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

Not all pet owners are aware that cats can catch colds just like people, also displaying similar symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose. In this post, our Lincoln vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment of cat colds.

How Cats Catch Colds

Sneezing and sniffling are signs that your cat has a cold, but you may be thinking about how it happened and how you can avoid it in the future.

Like the common cold in humans, the common cold in cats is contagious. This means outdoor cats are more likely to contract the cold virus than indoor cats, as they are more often in contact with other cats.

The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection (URT) caused by a bacterium or virus. The common cold is not contagious to humans but is easily transmitted between cats, especially in compact conditions. Therefore, if you've boarded your cat recently and he's developed a cold, it's likely that your pet has been in close proximity to another cat suffering from a cold.

Although cat colds are relatively harmless, the symptoms can lead to more serious illnesses and infections.

Signs & Symptoms of a Cat Cold

If your cat has severe or prolonged symptoms like those listed below, bring your cat to Critter Creek Veterinary Hospital for a wellness exam.

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Sniffling
  • Coughing
  • Dehydration

    Caring for a Sick Cat

    If your cat has a cold, you can help him feel less uncomfortable by wiping his runny nose with a clean cloth and his watery eyes with a cloth and saline solution. You can also use a humidifier to keep the air from becoming too dry.

    If your cat seems clogged, making breathing difficult, put him in his carrier, place a bowl of hot water in front of his cage, and cover him with a blanket for about 15 minutes.

    Your cat must continue to eat and drink to heal more quickly. Reheated food that's easier to swallow can make this process more appealing to him. They need to stay warm, too, so place an extra blanket in their bed or favorite snuggling spot.

    Never give your cat cold medicine (or any other medication without your vet's advice). Always ask your vet what they recommend for your pet.

    Does My Cat Have Allergies or a Cold?

    The symptoms of allergies and a cold are very similar. Both can include symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and wheezing or coughing. Typically if your cat has allergies rather than a cold it will be a chronic issue that you might notice consistently popping up over time or occurring during a specific instance.

    For example, if they are allergic to a component of their litter, you might notice they sneeze while using the litter box. In addition, allergies can often be accompanied by symptoms such as digestive upset (bloating, gas) or skin irritation and itchiness, two things not commonly seen with colds. 

    If your cat is experiencing symptoms and you are unsure of the cause, it is always best to bring your cat in to be seen by a vet. 

    When to Seek Veterinary Care

    In most cases, cat colds are harmless and disappear completely within one or two weeks. You should, however, keep an eye on your cat's condition. If there's no sign of improvement by the fourth day, you should consult your vet, as a cold that isn't treated properly can turn into pneumonia.

    A cat's cold usually disappears after a few days. If your cat has the symptoms of a cold and shows no signs of improvement after four days, it may be time to visit your vet.

    As with humans, it's important to be cautious with older cats, kittens and cats suffering from other conditions that may make them more susceptible to the effects of a cold. This is particularly true of nursing or unvaccinated cats.

    Cat colds can lead to more serious infections if left untreated. It's particularly important to contact your vet if you have an elderly cat, a young kitten, or an immunocompromised cat.

    In any case, if your cat starts coughing, has difficulty breathing, or stops eating, they should consult a vet as soon as possible.

    Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please visit your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

    Is your cat showing signs of a cold? Contact our Lincoln vets as soon as you can.

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    Critter Creek Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of pets in Lincoln and the Greater Sacramento Area. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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