🌡️ Pets can get common cold and flu exactly like people. However, the nature of the illnesses in cats is slightly different from those in humans. Cats are resistant to most human viruses, but they can catch other species-specific viruses, which cause typical symptoms of the common cold or flu. These are, primarily, feline herpes and caliciviruses. Also, cats can suffer from bacterial infections, which are usually caused by bordetella bacteria.

Table of Contents:

Why Cats Get Colds
Cat Cold & Flu Symptoms
Treating a Cat Cold
Can Pets Share Diseases with Humans?
Helpful Tips to Care of Your Sick Feline
Preventive Measures for Colds in Cats
Frequently Asked Questions
The Bottom Line

Why Cats Get Colds

The mechanism of getting a viral or bacterial infection is similar in cats and people. The most common way of catching a cold is by contacting an infected cat. Viruses are always transmitted from one animal to another. This means that outdoor cats are in a risk group, as they contact other felines more frequently. 

However, vets say that cats can get infected without direct contact, such as using a food or drinking bowl previously used by an ill pet. Viruses are very ingenious organisms, which can survive on some surfaces for up to a week.  

As for bacterial infections, they usually develop as secondary infections on the background of untreated viral diseases. If a bacterial infection is not treated correctly, it can develop into pneumonia, which is a life-threatening disease.

A sick cat

Cat Cold & Flu Symptoms

The symptoms of common cold and flu in cats and humans are pretty similar. That said, there are certain differences between cold and flu to consider. Check the chart below to find out what symptoms are typical for both conditions.

SymptomCommon coldFlu
FeverSometimesOften
SneezingOftenSometimes
Discharge from the eyes and noseOftenSometimes
CoughingOftenSometimes
LethargyOftenOften
Sore musclesRarelyOften
Achy jointsRarelyOften
Mouth and eyes ulcersNeverOften
Loss of appetiteOftenOften

 

In general, the flu is a more dangerous condition if compared to the common cold. It can cause various complications, especially in cats with a weak immune system and small kittens. If your cat has a fever, while its movements are awkward because of sore muscles and joints, you may suspect flu. In this case, you should get in touch with a vet, who will make a correct diagnosis.

 

Treating a Cat Cold

Methods of cat cold treatment depend on the nature of the disease, the severity of symptoms, the cat’s age, and some other factors. Commonly, bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. As for viral infections, they usually don’t require specific medical treatment. However, it’s essential to make sure the cat is adequately hydrated and gets enough nutrients. Also, vets can prescribe symptomatic treatment – cleaning the nose and eyes from the discharge, air humidifying, and providing the most comfortable environment for the sick cat. Of course, it needs to be isolated from other pets. Normally, no viral infection lasts more than 8-10 days. If your cat has a strong immune system, it will overcome it with no medical interference.

Can Pets Share Diseases with Humans?

In fact, both cats and dogs can transmit some diseases to humans and vice versa. However, usually, this is not about common cold and flu. Despite quite similar symptoms, diseases of the upper respiratory organs (a.k.a. cold) in cats and humans are caused by different viruses. Thus, most human diseases are caused by a group of rhinoviruses, which are not dangerous for cats. Cats, in turn, suffer from feline herpes viruses and caliciviruses.

If your cat gets cold, you don’t need to stop contacting it. Chances are, the virus won’t affect you. On the contrary, your illness is not a reason for isolating your pets. Your viruses will cause no harm to them. 

Meanwhile, some types of infectious agents can affect both people and pets. These are, for example, several forms of streptococcus, which cause sore throat. Usually, they are transmitted from pets to humans, not vice versa. Happily, in real life, they occur relatively rarely, especially in domestic indoor cats.

Make sure your ill cat feels comfortable

Precautions

While the risk of catching an infection by contacting a cat is quite low, it’s important to take some precautionary measures to minimize this probability. Here are five things to consider. 

  • Avoid touching cat salvia and feces. Feces contains a lot of bacteria, while salvia is a breeding environment for viruses.
  • Wash your hands after contacting a cat. Usual soap can kill most viruses and bacteria.
  • Take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. The specialist will make a precise diagnosis and estimate potential risks.
  • Isolate the sick cat from other pets. This will help prevent the spreading of the infection.
  • Wash and disinfect the floor under and around the cat’s bedding and its litter box. Clean the litter box regularly.

These simple precautionary measures will help you protect yourself, your family members, and other pets from catching an infection. Keep in mind, however, that your sick cat also needs special care and your attention.

Helpful Tips to Care of Your Sick Feline

If your cat is ill, your primary task is to take it to the vet and get a prescription. However, while meds and injections are important, it is equally important to provide a due level of comfort to the pet. Usually, cats have strong immune systems, so they can overcome most illnesses. Your goal is to let it survive this period most comfortably.

  1. Wipe off the discharge from the nose and eyes of the pet. When the nose is clogged, a cat can’t breathe freely and its sense of smell becomes dull, which influences its appetite. Use a clean wet cloth or towel to remove the discharge gently. 
  2. Provide proper hydration and nutrition to the cat. Its appetite can temporarily reduce because of the illness, however, it must eat something. Offer your kitty its favorite food in small portions. You may even try to feed it by hand if it is too weak. Drinking fresh water is even more important than eating. Make sure your cat always has access to a bowl with fresh drinking water. 
  3. Try to humidify the air in the room. You may use an air humidifier or a simple DIY vaporizer to add some moisture to the air. 
  4. Monitor the amount of food and water consumed by the cat. If it drinks and eats too little or nothing, consult a veterinarian. Long starvation or dehydration can be dangerous for cats.

Finally, you must never give any medications to your cat without a doctor’s prescription. Also, don’t try to treat the pet with human drugs. In most cases, they are useless, as cat diseases are caused by different infectious agents. Moreover, they can cause harm to a cat and even kill it.

Preventive Measures for Colds in Cats

It’s always easier to prevent an illness than treat it. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the risk of catching a cold by your cat. The most reliable way is vaccinating. Of course, it doesn’t protect from all existing infections, but, at least, there are effective vaccines for the two most common feline viruses. They are feline herpes virus and feline calica virus. Consult your vet for getting detailed information about the procedure of vaccination. 

Other preventive measures include avoiding contact with infected cats; however, this is hard to control if your feline walks outdoors. The last but not the least is making the cat’s immune system stronger. The main factors influencing the immunity are well-balanced nutrition and physical activity of the pet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Common cold in cats, usually, is not very dangerous. That being said, improper treatment can lead to severe complications. Before taking any measures, look for answers to frequently asked questions of cat owners.

✅ Q: Can We Get Each Other Sick?

A short answer is People can catch some diseases from cats, but common cold and flu are not among these diseases. The fact is that cold in cats and people is caused by different viruses, which tend to be species-specific.

✅ Q: What Diseases Cause Sneezing and Coughing in Pets?

A: Cats can sneeze and cough for various reasons, so you always need to consider accompanying symptoms. If there is no discharge from the nose or fever, but your cat sneezes too often, this may be an allergy. If sneezing and coughing are accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, eye and nose discharge, apathy, and appetite loss, this can be cold or flu.

✅ Q: Can Vitamins and Supplements Help?

A: Vitamins and supplements can strengthen the immune system, which, in turn, will help overcome the disease faster and easier. Though many cat food supplements are available over the counter, it’s recommended to get a prescription from a qualified veterinarian. The specialist will help you to choose the right vitamins, which can enhance the cat’s recovery.

✅ Q: Cat Colds: When to See a Veterinarian?

A: If your cat is sick, you should see a vet as soon as possible. Even if no medical treatment is required, the specialist will make a diagnosis and help detect the type of infection. At least, this will help you avoid serious complications.

The Bottom Line

Just like we, our cats can get sick one day. Both flu and colds are not uncommon diseases for felines. Moreover, their symptoms are pretty similar to the symptoms of human flu and colds. However, due to the different nature, cat cold requires a different approach. Untreated or incorrectly treated cold can grow into pneumonia or other life-threatening conditions. That is why it’s crucial to adhere to specialists’ recommendations and take a cat to a specialist if you suspect a viral or bacterial infection. An early diagnostic and correct treatment can save your kitty’s life and health.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_flu – Cat flu

https://icatcare.org/advice/upper-respiratory-infections-uris-cat-flu-information-for-breeders/ – Upper respiratory infections (URIs, Cat flu) – information for breeders

https://www.vethospital.co.nz/post/cat-flu-upper-respiratory-tract-infection – Cat Flu – Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

https://www.hillspet.co.id/cat-care/healthcare/can-cats-get-flu-cold-virus – Can Cats Get the Flu or a Cold?

https://www.hshv.org/upper-respiratory-infections-cats-cat-colds/ – Upper respiratory infections in cats

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