Cat Colds Explained [Causes, Symptoms, & What You Should Do]

Cats get sick too. A cold is one of the most common illnesses for these lovely pets. Their symptoms look a lot like a human cold. They sneeze, become cranky, and usually just want to hide under a blanket.

A mild cat cold usually heals on its own. Occasionally, a cat cold could progress and affect your cat’s health. How can you help your cat get well? And at which point do you need to see the vet?

Here’s everything you need to know about colds and cats: the signs, causes, and best home remedies.


The Signs of a Cat Cold

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Mouth sores

The Best Home Remedies

  • Clean up your cat
  • Help your cat with grooming
  • Change the cat’s menu
  • Add some blankets
  • Use a humidifier

What Does a Cat Cold Look Like?

Cats get sick just like we do and there are many similarities between a cat cold and a human cold.

In the beginning, cats might just seem to be a little under the weather, but it gets more evident as the cold progresses. Here are some of the signs that show your cat has a cold.


This is one of the easily noticeable symptoms. The cute sneeze the cat gives occasionally could be just dust, then again it could be something more.

The persistence of the sneezing spell is a strong sign the cat has a cold. It could also become more severe or turn into a cough, so you’ll need to observe your cat closely.

Runny Nose

Cat owners are sometimes surprised when they notice that their cats have a runny nose. This is one of the first signs of a cold and the cats’ little nostrils could become congested as well.

The virus attacks their immune system and their mucous starts showing signs of inflammation. Nasal secretions could become thicker or greener.

This could be a little extra humidity around their noses, or it might escalate into a full case of the snuffles.


Sick cats seek out a corner and sit still. You might see them hiding under a table or an armchair. This is all part of the way they imagine they could heal.

sick cat

A previously lively or naughty cat would curl around itself and sleep one hundred hours a day. This is a red flag that cat owners pick up right away.

Loss of Appetite

Cats need to smell the food that’s presented to them before they can eat. Maybe this is an ancient survival mechanism felines used to have. Cats only eat what smells healthy and appetizing.


When their noses are congested, cats will naturally turn down any food. The problem is that they can’t afford to be without food and water for very long. Dehydration is a very serious issue for cats.


This is one of the advanced signs of a severe cat cold. This means that the initial viral infection drained the defenses of the cat’s immune system significantly.

It’s not very common though, and usually, cats get better before reaching this stage.

Watery Eyes

Having watery eyes is one more thing cats have in common with humans, but theirs could develop into an inflammation. It’s often nothing major and can be treated with home remedies.

The red flag is when the clear tear-like discharge coming out of the cat’s eye becomes pus. A sore around the cat’s eye is serious.

The vet should check the cat as soon as possible, as untreated eyesores could damage the cat’s eye. It’s not hard to cure though.

Mouth Sores

A sore mouth is harder to detect, and the cat is already off food because of the cold. The vet could spot the signs and it’s one more serious sign of cat cold.

Mouth sores are frequently associated with a particular virus. The herpes variety virus has a short recuperation time, but the cat could remain as a chronic carrier.

What Can You Give a Cat for a Cold?

First of all, don’t give your cat any cold medicine that humans use. The soothing effects we feel might not transpire when the cat receives the same treatment. If they do need medication, then it has to be prescribed by a vet.

It’s best to take your cat to vet as soon as you notice sneezing or a runny nose. Usually, a mild cat cold recedes in a week without medication. Home care should bring them safely back to good health.

Cat cold is often not serious to healthy adult cats. Little kittens, older cats, or cats with other health issues are more sensitive. The vet could prescribe antibiotics or other medicines to assist their immune system.

How Do Indoor Cats Get a Cold?

Cats in shelters or in crowded pet shops can easily catch a cold. It’s an airborne virus after all, and there are so many of them breathing in a small enclosure.

Home cats aren’t subjected to the same conditions, so some people think it’s a bit strange that they get the flu.

Cat sneezes making funny expression. Sick cat needs treatment. Cat with white chin isolated on white background.

They don’t get it from their human friends anyway. Cross-species or zoonotic infection is limited to certain cases, and cat cold isn’t one of them.

Cats can be contagious to other cats though. The virus is carried along with the tiniest dust particle and reaches a house cat.

The virus or bacteria causing cat cold is quite powerful, and it can remain dormant in a cat’s body for a long time. Some viruses, like calicivirus, stick to their pet hosts for three years. The cats could become virus-free after that time.

Some other viruses, like the feline herpes virus, stay inside the cat’s system for life. The cat becomes a chronic carrier, but it looks healthy most of the time.

There’s always a probability of recurrence if the cat is under stress or aging. The virus could also spread through the cat’s sneezing, nasal discharges, or saliva. Discarded viruses remain alive and well in the environment for a whole week.

That’s how a seemingly healthy cat could infect other remote cats.

It’s just like a human common cold, you could be chilling at your own home and then one morning, you start sneezing. It’s that puny but notorious airborne virus!

How Long Does a Cat Cold Last?

Cats have various levels of immunity. Viruses also have different strengths. A cold spell could last from a week to four weeks depending on these variables.

Using medicines or home remedies could decrease the duration of the cold as well. Even caring and fussing about your sick cat tends to decrease its ill days.

Being content boosts the immune system. This is true for pets just as it’s true for humans. Kindness is an elixir.

Does Your Cat Need a Vet?

If your cat shows several signs of having a cold, then it’s best to see the vet. This becomes essential if the cat looks dehydrated.

You can tell if a cat is dehydrated by pinching the back of her neck lightly. Normally, the skin would return back to its place in one second. If it doesn’t, then the cat is dehydrated.

Veterinarian taking care of sick cat

This could have risky consequences, as the cat might suffer from secondary infections and in extreme cases, its systems could shut down.

Cats become dehydrated if they refuse to eat or drink for more than a day. You could easily notice that. Cats can also become dehydrated after they get repeated diarrhea. This too is easy to see.

Cat cold is usually a viral infection. The infection might develop into inflammation in the cat’s nose, mouth, and upper respiratory system.

The affected tissue could easily contract a bacterial infection. This is referred to as a ‘secondary infection’ and it’s treated by antibiotics.

Cats could also get eye or mouth sores, and these should be treated by medication too. The early treatment alleviates the cat’s distress significantly. It also protects the cat from any possible ill-effects of the sores.

The Best Home Remedies for a Cat Cold

This is a shortlist of effective home remedies that should make your cat feel better.

Clean Up the Cat

Cat cold leaves your cat with various discharges from their eyes, nose, and mouth. Prepare a saline solution by adding a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water. Wipe the cat’s eyes and nose softly with a soft cloth.

This would relieve the cat’s discomfort and reduce inflammation. It should also decrease the possibility of further bacterial infection.

Help Your Cat with Grooming

Grooming is difficult for sick cats. It’s more so if they have a sore mouth or throat and can’t lick themselves. Instead, you can give your cat a dry bath with a specialized waterless shampoo. That should be much easier for both of you.

This will refresh them and keep their skin from becoming itchy. You could also brush their hair or use moisturizing wipes around their nose. There are some soothing products for pet skin that should be comforting to the poor thing.

Change the Cat’s Menu

The cat’s sense of smell is critical for her acceptance of any food. When it has a cold, she can’t smell well, and she goes off food. Try to introduce foods with a strong smell that a cat can detect.

Cats with a sore mouth or throat can’t swallow dry food. Mix it with warm water to soften it a little, that should encourage your cat to eat.

You can also offer your cat ice cream or yogurt. The cool sensation and soft texture usually entice them. Most cats are usually nuts about yogurt, by the way.

Add Some Blankets

Put some blankets where your cat likes to lie down. It would help if the cat is feeling cold, and it’s cozy and cuddly anyways.

How Can You Prevent Cat Cold?

These are a few precautions you can take to avoid occurrence or recurrence of a cat cold.

Good Nutrition

Good food goes a long way in increasing the body’s immunity. Include the essential vitamins in your cat’s diet. Omega 3 is great for their overall health, so make sure they get some of that too.

Protein is the building block of all types of cells in any mammal’s body. Staying healthy means getting sufficient daily intake of high-quality proteins. Try to include some good sources of protein in your cat’s meals.

Gray British shorthair cats are eating

Natural proteins are great if your cat is used to them. Try to include fish, chicken, and milk along with dry food.

Observe how your cat responds to natural proteins. Some cats would gobble it up while others will act finicky. They could also tolerate it well or find some difficulty with digestion. Adjust the frequency and amount of proteins accordingly.


The virus is usually carried on dust particles. It could also jump on a human’s hand as he plays with an infected or carrier cat. The virus is then transferred to any other cats that come in contact with the human’s hands or clothes.

Simple hand washing goes a long way in preventing the unintentional spreading of viruses.

Isolate New Cats

If you bring in a new cat in the house, try to keep it in a separate place for two weeks. This is the incubation time of most viruses, so you can limit the possibility of its reaching the other cats.


Cat cold vaccines are recommended if the cat is aging or has other health issues. There are some effective vaccines for Chlamydophila Felis infection.

Other types or strains of viruses keep changing their form, so vaccines can’t keep up.


Taking care of a pet cat is a lot like taking care of a baby. When they get sick, what they need most is your care and attention.

Viruses are everywhere. Your cat doesn’t have to come into contact with a sick cat to catch a cold. You can, however, minimize the possibilities by following proper hygiene.

Take your cat to the vet if you see more than one sign of a cold. Try to coax your cat into taking any prescribed medication and keep her warm and well-fed.

This is pretty much everything you need to know about cat cold.

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