ExcitedCats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Can Cats Get Colds? And What Should You Do?

Cat colds exist. It’s true; cats get the same sort of cold symptoms we do, though not from humans, from other cats. When a cat gets a cold, it’s not uncommon to see sneezing, congestion, lethargy and loss of appetite.

So, if you see these symptoms suddenly in your cat, she may have a cold. What should you do? Let’s first look into what kinds of symptoms they tend to show, how and why they get colds in the first place, and what to do about it.cat face divider 2

Symptoms of a Cold in Cats

How do you know if your cat has a cold? Cold symptoms in cats are similar to that of colds in humans, which include:
  • Cough
  • Congestion (stuffy nose)
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
Sick cat medicines
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

How Do Indoor Cats Get Colds?

Of course you want to know how your cat got this cold, so you can prevent your cat from getting one in the future.

Outdoor cats are more likely than indoor cats to get colds. This is because transmission only happens between cats. Your cat cannot get a cold from you or any other human in the house, just cats. So how do indoor-only cats get colds?

Have you boarded your cat recently? This is the most common way that indoor cats get colds. When they are kept in an enclosed space with other cats, it’s likely they will pass germs between each other, which explains how your cat got sick.

Another cold-causer is stress. Stress in your cat’s life, like a recent surgery, moving, or your absence, weakens her immune system and makes her more susceptible to viruses that cause colds.3 cat face divider

Do Cat Colds Go Away On Their Own?

With mild cat colds in adults, most cases will go away on their own in 1-2 weeks. When you don’t see any improvement after day 4 of their cold, you should get your cat seen by a vet.

Keep in mind, all of this advice pertains to healthy, adult cats. Kittens, senior cats, unvaccinated, pregnant and nursing cats are more at risk for serious complications than normal adult cats, and it’s best to get a professional opinion before self-treating.

Vet looking for swelling in cat paws
Image Credit: Motortion Films, Shutterstock

How to Treat a Cat Cold

First of all, never give your kitty over-the-counter cold medication meant for humans. Next, it’s best to see your vet about the right solution for your cat’s cold. Your vet will know how serious the condition is when he or she examines your cat and will be able to properly treat your cat.

Sometimes, though, you can’t see your vet right away, and you want to offer your cat some relief sooner than later. Here are some things you can do to help her while you wait on the vet appointment.

  • Wipe Away Boogers

When your cat is well, he takes care of his own grooming. But when he is sick, you might need to help him out by cleaning the excess boogers from his face.

Gently massage your kitty’s face with a clean, damp and slightly warm washcloth. Wipe off any mucus formed around the nose and eyes. He might not like the process at first, but could feel a lot better when you are done and not mind it so much the next time.

  • Use an Infant Bulb Syringe

If your cat is having difficulty breathing through her nose, you may choose to use a bulb syringe in her nose to clear out mucus. These can be found in the same aisle as infant supplies at the local supermarket. Only do this if your cat will tolerate it; don’t force the use of it.

  • Run a Humidifier

Decongestion is aided by extra moisture in the air. If you have a humidifier, run it by where your cat sleeps. It works even better if she is in an enclosed area.

If you don’t have a humidifier, you could put your cat in his kennel, put a bowl of hot water near the entrance, and cover the area for about fifteen minutes. This will hopefully flood your cat’s nasal passages with moisture, aiding in decongestion.

Another way to do this is by keeping your cat in the bathroom with you while you run a hot shower. If she likes water, run her a warm bath to swim and play in.

  • Keep Them Warm

Cats with mild fevers will get the chills, so keep plenty of blankies close by for your cat to snuggle up in. You could also turn on a heating pad under a thick blanket or towel for them to lay on, just make sure it’s not so hot that it will burn.

  • Make Sure They Are Eating and Drinking

It’s somewhat normal for a cat with a cold to lose his appetite. He might eat a little less than normal because he doesn’t feel good, or he cannot smell/taste his food like he used to, because of congestion. You can make food more enticing by heating it up and adding water to it. This will bring out the good smells in the food, so it might be more appetizing.

Do make sure, though, that he hasn’t given up eating altogether. This could be a sign of a more serious problem, and should be addressed by a vet immediately.

Cats tend to not drink as much water as they should, even in good health, so definitely push the water when you can. Fluids are important in getting rid of a cold virus.

  • Supplements

The only supplement for cat colds approved by vets is lysine, an amino acid that could help inhibit the replication of a virus. If your vet approves, you can give your cat about 500 mg of lysine a few times a day. About a weeks worth of lysine for your cat before a stressful event could boost his immune system enough to avoid a stress cold.

Some people give their cats a vitamin C supplement or apple cider vinegar to help their cat’s cold, though this is not recommended by vets.

cat + line divider

When to See a Vet About a Cat Cold

Like we mentioned before, you should try to talk to your vet as soon as you can when your cat has a cold. He or she will have the solution best tailored to your cat’s needs.

However, when you notice these signs, you should talk to a vet immediately:
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased discharge
  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Increased lethargy

These symptoms all require more advanced care. Vets say that these infections are easiest to treat early on, so keep a close eye on your kitty. Your vet can prescribe a pet medication to treat your cat’s cold symptoms.

We hope your cat feels better soon!

thematic break

Featured image credit: Natata, Shutterstock

excitedcatssmallsfeb2022