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You might be surprised to learn that one of the most common ailments affecting cats is upper respiratory infections, aka colds. It's not the same kind that affects humans, so you don't have to worry about transferring your cold to your pet or vice-versa. Cold in cats is caused by viruses and bacteria such as Feline calicivirus and Bordetella bronchiseptica.
Symptoms can range from mild (sneezing, clear discharge from eyes or nasal cavity) to severe (fever, appetite loss, fatigue, or yellowish discharge). If the infection is minor, you can try the home remedies listed below to alleviate your pet's cold.
1. Clearing the Nasal Passage
Keep your cat’s airways from being blocked or congested by getting rid of nasal discharge. You can use a damp paper towel or washcloth for this purpose. Clean their eyes in a similar way. This will help your sick cat breathe and see better. Do not use the same towel or cloth to wipe their nose and eyes; keep the two separate.
Humidifiers or vaporizers are also a great way to clean your cat's nasal pathways. You can use a store-bought device and place it next to your cat for no longer than half an hour at a time. You can also turn your bathroom into a makeshift humidifier. Let the hot water from your shower turn the bathroom warm and humid, and then make your cat sit in the room for about ten minutes.
2. Providing a Warm Environment
It is important for your cat to stay warm. Cover a heating pad or a hot water bag in blankets, and place it around the cat’s body. Do not let your cat come into direct contact with the heat source, as it can cause burn injuries. Your cat should be able to distance itself from the heat source easily. Also, keep your cat indoors and away from drafty areas in the house.
3. Eating Right
If your cat has a cold, it may not feel like eating. Loss of appetite can lead to weakness and make it more difficult to fight off the infection. So coax your cat with fishy treats that carry a strong odor, such as tuna. If you are using canned food, serve it warm. Additionally, your cat may have difficulty swallowing food, so soften the dry food with water.
4. Ensuring Hydration
Ensure your cat stays hydrated by monitoring their water intake. Keep a steady supply of freshwater and look out for signs of dehydration. If their gums are colorless or red, or if the skin around their neck area stays up for more than a second when softly pinched, then your cat may be dehydrated.
5. Cleanliness & Quarantine
If your cat is sick, their water and food bowls and litter box may also be infected with the cold virus or bacteria. Replace these items or clean them out thoroughly. This step is especially important if you have other pets. You should also keep your sick cat quarantined in a separate room to minimize the spread of infection.
6. Rest & Relaxation
Your cat needs plenty of sleep and rest. To avoid stressful situations and activities and give them time to recover. Keep monitoring their body temperature, particularly at their extremities such as tails and feet. If they feel too cold or too hot, take them to the vet as soon as you can.
While you can give certain vitamins and supplements to your cat when it's sick, it is advisable to do so only after consulting with your vet. At no time should you give any oral or topical medication, including for fleas or ticks, of your own volition. Before you begin treating your cat at home, it is recommended you visit the veterinarian, more so if your cat’s immune system is not yet fully developed or is otherwise compromised due to age or other illnesses.
Frequently Asked Questions
How did my indoor cat get a cold?
Cats can catch colds just like humans. The most common way for a cat to catch a cold is through contact with another infected cat. However, indoor cats can still catch colds even if they do not come into contact with other cats. One possibility is that the virus was brought into your home on your clothing or shoes after being in contact with an infected cat or environment outside of your home. The virus can then be transmitted to your cat if they come into contact with the contaminated items. Another possibility is that your cat's immune system may have been weakened by stress, poor nutrition, or an underlying health condition, making them more susceptible to catching a cold. Symptoms of a cold in cats may include sneezing, runny nose, coughing, and watery eyes. If you suspect that your cat has a cold, it is important to take them to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
What medicine can I give my cat for a cold?
It is important to never give your cat any medication without first consulting with a veterinarian. Some medications that are safe for humans or other animals can be toxic or even deadly to cats. Your veterinarian can recommend appropriate medication for your cat's specific condition and symptoms. In general, treatment for a cat's cold may include supportive care, such as providing a comfortable and warm environment, encouraging your cat to drink water and eat, and using a humidifier to help relieve congestion. Your veterinarian may also prescribe medication to help relieve symptoms, such as antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections, antiviral medications for certain viral infections, and decongestants to help relieve nasal congestion.
Can I give my cat Benadryl for a cold?
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine that can be used in cats to treat certain conditions, such as allergic reactions, motion sickness, and anxiety. However, it is not typically used to treat a cat's cold symptoms, as it is not effective in relieving nasal congestion. Furthermore, it is important to note that Benadryl can have side effects in cats and should only be given under the guidance of a veterinarian. The correct dosage of Benadryl for a cat will depend on the cat's weight, age, and overall health status, and giving too much can be harmful.
When should I worry about my cat sneezing?
Sneezing is a common symptom in cats and can be caused by a variety of factors, including allergies, infections, irritants, or foreign objects in the nasal passages. In most cases, occasional sneezing is not a cause for concern. However, if your cat is frequently sneezing or has other accompanying symptoms, it may be a sign of a more serious problem. If your cat is sneezing frequently or intensely, or if the sneezing persists for more than a few days, it may indicate an underlying problem that requires veterinary attention. If your cat has discharge from the nose or eyes, or if the discharge is discolored or has a foul odor, it may be a sign of an infection or other underlying issue. If your cat is having difficulty breathing or if they are making wheezing or rasping sounds, it may indicate a more serious respiratory problem. If your cat is not eating, drinking, or playing as usual, or if they seem lethargic or uninterested in their surroundings, it may be a sign of illness or discomfort. If you notice any of these signs, take your cat to the veterinarian for a thorough examination and appropriate treatment.
How long can a cold last in a cat?
The duration of a cold in cats can vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the symptoms. In general, a mild cold can last anywhere from a few days to a week or two. However, in some cases, a cold may persist for several weeks or longer, particularly if it is caused by a viral infection. If your cat has a cold, it is important to monitor their symptoms closely and provide them with supportive care, such as a warm and comfortable environment, plenty of fresh water, and a balanced and nutritious diet. You can also help relieve their symptoms by using a humidifier to ease congestion and wiping their eyes and nose with a damp cloth to keep them clean. If your cat's cold symptoms persist for more than a week or if they worsen, take them to the veterinarian for a thorough examination and appropriate treatment. Your veterinarian may recommend medication to help relieve symptoms or treat any underlying infections, as well as provide guidance on how to manage your cat's condition and promote their recovery.