Can a Cat Catch a Cold?

Article by Dr. Peters

pictures_cats_colds.jpegWhen we catch a cold, we are usually plagued with watery eyes, runny nose, congestion, coughing and sneezing. Anyone who has had cats for any length of time has seen these same symptoms from time to time. But did the cat actually have a cold?

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If we go by the definition of a cold as an upper respiratory infection, then yes, cats can catch colds, and the mechanism and course of infection are similar to ours. Usually, the immune system must be diminished to allow it, as healthy individuals will not be debilitated by an assault of the causative agents.

The causes include viruses and bacteria, primarily. Often, a virus will appear first and weaken the tissues in the respiratory tract, at which point, certain bacteria may gain a foothold, creating symptoms as a secondary infection.

pictures_cats_hiding.jpegThe various "cat colds" include FVR (feline viral rhinotracheitis), which is caused by a herpes virus; FCV (feline calicivirus), an RNA virus which is most similar to the human cold viruses; and feline chlamydia, or pneumonitis, caused by a bacterium, chlamydia psittaci. This is the infection that leads to the eye infections that may accompany respiratory symptoms.

Those caused by bacteria are arguably the easiest to fight, as they can be treated with antibiotics, but there are no antibiotics that specifically target viruses. The best approach, then, is to treat the symptoms while supporting the cat's physiology with remedies that promote health and strengthen the immune system.

Those "treatments" involve common sense approaches, such as proper diet and reducing stress in the environment. When these are part of the cat's everyday lifestyle anyway, colds and other illnesses are much less likely to appear in the first place.

This information was obtained from The Cornell (University) Book of Cats. For additional general information about cat health, visit Dr. Peters' website:

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Can a Cat Catch a Cold? - Face Kitty was a wonderful read. I love it, I can read this stuff forever, keep em coming!

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