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
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