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Health & Wellness

Can cats get colds?

Help your best friend feel better

Fever, congestion and a runny nose are just a few signs that your cat has a cold — or, as your vet might call it, a respiratory infection. 

“Cats can catch respiratory infections from direct contact with another infected cat or contaminated pet items,” Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, tells The Dig.

No cat breed is more susceptible to catching a cold than another — but, young cats and kittens are more vulnerable than adult cats due to their immature immune systems, Dr. McCullough adds.

Again, it doesn’t really matter if your cat is young or old, a British shorthair or a Sphynx breed — cat colds can happen to any feline. Here’s how to help and heal your best friend if they ever feel under the weather.

Cat cold symptoms

You know your cat better than anyone else — so, when they’re not themselves, you pick up on it fast. The following symptoms are signs that your pet has caught a virus and now has a cold: 

  • Sneezing
  • Eyes and nose discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Congestion
  • Conjunctivitis 
  • Irritated skin around the face and nose

Can cats get sick from humans?

If you’re the sick one, there’s no need to distance yourself from your pet – cats and people can’t transmit colds to one another, Dr. McCullough says. So, by all means, embrace the cuddles.

Whether you’re sick or not, practicing good hygiene around your pet on a day-to-day basis is a smart way to protect their general health. Make sure to clean their bowls, beds, litter boxes and toys regularly. 

Treatment options for cat colds

A vet can likely diagnose your cat’s cold after being briefed on their general health history or through a series of tests. “Some respiratory infections require blood testing, chest X-rays, nasal and airway testing and/or PCR testing for diagnosis,” Dr. McCullough explains. 

Next, your vet will suggest a personalized treatment plan — or decide on no treatment plan at all — based on your pet’s diagnosis and overall health.

“Some cat respiratory infections do not require any treatment,” Dr. McCullough says. “Others may need to be treated with antiviral medications, antibiotics, lysine supplements and/or fluid therapy.” 

The average cat cold recovery time is 7 to 10 days — if that time has passed and your pet hasn’t shown signs of improvement, make sure to follow up with your vet. It’s possible that your cat is now a long-term carrier of the virus that triggered their cold, which means they may experience future flair-ups, Dr. McCullough adds.

Home remedies for cat colds

There aren’t any tried-and-true cat cold home remedies, but there are best practices you can do to encourage your pet’s recovery. 

Dr. McCullough recommends routinely cleaning any potential discharge around your cat’s eyes. And, if your cat’s congestion is deterring them from eating, she suggests warming up their meal to make the scent stronger and more appealing. 

How to prevent cat colds

“Prevention of respiratory infection in cats involves vaccination, minimizing stress and isolating affected cats,” Dr. McCullough says. Speak to your vet to see if any of these methods could be especially effective when it comes to your cat.

If your cat has any signs of a cold, it’s a good idea to take them to the veterinarian for a checkup. With our tips, you’ll be able to nurse them back to health. And if you’re also a dog parent, check out our article about dog colds.  

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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