If your cat is sneezing or has an eye discharge, these feline cold symptoms can indicate a mild bout with a virus or the beginning a more serious respiratory infection. Learn how to spot the signs so you can help your kitty feel better.
Can Cats Really Get Colds?
When people get colds, it is typically caused by a rhinovirus. Cats are not generally susceptible to the same viruses that affect humans, but they are affected by other viruses that produce identical symptoms. Nearly all cat "colds" can be traced to an infection by either calicivirus or herpesvirus. Symptoms of illness usually show up anywhere from a few days up to two weeks after initial exposure.
Common Cat Cold Symptoms
How can you tell when your cat might have a cold? Watch for the following symptoms.
Your Cat Is Sneezing
Sneezing is an involuntary reflex designed to expel foreign bodies and other invaders from the nasal system. It is typically the first and most prominent cold symptom you'll notice in your cat.
Kitty Has a Runny Nose
As the virus begins to cause irritation to the nasal lining, the body produces mucus to protect those passages. As new mucus is produced, the excess leaks from the nostrils or is expelled through sneezing.
You Notice Eye Discharge
Otherwise known as conjunctivitis, this symptoms usually appears as the cold virus progresses and results in mucus build up in the eyes that can dry to an uncomfortable crust if not gently wiped away using a warm, moist cloth.
Your Cat Is Breathing Through Its Mouth
As the nasal passages swell and become blocked my mucus, a cat may resort to breathing through the mouth in order to take in enough air.
Your Pet Seems Lethargic
It's not unusual for a cat to feel a little tired while his immune system is engaged in fighting off a viral invader. You'll probably notice that your cat sleeps more and is less interested in investigating his environment.
Kitty Has a Fever
Although this may be difficult to detect, the average normal cat temperature runs between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
Your Cat Isn't Eating as Much
Some cats won't eat as much or as often as they usually do.
Symptoms That Suggest Your Cat May Have More Than a Cold
The presence of some symptoms may indicate your cat has more than the common cold.
Your Cat Has a Cough
Coughing usually indicates the infection has spread to the lungs and is causing mucus production. This might indicate that the cat is going into pneumonia.
Her Breathing Is Labored
This is beyond the typical breathing difficulty associated with blocked nasal passages. A cat with labored breathing will seem much weaker, and you can see the chest rise and fall with greater effort. This usually means there is fluid buildup in the lungs that requires an antibiotic treatment to relieve.
Your Pet's Mucus Darkens in Color
It's typical to see a clear or creamy colored mucus discharge in a cat with a cold virus, but if the mucus begins to turn darker shades of yellow, green or brown, it is likely a sign that a secondary bacterial infection has set in while the immune system is compromised. This is usually when a common cold turns into a dangerous respiratory infection, and it becomes time to consult with your vet.
Your Cat Produces Thicker Mucus
This is usually an indicator of dehydration. Once the mucus thickens, it become more difficult for the cat to expel it.
Treatment for Feline Cold Symptoms
When treating a cat for common cold symptoms, consider the following.
Never Give Cats Human or Canine Medications
First and most importantly, you should never give your cat any human cold relief medications unless your vet recommends a specific medication and provides you with the proper dosage information. Similarly, you should never try to administer dog medications to a cat. Any of these medications could cause serious illness or death, so consult directly with your veterinarian if you feel your feline needs medication to relieve his symptoms.
Keep Your Cat Warm and Comfortable
The main treatment for feline cold symptoms is to provide supportive measures to help your cat feel more comfortable as his immune system concentrates on fighting the virus.
Run a Vaporizer
Adding more humidity to your cat's immediate environment helps keep his breathing passages moist. This in turn helps him expel mucus buildup. You should use a cool mist vaporizer.
Keep Your Cat Away From Drafts
It's important to keep your pet warm and comfortable while he is ill. It's true that a cat mainly relies on his fur to keep him warm, but cold drafts provide added stress to his body, and stress can keep the immune system from functioning as it should. If needed, move your cat's bedding to a warmer location in the house or provide a heated bed.
Wipe away secretions with a warm, moist paper towel and discard.
Keep Your Cat Hydrated
Although your cat may feel less like drinking while he's ill, it's important to keep up his fluid intake to stave off dehydration. Dehydration can drive up a fever as well as cause mucus secretions to thicken. Make sure your cat has fresh water available, and feed him moist cat food at this time if you normally feed dry food. Cats really take in more moisture from their food than by drinking. You might also entice your cat to drink more by offering him small amounts of chicken broth.
Preventing Colds in Cats
Although there is no way to completely prevent a cat from getting a cold or upper respiratory infection, you can help boost his immune system so he is better able to fight off a virus once he has been exposed.
Provide Good Nutrition
Providing good nutrition is key to keeping the immune system in top condition. Always feed your cat the best quality food you can afford. This food should have real protein as the main ingredient. Other fillers should be kept to the bare minimum.
Provide a Clean Living Space
Keep your cat's living space clean. Wash your cat's food bowl and water dish daily, and mop your floors on a regular basis. A mild bleach solution will kill viruses on most hard surfaces.
Make sure your cat is properly vaccinated.
Keep Kitty Safe
Limit his exposure to cats outside of his household.
Catch a Cold Early
Daily interactions with your cat will help you spot feline cold symptoms at the earliest opportunity. Early detection allows you to provide comfort and treatment to an ailing cat.