Do cats get colds?

It is the flu and cold season again. People would form a beeline to get OTC medications for cold. Sneezing, runny nose and burning sensation in the throat that would trigger coughing… these are some of the common symptoms of colds Cold is not a life threatening health concern but it is highly contagious. Three days after getting infected, a person with cold can pass the infection to others. To prevent infecting others, people with cold should stay at home and rest. Is it possible to transfer the cold to the pets? Cats are cuddled and even kissed. Can cats get colds from the owners? Cats can get colds. Cats with cold would show practically the same symptoms shown by humans. However, it is not possible for the cat to catch the owner’s cold as cold virus is species specific.

It is not uncommon for cats to get colds. It is interesting to note that while the cold and flu season in humans usually occurs during the cold months, feline cold is most prevalent during the hot months. So how do cats get colds? As mentioned, the causative agent for cold is species specific. This means that even if most of the family members have colds and a lot of sneezing and blowing of noses occurs inside the house, the cat will not get infected. A cat will only be infected by another cat. The risk of catching cold is greater in outdoor pets. Indoor cats can also catch cold when taken to the groomers, to boarding kennels to the vets or to any other places where there are many cats. The cold causing virus though is airborne thus an indoor cat that is never allowed to go out can still get infected as it would be impossible to filter the air.

Feline cold and human cold have very similar symptoms. A cat with cold would sneeze and have stuffy or runny nose. The cat can have a clear eye discharge. The third eyelid would be up a bit. The congested nose would make the cat breathe through the mouth. Colds can make the cat cough or wheeze too and the nose or the mouth can have a mucus discharge. Humans with cold would immediately take over the counter cold medications. Would it be wise to medicate the pet too? Treatment for viral infection does not exist. The pet must not be given human medications for colds. Antibiotics would have no effect either. Unless the cat is showing signs of secondary infection, the colds must be allowed to run its course. Just like humans, cats would get over the cold in a few days. However, older cats, kittens and cats with suppressed immune system may need a vet’s attention.

Making the pet as comfortable as possible is the best thing an owner can do. The pet would need more TLC from the owner. If the cat is eating, drinking and breathing easily, all the owner needs to do is to wipe the discharge off the cat’s nose and eyes. However, some cats with cold will find breathing difficult because of the stuffy nose. A steam vaporizer would make breathing easier for a pet. If a vaporizer is not available, the cat can be made to stay in the bathroom with the shower running. The steam would clear the cat’s stuffy nose. Cats that cannot smell their food would not eat. This can be a concern as unlike dogs that can go on for a few days without eating, cats that don’t eat for 24 hours can develop a life threatening condition known as hepatic lipidosis. It is imperative to take the pet to the vet especially if it is lethargic.