Feline Upper Respiratory Disease

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Have you ever wondered if cats catch colds the same way people do? The answer is yes! Although cats don’t catch human cold viruses, our feline friends get feline upper respiratory infection, which is commonly caused by the herpesvirus and calicivirus.

Learn how to recognize symptoms of colds in cats, and what to do if your cat is diagnosed with feline upper respiratory infection.

Can Cats Catch Colds?

What is feline upper respiratory disease?

Chances are you’ve had a brush with the common cold. With symptoms such as congestion, sore throat and even chills, colds are viruses that can leave us feeling icky for up to two weeks. Cats also experience colds, or what we call feline upper respiratory disease. This disease is caused by the feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus, and symptoms can last for seven to 10 days.

Often spread by wet sneezes, and even from their own mothers, kittens and cats with weakened immune systems are more likely to become infected. Moreover, because feline upper respiratory disease is a virus, it never truly leaves your cat’s body. This means symptoms can recur or intensify if they are not treated properly.

For example, if left untreated or caught too late, feline upper respiratory disease can spread to your cat’s lungs, causing pneumonia. Cats can also get painful ulcers on the cornea of the eye or in their mouth.


Cat cold symptoms look a lot like human cold virus symptoms. If you suspect your cat has a cold, be on the lookout for the following signs of illness:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Congestion and/or open-mouth breathing
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Ulcers on the eyes, nose or in the mouth

If your cat or kitten has any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away. The sooner your cat gets treatment, the sooner they will feel better. Early treatment can also minimize the chance of your cat spreading the disease to other cats in your home, and help prevent symptoms from recurring.



Distemper and upper respiratory disease prevention is required for kittens and cats. There’s a four-in-one vaccine available to help fight against upper respiratory infections. Make sure your cat is up-to-date on all vaccines and boosters, especially if you just adopted a new kitten.

Reduce Chance of Transmission

Sniffles and sneezes aren’t the only way cats spread feline upper respiratory disease. Just like with human cold viruses, infected surfaces such as clothing, bedding, food bowls and even your own hands can transmit the disease.

If you have multiple cats in your home, take care to wash bedding and all surfaces to prevent further transmission. It’s also a good idea to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands after handling or grooming your cats. Treat feline upper respiratory disease as you would the common cold or flu. Be hyperaware of germs and disinfect to avoid giving the virus to others.


Make an Appointment With Your Vet

After being examined, your veterinarian might prescribe antibiotics, which can help prevent secondary bacterial infections in the respiratory tract or eyes. Additionally, your cat’s doctor might recommend oral medications, eye ointments and other medications that interfere with the herpesvirus reproduction. If your cat is dehydrated or feverish, they might also require fluid therapy or an IV.

It’s important to use all medications as prescribed by your veterinarian.

At-home Care

Nursing your sick cat back to health looks a lot like how you would care for yourself or a loved one. To help with congestion, remove discharge from your cat’s eyes and nose. You can also keep a humidifier in the main rooms of your home to keep moisture in the air (this helps prevent dry noses and skin). Additionally, make sure your feline friend is getting enough rest. Provide them with a safe, quiet and comfortable place where they can peacefully recover.

In addition to having less energy, your cat might not eat normally when they are feeling under the weather. When this happens, it might be necessary to force feed your cat to make sure they are staying hydrated and getting the nutrients they need for a healthy recovery. With a little love and care, your feline friend should start feeling like their normal self in about a week.



YES, cats do get colds.  And surprisingly,  their symptoms are very similar to our symptoms when we have contracted a viral cold. Dehydration is a significant side effect of feline upper respiratory disease.  Make sure you monitor your fur baby for this deadly complication.    If you suspect that your cat is sick with a cold. you should make sure that you have a Veterinarian evaluate and offer suggestions or medications which may improve the symptoms.   This is an excelent aticle on handling a cat or kitten with cold symptoms.

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