Cat Colds And Upper Respiratory Infections: What You Need To Know

Did you know that your cat can catch a cold? It’s true, cats can become infected with upper respiratory tract infections and they are more common than you think. Keep reading to find out more.

How does my cat catch an upper respiratory infection?

Cat colds can be caused by a few different viruses and bacterial infections. The most common culprit of these is feline viral rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus – both of these viruses are super contagious and can spread quickly through a multi-cat household by either direct contact with each other or by being in contact with a contaminated surface or object, like a communal water dish.

cat colds

How do I know if my cat has an upper respiratory infection?

URIs in cats really do in fact look and sound like a head cold. Common symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Nasal discharge (clear but can become green or yellow)
  • Eye discharge
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the pink membranes of the eyes)
  • Squinting

Some cats may develop other symptoms such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Fever

cat colds

What should I do if my cat shows symptoms of a URI?

The best thing to do whenever your kitty doesn’t feel well is to call your veterinarian as they can prescribe proper antibiotics to help clear up the infection. This treatment may include oral antibiotics as well as eye medication if your cat has conjunctivitis and eye discharge. Ensure that you finish the oral antibiotics as prescribed by your veterinarian.

If you have a multi-cat household, you should isolate the cat that is exhibiting cold-like symptoms. You should also clean the communal food and water dishes as precautions to help the virus from spreading. Unfortunately, usually by the time you notice the symptoms, the cat is already shedding the virus and more than likely, just like a human cold, everyone in the house will catch it.

How can I prevent my cat from catching a cold?

The easiest way to help in preventing a URI is by having your cat vaccinated with the combo respiratory series vaccination that includes both the rhinovirus and the calicivirus in them. Unfortunately, having them vaccinated won’t guarantee they won’t catch a cold, but it can help them fight it quicker!

When bringing a new kitten or adult cat into your home, keep then quarantined until they are vaccinated and become more acclimated to their new home. Most cats will show symptoms when their stress levels are higher meaning the immune system isn’t working its best and this usually happens when there is a change in their environment.

cat colds upper respiratory infections in cats

After a week or so and no symptoms arise, you should be in the clear to introduce them to their new siblings. Most shelter cats always have an upper respiratory infection because they are usually housed in a room with a lot of other cats. All the more reason to give a new adoption some alone time before introducing them to the family!

Although scary, upper respiratory infections in cats are treatable and can be over in a few days. Take precautions and provide preventable care to help decrease the chance of your feline friend catching an upper respiratory infection.

Do you know the signs of urinary tract infections in cats? Read about them here on


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