Can cats get colds?
Can cats get colds? As we move into fall and before you know it winter, this becomes an ever more pertinent question – do cats get colds or even worse the flu?
Can they catch it from humans? And if so what can we do about it?
That’s what we’re going to look at today – so let’s begin.
Can Cats Get Colds – The Scientific View
Cats can get colds. In fact feline cold symptoms are very similar to that of humans, and should be treated seriously.
A cat showing signs of a cold could have everything from a mild form of the cold virus, to the beginnings of a more harmful respiratory disease. Reacting quickly is of the utmost importance.
Do Cats Get Colds – Common Symptoms
When humans get colds, it is caused by what is known as a rhinovirus. However, you will be pleased to know that cats are not able to get a cold via the same strain. i.e. we cannot give our colds to our cats.
However, cats do catch colds from a different strain of the virus, (either calicivirus or herpesvirus) and the symptoms are very similar to what we experience when down with the common cold.
The symptoms of a cat cold normally appear from a few days up to two weeks after initial exposure to the infecting virus. Signs to watch out for are as follows:
- Sneezing – As we all know, sneezing is an involuntary reflex. There’s no real way of stopping it. The physical act of sneezing is our body’s way of expelling foreign bodies and other invaders from the nasal system. Exactly the same applies to our cats. When you see a cat sneezing, it is one of the most prominent signs that a cold virus has set in.
- Nasal discharge – Just as we experience, as the cold virus begins to cause irritation to the nasal lining, the body produces excess mucus in order to protect those passages. Because of the abundance of mucus, it will begin to leak from your cat’s nose, or will be expelled through sneezing.
- Eye discharge – At the height of the cold virus, your cat may even have mucus building up in and around the eyes. Again this is due to the excess mucus building up within your cat’s respiratory system, (eyes, ears, nose and mouth are all connected after all). This mucus can dry and be painful within the eyes of your cat if you do not wipe it away.
- Mouth breathing – Your cat may also experience slight difficulty in breathing. Again, mucus is the cause, blocking the nasal areas so that your cat is forced to breath through the mouth.
- Mild lethargy – Similar to humans, cats also experience lethargy when they have a cold. This is due to the immune system working overtime to beat the infection. Your cat will be more dormant than normal and may not play etc.
- Mild fever – This is more evident in severe cases of the cold virus, however your cat may get a fever and high temperature. This can be difficult to detect however.
- Less appetite – Again, a common symptom is lack of appetite. When a cat gets a cold they will very likely eat less than normal.
Overall, as the winter season sets in, a cat owner is advised to look out for common cold symptoms much like you would find in your self.
Prevention is one option. If you have very much an outside cat, you could consider buying some cat clothing to fit her in. This would keep her body temperature warmer as the weather turns.
(If, like my wife you have the skills and know your way around a walking foot sewing machine, you could even have a crack at making some cute cat clothing yourself – contact us here and I would be more than happy to email some patterns she has created).
But back to those cold symptoms. If you see that your cat has a runny nose or watery eyes, is sleeping more than normal and showing signs of general listlessness, these are indication she is is getting a cold.
Two or more of these cold signs should definitely give you cause to take a trip to the veterinarian for medication. This will help your cat get rid of the nasty cold, a whole lot faster.
Treatment for a cat with a cold
The most important warning we can offer is that you should never give your cat any human cold relief medications.
The wrong type of medication, in the wrong dosage could cause serious illness or death. Before giving your cat any kind of medication, you need to have approval from your vet.
Can cats get colds – how you can help
Beyond seeking professional guidance on medication, there is plenty that you can do to make your cat feel more comfortable when they have a cold.
As your cat’s immune system fights the cold infection, think about providing the following:
- Keep your cat warm – Try to keep your cat as warm and comfortable as possible. Cold drafts act as an added stress on your cat’s body. That extra stress can keep the immune system from functioning as it should.
- Remove the mucus. – Keep an eye on that excess mucus. Use a moist wipe to remove it before it has a chance to dry.
- Give your cat plenty of water – Try to keep your cat as hydrated as possible. Dehydration will make the fever worse, and cause the mucus to thicken making the symptoms even more uncomfortable. A hydrated can will stand a better chance of beating the cold virus faster.
How long until a cat gets better from a cold?
Fortunately, cat’s get over the common cold in quite a short time. In fact their bodies recover from a cold faster than humans do.
This ability harkens back to her ancestors’ days in the wild, when sickness and injury made them easy targets for predators and fast recovery was crucial to their continuing existence.
Felines are skilled at knowing what they need to do to make themselves feel better, so you may notice that she is laying low, much less active, sleeping more, and generally conserving her energy. She may be more comfortable retreating to a minimally trafficked area of your home and if you notice a particular corner she has made her own, put a cat bed there or a blanket in a big pile to keep her warm.
With medication, she should show signs of feeling better in a couple of days and will probably be completely well in three days.
Can cats get colds from humans?
As we covered above, a cat cannot get a cold from us humans as they develop colds from a different strain of the virus. They can catch colds from other cats however, and the strain of cold that affects cats does become airborne so can be contracted if your cat spends a lot of time outside. Especially during the colder winter months.
Do Cats Get Colds – Prevention
The best way to prevent the onset of a cold in your cat is to make sure their immune system is in tip top condition and that they keep warm. One of the best items we have seen that helps you do this is the extra wide, K&H Heated Outdoor Kitty House. (various sizes are available).
Heated by a very efficient 20 watts, this is perfect for an outdoor cat. The house is water resistant and importantly has two protected exists so that your cat can’t be trapped by unwanted visitors. No tools are required to set it up either.
Beyond Keeping Your Cat Warm
Of course there are many other things you can be doing to ensure your cat is strong enough to fight off any potential virus:
- It all starts with a health diet. Feed your cat the best cat food you can afford to buy. Healthy high nutrition cat food is the by far the most effective way of keeping your cat fit and well. The best kind of cat food will have real protein as the main ingredient. Other fillers should be kept to the bare minimum.
- A clean and active cat is also a healthy cat. Ensure that his living space is clean and that his litter is cleaned regularly. Wash your cat’s food bowel and water dish daily. Also, keeping your house clean so that harmful bacteria are kept to a minimum. Mopping your floor is also helpful. A mild bleach solution will kill viruses on most hard surfaces.
- Has your cat been vaccinated? Check with your vet that all injections are up to date.
- You should limit your cat’s exposure to other cats outside of the household, especially and feral cats.
Do Cats Get Colds – Symptoms Beyond the norm
There are other symptoms that you should watch out for, as these can spell trouble beyond that of your cat having a common cold. They include:
- Coughing – Harsh coughing is a sign that the infection has spread to the lungs and is causing mucus production there too. It could also indicate that your cat is going into pneumonia.
- Labored breathing – beyond that of breathing through the mouth due to a blocked nose, if your cat is also struggling to breath through the mouth, it could mean that there is a fluid build up in the lungs. This requires an antibiotic treatment to relieve.
- Mucus darkens in color – If your cat has a cold and the mucus starts to turn dark in color, it could be a sign that a secondary bacterial infection has set in. This happens when a common cold turns into a dangerous respiratory infection. You should take your cat to the vets immediately.
- Mucus thickens – Thicker mucus is normally brought on by dehydration. Try to give your cat more water and watch the symptoms closely for any of the above to appear.