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Can Cats Catch Colds? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Is your cat sneezing more than usual? Are they shying away from their food with a runny nose? Chances are that your cat has a cold! Cats can absolutely catch colds, and they display many of the same signs that we humans experience when we get a cold. But how do you treat a kitty cold, and do you need to mask up around them? We answer both those questions and dive into everything else that you need to know to get your cat healthy again.

How Do You Know If Your Cat Has a Cold?

If you’re trying to diagnose a cat cold, the signs that your cat will display are remarkably similar to what you’ll notice if you develop a cold.

Signs of Colds in Cats:
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Poor appetite
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Congestion
  • Sniffles

But while all those signs are similar to what humans experience when they get a cold, one area where cats can get it worse is with eye runniness. While humans can experience eye discomfort, eye discharge is one of the primary signs of a cat cold. This eye discharge can glue their eyes shut if you don’t clean them up, so ensure that you’re taking the time to wipe their eyes free of gunk.

Are Cat Colds Contagious?

While cat colds are extremely contagious to other felines, it’s almost impossible for them to pass the cold to you. Also, if you have other pets in the house, like a dog, it’s just as rare for them to get a cat’s cold. The cold variant that is afflicting your cat is feline specific, so unless the virus mutates, it won’t take root when it gets in your body, the body of a dog, or the body of any other non-feline. Since cat colds are so contagious to other felines, though, try to keep them separate from each other when one gets sick.

brown cat with runny nose
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Do Cat Colds Go Away on Their Own?

Just like human colds tend to clear up on their own, if your cat gets a cold, they should be able to kick the virus without any medicinal help. However, you still need to keep an eye on your cat’s health when they’re sick. Untreated colds can develop into something more sinister, like pneumonia, if your cat is struggling to kick it on their own. So, monitor your cat’s signs whenever they get sick.

They should be able to fully recover from a cold within a week or two. But if you notice your cat looks too sick, is not eating, or has difficulty breathing, you should take them to the vet. The vet can prescribe your cat medicine to help boost their immune system and kick the virus. While clearing a persistent kitty cold with medicine isn’t necessary, if your cat develops pneumonia, it can be far more challenging and expensive to treat.

How Do You Treat a Cat With a Cold?

If you haven’t taken your cat to the vet, all you should do to try to help your cat feel better is clean their eyes every once in a while with a warm rag. This helps prevent the gunk from crusting over and gluing their eyes shut, making them feel more comfortable. You can also help clear up any congestion by bringing your kitty into the bathroom while you have a long steamy shower.

Please make sure your cat is drinking and eating and let them rest and recover. Typically, this is all you need to do to treat your cat’s cold. However, if you do take your cat to the vet, they might prescribe additional medications to help your cat recover. These can include supplements to help their immune system and ointments to keep their eyes from seeping too much.

If the vet notices that the cat is developing a secondary infection, your kitty might be placed on a course of antibiotics. If your vet prescribes these medications, they should walk you through dosages and how often to administer them. If they don’t, call them and ask!

When Should You Take Your Cat to the Vet for a Cold?

If your cat has a cold and they’re not getting better, are lethargic, are not eating, or are having difficulty breathing, you should take them to a vet. This is a big deal because if you leave a cat cold untreated, it can develop into pneumonia. While a cold in a cat isn’t too concerning, pneumonia is quite serious, and the cat usually won’t get better without antibiotics.

woman cleaning cat eyes
Image Credit: osobystist, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

If you notice that your cat is feeling a little run down, there’s no reason to panic yet. Just do what you can to have them take it easy, and clear the gunk from their eyes and nose to help them feel a little better. You should keep an eye on their signs, water intake, food consumption, and stress levels, but that’s about all that you should need to do to get your cat healthy again. Kitty colds are common, but they’re rarely serious, so don’t start panicking! In a few days, your cat should be back to their happy and healthy ways.

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Featured Image Credit: Sergio Huainigg, Pixabay

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