From coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose to a fever and aches, having a cold can be an exhausting experience. But while we may find relief in an extra blanket, a bowl of chicken soup, or a dose of cough syrup, what remedies can you offer your feline friend when it is your cat that catches a cold?
Cats and Colds
Cats are not immune to diseases, and different viral or bacterial infections can present the same upper respiratory distress as a typical human cold. It is important to note, however, that the viruses and bacteria that cause these symptoms in cats are not the same as those that infect humans, and a cold cannot be passed between cats and humans. The symptoms are similar to human colds, however, and can include:
- Sneezing or coughing
- Watery or runny eyes
- Nasal discharge that may be clear, yellow, or green
- Mild fever
- Muscle or joint pain
- Loss of appetite
While cat colds are not contagious to humans, these illnesses can easily spread to other cats. If you have multiple cats and one animal begins to exhibit cold symptoms, it is best to isolate the cat in a “sick room” for several days until the symptoms clear and the cat has recovered. When interacting with the sick cat, change clothes and wash your hands thoroughly before and after interactions to minimize the risk of spreading the cold to other cats.
At-Home Remedies for Cat Colds
There are several remedies that can help a cat with a cold feel more comfortable and recover more quickly. If your cat has a cold…
- Clean its nose with a damp cloth or cotton ball soaked in warm water several times a day to keep it clear and comfortable.
- Put a humidifier in the cat’s sick room or near where the cat sleeps to increase humidity and alleviate dry mouth and nasal tissues.
- Try a steam treatment by bringing the cat into the bathroom after a hot shower or using a steaming bowl of water near its carrier to help treat irritated tissues.
- Warm the cat’s food slightly to increase its odor and make it more appetizing to encourage eating so the animal can regain strength.
- Offer soft food to encourage the cat’s appetite, or moisten dry kibble with a splash of tuna juice or low-sodium chicken broth.
- Use artificial tears to flush the cat’s eyes and remove any crusty residue or debris to keep the face more comfortable.
- Add an extra blanket to the cat’s bed or favorite snuggle spots so it can stay warmer and more comfortable if it feels chilly.
- Offer a heated bed or low-setting heating pad to give the cat a warm place to rest, but be sure the heat will not cause burns.
- Clean or replace the cat’s bedding daily to reduce the risk of reinfection or spreading the disease to other cats.
- Provide plenty of fresh, clean water at all times so the cat can drink adequately to stay properly hydrated.
- Keep up on the cat’s annual vaccinations, including inoculations against seasonal cold and flu-like diseases.
- Take steps to lower the cat’s stress or anxiety, both of which could reduce the animal’s immune response and make it more vulnerable to infections and illness.
It is best to use as many remedies as possible, because the more comfortable you make your cat, the more quickly it will recover from its cold.
When to Seek Treatment
With good at-home care, most cats will be over their colds within just a few days. If your cat is not showing any improvement withing 4-5 days, however, or if its symptoms continue to worsen, it is important to seek veterinary care. This is especially true with any very severe symptoms such as wheezing or extreme difficulty breathing, or if additional symptoms appear. Cats can develop pneumonia quickly, and immediate treatment is necessary to prevent more severe complications.
Cats can commonly get colds, but recognizing the symptoms and providing at-home relief can help make your pet more comfortable while it recovers.