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Do Cats Get Colds?

Do Cats Get Colds?

Cold season is officially here—if you’re a human. As the days get shorter and the air gets colder, you may wonder: do cats get colds, too? The short answer is, yes! Cats can get colds. But, they don’t exactly get the same kinds of colds we do.

Most human colds are caused by a family of viruses knows as rhinoviruses. However, this is not so for cats. While you don’t have to worry about your cat catching a cold from you, cats are susceptible to a few other viruses and, most commonly, Upper Respiratory Infections.

How Do Cats Get Colds?

Cats often catch these viruses and infections in areas frequented by multiple cats, such as shelters and pet stores. Similar to the way human colds are passed – when cats sneeze, they release saliva or mucus containing the virus, which can spread when other cats come in contact with it. Areas like beds or food bowls can also become contaminated with such viruses and pass them on to other cats, due to the nature of their use.

What are the Symptoms of Cat Colds?

The most common symptoms of cat colds closely mirror the typical human symptoms, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Eye discharge or conjunctivitis – Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Mild fever

When to See a Vet If Your Cat Has a Cold

The good news is, most cats recover from a cold on their own in 6-10 days. However, you should consult a veterinarian as soon as you suspect your cat has caught a cold to rule out other issues and to discuss whether oral antibiotics and/or eye medications are necessary.

You should take your cat to a veterinarian immediately if at any time you notice any of the following symptoms, as they could indicate a bigger problem requiring additional treatments such as appetite stimulants, fluids or even hospitalization:

  • Your cat is less than a year old. All kittens should see a vet if they develop cold symptoms—even if they seem cheerful and active.
  • Your cat develops a cough. Coughing can be a sign of a more serious illness, especially if your cat has recently spent time in a shelter or kennel.
  • Your cat has difficulty breathing. It’s common for cats to breathe through their mouths when they have a cold, but if you notice your cat struggling to breathe, it’s time to see the vet.
  • Mucus thickens or changes color. Clear or pale mucus is usually nothing to worry about—but if it gets very thick or turns darker yellow, green, or brown, your cat may need antibiotics to help fend off a bacterial infection.
  • Your cat stops eating or moving. It’s normal for your cat to be a little lazy while fighting off a cold—but if nothing will get your cat out of bed, you should see a vet.

How to Care for a Cat with a Cold

Nobody likes having a cold—and that includes your cat. Here a few ways you can help your cat feel better when they have a cold:

  1. Use a soft cloth or cotton ball moistened with warm water to clear mucus from your cat’s eyes and nose.
  2. Change your cat’s water frequently.
  3. Treat your cat to warmed canned food.
  4. Make sure your cat has a warm, quiet place to rest—preferably away from children or other pets.
  5. Set up a cool mist vaporizer in your cat’s room.
  6. Help them with grooming, as they may be too tired to properly groom themselves.
  7. Try to get them to hang out in the bathroom while you shower so the steam helps clear their airways.
  8. Give your cat a warm water bottle to snuggle up with.

Note: Despite symptoms appearing similar to those humans experience with a cold – you should never give your cat medications meant to treat human illnesses.

Yes, cats can get colds. Luckily, most of the time with a little TLC they’ll feel better in a matter of days. In the meantime, snuggle up with a blanket and give your cat some extra love. It will probably make you feel better, too. If you notice your cat sneezing but don’t think it’s a cold, check out our top blog on why cats sneeze to help figure out what could be causing it.