A cat "cold" is actually an upper respiratory infection. These infections are usually caused by a virus and can make your cat feel lethargic and lose her appetite. The proper vaccines can help prevent cat colds, but even indoor cats can get them since the virus is spread through the air. There are some things you can do at home to make your feline friend feel better.
Keep the Nasal Passages Clear
A cat with a cold often doesn't want to eat because she can't smell her food. You can wet a cotton ball with warm water and gently wipe away any nasal discharge. Make sure that you don't use a paper towel or dry washcloth because this can irritate the sensitive tissues around a cat's nose. Wipe away the discharge as often as needed throughout the day. If you don't do it often enough, the discharge can accumulate and become very crusty and harder to remove.
Create Some Steam
A congested cat can't breathe very well. You may even hear a wheezing or whistling sound as your cat breathes. Take your cat into the bathroom and close the door. Turn on the shower to hot for five to ten minutes and stay in the bathroom with your cat. Do this at least twice a day until you notice that your cat feels better. The steam can help soothe and open the nasal passages. You can also use a humidifier in the room where your cat sleeps at night.
Keep the Eyes Clean From Discharge
Cats with colds may have clear or slightly yellow discharge. (If your cat has thick green discharge, or she can't open her eyes, she may have an eye infection and will need to see your veterinarian.) You don't want to let this discharge accumulate because it can become dry and crusty and cause more irritation to the eyes. You can take a piece of gauze soaked in saline or warm water and gently wipe away any discharge. If the discharge has become hard, you can use a warm washcloth and gently hold it over the eyes to soften it before trying to remove it. Do this as often as needed throughout the day.
Encourage Your Cat to Eat
Some cats just won't eat even though you have cleaned their nasal passages and eyes. You can encourage them to eat by offering them warmed wet cat food or pureed baby food meat. Offering small amounts of tuna, tuna juice, or sardines can also help entice them to eat. Try to offer smaller meals three to four times throughout day while your kitty is not feeling well.
Boost Her Immune System With Probiotics
Cats with a cold often need an immune system boost. A large portion of a cat's immune system is in her gut (just like humans). Using a probiotic like Fortiflora or Proviable on top of her food during a cold can help the immune system fight the cold. Another benefit is that cats often love the taste, and this can further encourage them to eat. Follow the label directions for the amount of probiotic to use. You can't overdose on a probiotic but it isn't necessary to use more than the labeled dose unless directed by your veterinarian.
Homeopathy has been around for many years. It is based on the premise that the body can heal itself. There are veterinarians that believe in its worth and veterinarians that don't. However, many cats respond well to homeopathic drops when they have a cold. A good general remedy is Homeopet Feline Nose Relief. You can give the drops orally, in food, or even in water. The usual dosage is five to ten drops depending on the size of your cat.
You may notice a little nasal discharge or the occasional sneeze. Just like humans, the occasional sneeze is nothing to worry about. If it's excessive, however, check with your vet. Sneezing can be a sign of other diseases such as allergies or rhinitis.
A Cold Will Go Away on Its Own
Often a cat will not seem very sick when she has a cold. In cases of a mild cold your cat will continue to eat and drink and might just need a little extra TLC. A simple cold can go away on its own and usually lasts for seven to ten days.
When Home Remedies Aren't Working
If it has been more than two days and you have tried these home remedies and your cat still:
- Is not eating.
- Is not drinking
- Is severely congested
- Is sneezing multiple times a day, or with bloody discharge
- Is lethargic
Then it is time to call your veterinarian and schedule an exam.
Colds in Kittens Need Immediate Attention
If you have a young kitten under 16 weeks of age, do not wait more than 24 hours to seek veterinary care because their immune system is not yet developed. Kittens need much earlier intervention than adult cats.