over time.
  • While waiting for the cold to come to an end, you can help your cat be more comfortable by using a humidifier to add moisture to the air. If they have runny nose and eyes, wipe them gently with a warm, wet washcloth and do not allow crusts to form.

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