Cat Catches a Cold: Symptoms and Treatment

As soon as the cold season breaks, many bipeds suffer from cold symptoms. But what if my cat has a cold? And is every cold in cats the dreaded cat flu? Read more about this in the following article.

How Dangerous is Cold in Cats?

For vaccinated adult cats with strong immune systems, a cold is usually not a problem. With the necessary rest and care, the symptoms disappear within a few days. It is more dangerous when young or immunocompromised cats catch a cold. Complications such as secondary bacterial infections or pneumonia can turn a harmless cold into a life-threatening illness.

Symptoms: How Do I Know if My Cat Has a Cold?

If the cat has a cold, the symptoms are not that different from those that occur in humans. The classic signs of illness include:

  • Nasal discharge and sneezing
  • Cough and hoarseness
  • Eye discharge and conjunctivitis
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced general well-being
  • fever

If your cat has a fever or if the discharge from the nose and/or eyes turns yellow, you should urgently consult a veterinarian. This also applies in the event that your cat has had cold symptoms for more than a few days.

Cat Catches a Cold: What Diagnostic Measures are Necessary?

As part of the owner survey, the vet already collects important information about the development of the common cold. Information about the vaccination status, the origin, and the current environment of the cat may already rule out possible differential diagnoses.

During the owner survey, the cat is also examined for the vital parameters in order to determine the current health status. This is followed by a swab from the cat’s nose and/or eyes. This makes it possible to determine which pathogens are involved in the disease process. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, a blood test and a chest x-ray may also be useful.

Therapy: What Can I Do If My Cat Has a Cold?

Most colds will heal on their own with appropriate care for the cat and a little care from the owner. Offer your cat a cold a warm spot at any time and make sure that she drinks a lot. With particularly tasty food, you can help counteract the lack of appetite.

However, if your cat has a cold and needs treatment, this always consists of a targeted fight against the underlying cause as well as supporting symptomatic therapy. Depending on the pathogen, the therapy can be composed of various measures:

  • Antiviral treatment: antivirals (drugs) such as acyclovir or interferon
  • Secondary bacterial infections: antibiotics after resistance testing (as eye ointment or tablet)
  • Sufficient fluid intake: infusions, wet food
  • Medicines for coughing (antitussives) or inhalation
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Support of the immune system: vitamin supplements

Causes: Why Does the Cat Catch a Cold?

Viruses are usually responsible for a cold in cats initially. If the immune system is weakened by cold and wet weather, stress, poor nutrition, or other underlying diseases, the cat’s body can no longer keep the viruses in check. Even with high amounts of ingested viruses (for example from other cats with a cold), the cat’s immune system sometimes loses its fight against the viruses.

The cat’s mucous membranes attacked by the virus are then particularly susceptible to further attack by bacteria – the initially purely viral runny nose quickly turns into purulent nasal discharge. In the worst case, pneumonia can develop.

Is Having a Cold in Cats the Same as Cat Flu?

In the purely literal sense, every cold in cats is cat flu. By the cat flu, feared by cat owners, the veterinarian means a whole complex of different viruses and bacteria. If the cat becomes infected with one or more pathogens from this complex, the cat will fall ill with “real” cat flu. This is a highly contagious infectious disease that cannot be compared to a common cold in cats.

What is the Prognosis?

Most cat colds are quite harmless and go away as quickly as they come. Even so, you shouldn’t take a chronic or recurring cold lightly. Because some viral infections lead, if not treated, to massive health restrictions and even death.

Prophylaxis: How Do I Avoid My Cat Catching a Cold?

In general, the following prophylactic measures can prevent your cat from catching a cold:

  • Regular cleaning of feeding areas and the litter box (e.g. using high temperatures or special cleaning agents)
  • Avoid contact with sick cats
  • Limit outdoor space in wet, cold weather
  • Vaccinations are available against some pathogens of the cat flu complex (e.g. FeHV-1, FCV, Chlamydophila felis), which in some cases do not prevent infection, but prevent the onset of the disease.
Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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