Cats can get all types of illnesses but one that we don't think about often is colds. Could a sneezy cat be one experiencing this common illness? Our Wake Forest vets talk about cats and colds, if they can get them, and what to do if your cat does catch a cold.

Can cats get a cold?

Whether in people or pets, the common cold is a contagious illness. This means that outdoor cats that have more regular contact with other cats are more likely to find themselves with a cold virus than indoor cats. 

These upper respiratory infections (URIs) are caused by viruses or bacteria. While humans cannot catch cat colds, our feline friends can easily transmit these colds to one another, especially if they are confined to a small area. 

If your cat has recently stayed in a boarding facility and now has a cold, he or she is likely near another cat suffering from a cold. 

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

What are the signs if my cat has a cold?

Watery eyes, sneezing, sniffles, and a runny nose are all on the list of typical symptoms of cat colds. If your cat has a more severe case of cold, you may notice they have a fever, reduced appetite, or cough. 

What to Do If Your Cat Has a Cold

When a cat begins sneezing, many pet owners call in right away asking if its possible that they have cold.

Wiping their runny nose with a soft clean cloth, and clearing their runny eyes with a cloth and saline solution, can help to make your cat feel better. Clean the nose with a wet, warm paper towel. Running a humidifier in the house so that the air in your home is less dry, can also be helpful.

It's difficult for cats to breathe if they are stuffed up. You may be able to help your cat breathe more easily by securely placing them in their pet carrier, putting a bowl of hot steaming water in front of the cage, and then covering the cage and bowl with a blanket 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 happen 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, itchiness, and stomach upset (gas or bloating) - two things we don't usually see with colds.

What to Do if Your Cat Has a Cold

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, or 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, and 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.

If your cat is showing the signs associated with having a cold, please contact our vets in Wake Forest to schedule an examination.