We call feline colds URI’s which stands for Upper Respiratory Infections. Just as in people, these are caused by ubiquitous, highly contagious viruses. Many of the symptoms are the same as in people – sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, inflamed runny eyes and post nasal drip. Cat’s often have more serious eye involvement though, often resulting in squinting and conjunctival redness.

We often see cats who haven’t left their 12th floor apartment in 1 year that get these viruses, but the more contact a cat has with other cats the more risk there is, of getting a cold.

There are two potentially life threatening URI’s caused by the Calici Virus, and Herpes, but vaccines to prevent these are administered combined with the Distemper Shot and called the 3 in 1 or 4 in 1 vaccine. These should be given yearly to every cat indoor or outdoor.

These vaccines will not prevent the dozen odd, minor cold like viruses. Just as with people, your cat may feel poorly for 2-4 days and then feel better; but the sneezing and nasal congestion can persist for a week or two more. Since your cat’s nasal passages are partially clogged, you may need to try “smellier” food for a while. A cat’s appetite depends on their ability to smell, so food with liver or even fish might be necessary when congestions is at its worst.

Sometimes it helps to put your cat in a steamy bathroom for 10-15 minutes 2 to 3 times a day to loosen the congestion. Humidifiers can help too, but if congestion is severe nose drops may be indicated. We like Afrin drops, but it is difficult to administer these. They need to be forcefully blown down your cat’s nostrils with the nose pointing toward the ceiling.

If your cat has these symptoms, but still seems reasonably active with a fair to good appetite, you can usually wait it out. If, however he is listless, not eating or begins sneezing out colored mucus you should call us about an exam and mediation. Cats can become rapidly dehydrated if they are not eating normally and if the mucus is colored and thick it could represent a secondary bacterial rhinosinusitis, which might require a course of antibiotics.

Most URI’s are not serious and will pass off, but if the above symptoms exist or persist longer then specified give us a call and we’ll check kitty out.

Dr William Sullivan