Can Cats Get Colds? Exploring the Sneezy Truth

can cats get colds

Have you ever wondered if cats can catch colds like humans do when they start uncontrollably sneezing all over the place? As a fellow cat owner, I used to ask myself the same thing. That is, until the day my furry friend Misty woke me up at 3 AM with a tiny “achoo!” That got me researching the sneezy truth about cats and colds. It turns out kitties can in fact catch colds, although they’re typically caused by different bugs than the ones that plague us people. In this article, I’ll walk you through what I learned about the common viruses causing cat colds, what signs to watch out for, and when to call the vet just to be safe. Let’s get to the bottom of this sneezy kitty mystery together!

What Causes Colds in Cats?

The sniffles and sneezes you’re hearing from your feline friend are usually caused by viruses, similar to the ones that give us humans the common cold. The two most common culprits of cat colds are:

  • Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1): This virus is very contagious between cats and often affects kittens, causing symptoms like sneezing, nasal discharge, eye inflammation, and lethargy. While FHV-1 can be serious, most adult cats recover on their own.
  • Feline calicivirus (FCV): This highly contagious virus also commonly causes cat colds, resulting in nasal discharge, mouth ulcers, sneezing, and fever. Calicivirus tends to be more severe in young, old or immune-compromised cats.

In addition to these viruses, bacteria and environmental allergens (like dust or pollen) can also trigger cold-like symptoms in some kitties. The good news is, while unpleasant, most cat colds are not usually dangerous and will clear up on their own within 7 to 14 days.

However, you should take your sneezing, sniffling cat to the vet right away if you notice any of the following:

  1. Difficulty breathing or eating
  2. Excessively watery eyes
  3. Lethargy or loss of appetite that lasts more than a couple of days
  4. Nasal discharge that is green, yellow or bloody
  5. Oral ulcers or drooling (can be a sign of calicivirus)
  6. Fever over 103 F

Your vet can examine your cat, run tests to determine the cause of symptoms, and may prescribe supportive care like fluids or antiviral medication if necessary. Colds in cats are typically not serious, but it’s always better safe than sorry if symptoms seem severe or don’t start improving within a week or so.

Common Symptoms of Feline Colds

When your cat has a cold, you’ll likely notice some familiar symptoms. Though different from human colds, feline colds share some similar signs that your cat isn’t feeling well. Watch for:

  • Sneezing: Excessive sneezing, especially multiple sneezes in a row, can indicate your cat has an upper respiratory infection. The sneezing is caused by inflammation in the nose.
  • Runny nose: A clear, watery discharge from the nose is common with a feline cold. You may notice your cat frequently wiping their nose. The runny nose and nasal congestion are the result of excess fluid buildup caused by the infection.
  • Watery eyes: Your cat’s eyes may become runny or watery, and they may squint or blink excessively. Eye discharge is usually clear but can sometimes be yellow or green. Watery eyes occur due to nasal drainage and inflammation.

Lethargy and loss of appetite

In addition to upper respiratory symptoms, your cat may feel under the weather and show signs of lethargy like sleeping more or less interaction and play. They may also lose interest in food or eat less due to not feeling well. These symptoms are usually temporary, but if they persist for more than a couple of days, consult your vet.

  • Difficulty breathing: While rare, some cats with upper respiratory infections can develop pneumonia or other secondary infections that make breathing difficult. If your cat is wheezing, breathing rapidly or shallowly, or seems unable to catch their breath, contact your vet immediately, as this can be an emergency.

With supportive care and time, most feline colds will clear up within 7 to 14 days. But if symptoms seem severe or last more than a couple of weeks, your vet can prescribe medications to help your cat recover and prevent more serious illness.

Are Colds in Cats Serious?

For the most part, colds in cats are not usually dangerous and will clear up on their own within a week or two. However, some cases can become severe or lead to secondary infections, so you’ll want to monitor your sneezy feline friend closely.

As a cat owner, you know your fur baby best. If their symptoms seem worse than a typical cold or last more than a couple of weeks, don’t hesitate to call your vet. They can examine your cat to determine if their condition requires treatment such as fluids, medications for congestion or other remedies to ease their discomfort. In more serious cases, hospitalization and oxygen therapy may even be needed.

Watch for Warning Signs

Some signs that your cat’s cold may be severe or worsening include:

  • Difficulty breathing or coughing
  • Loss of appetite or refusing to drink for more than 12-24 hours
  • Thick, colored mucus from the nose
  • Fever higher than 103 F
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Pawing at the face

If your cat is showing these symptoms, especially difficulty breathing, call your vet right away as it can be life threatening if left untreated.

Provide Supportive Care

For a typical cat cold, the following steps can help keep your feline friend comfortable as their body fights the infection:

•Encourage hydration by providing extra water bowls in easy-to-reach spots. You can also try giving unflavored pedialyte or chicken broth. •Use a humidifier to keep air moist, which can loosen congestion.
•Gently wipe away any eye or nasal discharge with a warm washcloth to keep their face clean and prevent irritation.
•Keep your cat warm and rested. •Offer extra treats or wet food to keep energy levels up if appetite is decreased.

With your care and attention, your cat should be back to their usual playful self in no time. But as always, don’t hesitate to call the vet if anything seems amiss. It’s always better safe than sorry when it comes to your feline companion!

Caring for a Cat With a Cold

Your poor kitty isn’t feeling so hot and has come down with a case of the sniffles. The good news is, feline colds are usually not serious and will clear up on their own within a week or two. However, your cat still needs some extra TLC to help relieve their symptoms and stay comfortable.

  • Keep your cat warm and cozy. Crank up the heat in your home and provide some extra blankets so they can snuggle up.
  • Encourage your cat to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Offer extra wet food, chicken broth, or tuna water to increase their water intake.
  • Use a humidifier to moisten the air, especially in the room where your cat sleeps. The added humidity can help loosen congestion and soothe a sore throat.
  • Gently wipe away any eye or nose discharge with a warm, wet cloth to keep their face clean and prevent irritation.
  • Ask your vet about giving an over-the-counter decongestant or cough suppressant made specifically for cats to provide relief from congestion and make breathing easier.
  • Watch for worsening symptoms like difficulty breathing, lethargy, or loss of appetite and call your vet right away. They may want to examine your cat or do testing to check for secondary infections.

Even though colds in cats are typically not severe, it’s still difficult to see your feline companion feeling under the weather. By providing supportive care and close monitoring at home, you can help ensure your cat recovers comfortably and stays well-hydrated. If symptoms don’t start to improve within a week or so, or if your cat’s condition seems to worsen, consult your vet for an exam. They can determine if any treatment or medication is needed to aid in your cat’s recovery.

FAQs: Can Cats Get Colds?

Yes, cats can get colds, just like humans. Feline upper respiratory infections, also known as URIs, are usually caused by viruses, the most common being feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. These viruses can cause cold-like symptoms in cats such as:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite

While cat colds are typically not serious and will clear up on their own within a week or two, you should keep an eye on your cat’s symptoms and check in with the vet if they seem severe or your cat has trouble breathing or eating. The vet may suggest:

Supportive Care at Home

Providing a warm, comfortable environment, encouraging hydration and possibly prescribing medication for symptoms or preventing secondary infections can help your cat recover. Things you can do at home include:

  • Keeping your cat indoors
  • Using a humidifier to moisten air
  • Gently wiping discharge from eyes and nose with a warm washcloth
  • Offering extra water to avoid dehydration
  • Feeding soft, smelly foods to stimulate appetite
  • Monitoring litter box usage to ensure your cat is eating and drinking enough


If symptoms worsen or persist more than a week, your vet may prescribe:

  • Antibiotics if there are signs of secondary bacterial infection like thick green discharge
  • Cough suppressants or expectorants to control coughing
  • Antihistamines for sneezing and runny eyes
  • Fluid therapy if your cat becomes dehydrated

The good news is most cat colds will clear up on their own with supportive care at home. However, see your vet right away if your cat has a high fever, labored breathing, or other severe symptoms. They can determine if hospitalization or oxygen therapy is needed. With rest and patience, your sneezy feline friend should be back to purring in no time.


So if your furball is sneezing up a storm or has the sniffles, she may just have a kitty cold. Usually these resolve on their own, but check in with your vet if symptoms seem severe. With some TLC and possibly medications, your cat will be feeling like her old self in no time. Remember – prevention is key, so keep up with vaccines and try to limit exposure to outside germs. Together we can help our feline friends stay happy and healthy!


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