My Cat Has a Cold! What Should I Do?

cat has cold

Cats can suffer symptoms very similar to those brought on by the common cold in humans. They too can have a run of “achoos,” along with a cough and a runny nose. It all might make them feel a little down in the dumps.

So, what should you do when your cat has a cold? Are there ways to prevent bouts of cat sneezing and cat coughing? 

Read on to learn the signs of a cat cold and when it might be time to talk to a vet.

Symptoms That Might Mean Your Cat Has a Cold

Cat sneezing, cat coughing, discharge from the nose or eyes, lethargy, and a fever are all signs that your feline friend may have a cold. These symptoms will often clear themselves up in a week to 10 days.

There are some cats though who may experience complications, including pneumonia or a secondary bacterial infection. These issues too can lead to a green-yellow discharge from the nose or eyes. That can in turn cause severe congestion that prevents them from tasting or smelling. Cats may then lose their appetites.

The Most Common Causes of Cat Colds

Viral infections are the most cause of a cat cold. The vast majority will be due to the Feline Herpes Virus 1 (FHV-1) and/or Feline Calicivirus (FCV). We sometimes refer to these viruses as causing cat flu

Feline Herpes Virus

The Feline Herpes Virus infection is highly contagious. You’ll often find outbreaks where there are many cats living together – for example in a rescue shelter.  

Like humans, cats with the herpes virus will carry it for the rest of their lives. Many cats will go through long periods when the virus is not actively reproducing and they’ll appear totally healthy. 

A stressful incident can suppress the immune system leading to the virus getting active again. This could lead to symptoms such as sneezing or runny eyes for a few days. Triggers could be being boarded, groomed, or a sudden change in routine. 

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Feline Calicivirus

Cats that get infected with Feline Calicivirus might display the same kind of symptoms as cats with the Feline Herpes Virus. Calicivirus is as also highly contagious.

Both viral infections are cat-specific and not contagious to humans. There are also vaccines available that offer protection against both viruses. In cases where the vaccine does not totally stop the infection, it can help reduce the symptoms and prevent severe illness. 

How Vets Diagnose Cat Colds

If your cat displays symptoms of a viral infection, your vet will want to examine them thoroughly. You should ensure you give the vet your cat’s complete medical history. This should include details of when the illness started and any previous bouts of symptoms that were similar.

Your vet might then recommend routine diagnostic tests to pick up any complications of a cold. These could include a complete blood count (CBC) to verify white and red blood cell and platelet counts. 

Your vet may also want to check that your cat’s internal organs are functioning properly. They might carry out chest X-rays for signs of pneumonia or other conditions like asthma or fungal infections.

They may also wish to pick up secretions from the eyes and nose using swabs. They’d then send these off to a lab for analysis in an effort to find out what kind of virus or bacteria are causing the issues.

Treatment for Cat Coughing and Cat Sneezing

Mild cases won’t usually require any medical treatment. Here’s what you can do to help your cat recover and feel more comfortable: 

  • If tolerated, keep your cat in the bathroom when showering: humidity helps relieve symptoms
  • Use a humidifier to help with the relief of airway irritation if the atmosphere is dry
  • Keep your cat relaxed, calm, and comfortable

You could also use a soft clean cloth soaked in saline solution and gently wipe away discharge from around the nose and eyes. It might help to use pheromone products and to keep your cat in a smaller, quieter room with their litter box, food, water, and warm bed close by.

Make sure your cat has plenty of fresh water available to drink from a bowl that you keep clean at least once a day with hot water. Your cat may experience a reduced ability to smell and a loss of appetite as a result. 

Have some tasty favorites on standby such as pieces of warm chicken or fish. When your cat has made a full recovery, ensure their immune system stays strong by feeding them a good-quality, age-appropriate diet.

When there’s a secondary bacterial infection present, your vet may want to prescribe a course of antibiotics. This will usually be oral medication you can give your cat at home. If your cat is very ill, having trouble breathing, or refusing to eat, your vet may want to keep them in overnight or until they are well enough to return home.

When It’s Time to Consult a Vet

Most healthy cats will take a week or so to recover. But always remember that if you’re at all concerned, the safest option is to contact a vet immediately. You should keep a close eye on them and, if there’s been no visible improvement in 4 days, it may be time to consult a vet.

Certain upper respiratory diseases can be complex and result in a bout of pneumonia if you do not seek treatment. Recovery time is likely to be longer. It’s also when steam therapy can be helpful. You should take particular care to seek help should your cat be in their senior years, a young kitten, or if they’re immune-compromised.

Book an Appointment Today!

We know that when your cat has a cold, it can be a worrying time. We have a team of veterinary experts ready to help give you help and advice if you have concerns that your cat may be suffering from cold-related complications. You can book a time here if you have concerns about the cat coughing or cat sneezing. 
We have a range of other helpful articles in our blog section. Find out about cat eye infections here.

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