Cat Cold

"Cat cold is due to a bacterial infection in the nose. Symptoms include sneezing and the discharge of mucus. Treatment starts with clearing the nose and in the case of infection the use of antibiotics."

It is very common for a veterinarian to get a phone call to hear that my cat has a cold.

Human cold viruses are different than those that are seen a cat, although the symptoms appear similar such as runny nose, eye discharge, cough, sneezing and a mild fever.

The medical name for a cat cold is "upper respiratory infection tract disease" (AIURTD). There are a number of infections that can be the cause of your cat's symptoms:

Most Common Causes of Infection:

* Feline herpesvirus (FHV)
* Feline Calicivirus (FCV)

Other Causes of Infection:

* Chalmydophila felis (eye infection)
* Bordetella bronchisceptica
* Secondary opportunist bacteria
* Reovirus
* Mycoplasma of dubious significance

A cat's nose is lined with a sensitive membrane that helps to block bacteria that may cause an infection. If a cat is dehydrated or exposed to cold weather, then this membrane becomes dry allowing bacteria to pass into the respiratory system. Your cat also uses the nose to smell food which in turn makes the cat hungry. If the nose is blocked a cat can't smell and has a reduced appetite.

Understanding a cat cold is based on the symptoms that you observe. Feline cold symptoms can start 2 to 17 days after exposure to an infected cat.

Cat Nasal Infection

The most prominent sign of a nasal infection caused by bacteria is thick mucus that comes from the nose. Other cat cold symptoms include heavy breathing through the nose, mouth breathing and sneezing. If you see blood it is due to irritation of the membrane that lines the nose.

The infection can spread from the front nasal cavity to the sinus.

Cat Cold Runny Nose

If you see discharge coming out of your nose for several hours you may need to take your cat to a veterinarian. The consistency of the discharge can indicate what you cat is suffering from:

Watery Discharge - probably due to allergy or an irritant that is bothering the nose.

Mucus Discharge - associated with respiratory disease

Thick Yellow Discharge - Bacterial Infection

Cat Cold Sneezing

If your cat sneezes for a few hours and then stops, and you see no other symptoms, it is probably due to something irritating the nose. If your cat is grabbing at its nose with hard sneezes there is probably an object in the nose. If you see sneezing and sniffling for an entire day, your cat probably has a respiratory infection.

Cat Cold Treatment

Clean the Nose: You can wipe your cat's nose with a cotton ball or clean soft cloth to remove any mucus that may haven accumulated on the surface and dried into crust.

Moisturize: If your cat's nose is try use Vaseline or baby oil to keep the nose from getting too dry or forming cracks.

Vaporizer: Place your cat in a room with a vaporizer to loosen any mucus in the nose.

Encourage Eating, Stimulate Appetite: As mentioned, your cat's appetite is stimulated by its sense of smell. If your cat can't smell, then she isn't motivated to eat. Purchase smelly foods such as fish which can "cut through" any congestion to encourage eating.

Shrink Swollen Membranes: You can give your cat Afrin Children's Strength nose drops (.025 percent). On the first day give 1 drop to one nostril. On the second day give one drop to the second nostril. Continue this pattern for 5 to 7 days.

Dietary Supplement and Natural Remedies: If your cat repeatedly gets colds you might want to try a dietary supplement made to boost respiratory health. Respo-K solution is made for this purpose. They are also a good source of information.

A new remedy just came to market for FCV (Feline Calicivirus) called FCV Protect which is made to temporarily relieves feline flu symptoms including sneezing; nasal congestion and fever.

If the discharge is yellow then seek veterinary care so that you can get a prescription for an antibiotic such as tetracycline. The cause might be a fungus if the antibiotic does not help.

Cat Reverse Sneezing (Laryngospasm)

If it looks like your cat is inhaling air, almost like a reverse sneeze, this is a temporary condition not associated with an illness. This happens when mucus accumulates in the throat and taking in air is part of trying to expel it from the back of the throat. Once expelled the condition should disappear.


Cat Owner's Home Veterinary HandbookCarlson, Delbert G. DVM
Giffin, James M., MD

Sneezing and Snuffling - The Challenges of Feline Upper Respiratory Disease
T.J. Gruffydd-Jones
The Feline Centre
Department of Clinical Veterinary Science
University of Bristol


From Cat Cold to Cat Health Guide Home

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