Do cats catch a cold?

Bethany from San Diego asked us:

Hello CatPet.Club team!

I wanted to ask Sakura Davis or Claudine Sievert if cats can catch colds? Can humans transfer colds to cats? Do outdoor cats have bigger chances to catch a cold?


Can cats get colds?

Yes, cats can catch a cold and have similar symptoms as us humans. Cat cold symptoms are sneezing, nasal congestion/discharge, and lethargy. Cat colds are usually diagnosed as an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) and usually caused by one or more viral and bacterial agents. The most common viruses that cause URI in cats include Feline Calicivirus (FCV) and Feline Herpes Virus Type 1 (FVR) and the most common bacteria is Chlamydophila felis. 

Other than the nasal discharge and sneezing, cats with a URI can present other symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, conjunctivitis, ulcers in the mouth, discharge from eyes, anorexia, etc. A URI in cats can last anywhere between a week to a month. If the URI is not too severe, your cat will recover on her own, however, if the symptoms seem to prolong or worsen, it is recommended to seek veterinary attention. Also, with FVR (herpesvirus), all cats become chronic carriers of the disease. The virus will have flare-ups throughout their life usually caused by stress. 

Can cats catch them from humans?

Cats cannot catch a cold from humans or dogs however, they can catch it from other cats. An URI is highly contagious and is spread through saliva, nasal and eye discharge. A cat can be infected if they share a litter box, toy, food bowl, or a kennel with an infected cat. They can also get infected by being boarded at a kennel sharing common air space with an infected cat. 

Are outdoor cats more susceptible to colds than indoor cats?

Yes, outdoor cats are more susceptible than indoor cats as they have more chances of being in contact with cats that have a URI. To prevent some of these bacterial and viral infections that cause the URI, you can vaccinate your cat regularly. The main vaccine to get is the core vaccine, FVRCP which would protect your cat from feline viral Rhinotracheitis (also known as herpes virus), Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. This will help you make sure you will never say to your vet “my cat has a cold”.

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