Learn about members of the Animal Kingdom

Can Cats Get A Cold?

Cat with a cold

When we talk about a cat that got a cold, we can say that our kitty has a respiratory infection, which is pretty common in cats, and is usually caused by different pathogens. Can Cats Get A Cold? Let’s see.

How To Recognize A Cat That Got A Cold?

According to Cornell Feline Health Center, respiratory infections in cats are caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa such as: the Feline Herpes (FVR or FHV-1), Calicivirus (FCV), Feline Chlamydiosis, Bordetella Bronchiseptica, fungal infections and other respiratory infections coming from humans, dogs, birds and rodents.

Respiratory infections in cats can occur in the upper, but also in the lower regions of the respiratory tract presenting symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, fever, watery/swollen eyes, lack of appetite and lethargy.

When the Infection Affects the Upper Respiratory Tract

If the infection is located in the upper respiratory tract, it can cause problems to the nasal passages, sinuses, the oral cavity, back of the nasal and oral cavity (pharynx), and to the vocal folds (larynx).

The symptoms will include: clear or colored discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, coughing, swollen membranes around the eyes (conjunctivitis), mouth ulcers, a lethargic cat that may also suffer due to breathing problems.

When the Infection Affects the Lower Respiratory Tract

When is located in the lower respiratory tract, the respiratory infection affects the trachea, but also the bronchi and the lungs.

The symptoms may include severe coughing, anorexia, lethargy, and in some cases even difficult or very rapid breathing (which will not exceed 35 breaths per minute in resting position).

Types of Respiratory Infections in Cats

There are several respiratory infections caused by pathogen agents such as: viruses (FVR, FHV-1 and FCV), bacteria (Feline Chlamydiosis and Bordetella Bronchiseptica), fungi (different fungal infections) and other respiratory infections coming from birds, rodents, dogs and humans.

1. Feline Herpes

If your cat got a cold, could be due to the feline herpes known as: feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1), feline viral rhinopneumonitis (FVR) or rhinotracheitis virus.

This is an upper respiratory infection that usually affects younger cats, but during their lifetime, about 97% of the cats will be exposed to feline herpes virus.

More than that, the feline herpes creates a lifelong infection for about 80% of the cats exposed to the virus, and about half of them will periodically shed the virus (in times of stress).

2. Feline Calicivirus (FCV)

This a very contagious respiratory virus that affects about 10% of cats housed in small groups, and about 90% of the cats living in more crowded groups such as breeding catteries or shelters.

This a respiratory virus that usually causes an upper respiratory infection, but in some cases it can migrate to the lower respiratory tract causing pneumonia.

3. Feline Chlamydiosis

This infection of the upper respiratory tract is caused by a bacterium called ‘Chlamydia felis’, and requires close contact between the cats in order to be transmitted, because the bacterium cannot survive outside its host.

Feline Chlamydiosis usually affects younger cats or cats living in larger groups (shelters and breeding catteries).

Today, about 3% of the cats carry the chlamydia felis bacterium (even if they look healthy), and about 20% of the cats infected with this bacterium will show signs of an upper respiratory infection.

4. Bordetella Bronchiseptica

Bordetella bronchiseptica is another bacterium causing upper respiratory infections in cats living together in larger groups such as shelters and breeding catteries.

The infection can be transmitted through oral and nasal secretions, which means a close contact between the cats.

When we talk about larger cat populations specific to shelters and breeding catteries, about 5% of them will show signs of an upper respiratory infection, and about 1.5% of cats that seem healthy, may carry the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium.

5. Fungal Infections

There are several fungal species that can cause respiratory infections in cats.
However, the most common one seems to be Cryptococcus neoformans, which is inhaled by cats when sniffing decaying plant matter or bird droppings.

These environments are ideal for the development of the encapsulated yeast called Cryptococcus neoformans.

Once entering the nasal cavity, the infection can remain, but in some cases it could spread in the lower respiratory tract or even in the central nervous system.

The problem with this type of yeast is created by the fact that 4% of all cats are asymptomatic even if they are carriers.

Another fungus called Cryptococcus gattii creates similar symptoms in cats and because is a pervasive organism exactly like Cryptococcus neoformans, it can be carried by cats without showing any sign of infection.

6. Other Respiratory Infections

Cats can also contract respiratory infections from humans and birds (avian influenza), dogs (canine influenza) and rodents (Yersinia pestis, which is a bacteria carried by fleas).

Cats suffering from respiratory diseases can also infect humans (Toxoplasma gondii is a common protozoan in cats, but can affect people).

Pasteurella multocida is a bacteria found in the feline respiratory system that can cause an infection to people that were bitten or scratched by cats.

How To Prevent Respiratory Infections in Cats

There are several vaccines available today, which can prevent or reduce the severity of a respiratory infection in cats.

1. Feline Herpes

There is a vaccine against feline herpes that can prevent an infection in some cases, but in most cases it can significantly decrease the severity of the respiratory disease (to facilitate healing), and the shedding of the virus.

2. Feline Calicivirus

A vaccine is also available for FCV, and is recommended for all healthy cats.

However, the vaccine does not provide 100% protection in case of an infection, but will definitely reduce the severity of the disease.

The vaccine can’t cure already infected cats, and can’t prevent viral shedding.

3. Feline Chlamydiosis

A vaccine is available for all healthy cats, but it can’t prevent an infection, will rather reduce the severity of the disease.

4. Bordetella Bronchiseptica

A nasal vaccine is indicated only for healthy cats that enter a shelter or a breeding cattery, but can’t prevent the infection in all cases.

5. Fungal Infections

Outdoor cats are more exposed to fungal infections such as Cryptococcus neoformans, so to prevent an infection, you should keep your cat indoors.

6. Other Respiratory Infections

You can prevent respiratory diseases contracted from humans, dogs, birds and rodents, by keeping your cat indoors.

How to Care For A Cat With A Cold?

When you have a cat with a respiratory infection, you have to call your vet right away, because the disease might be contagious and you don’t want to see a spread of the infection.

However, after receiving the treatment from the vet, your cat will sit at home with you, and besides giving her the prescribed drugs, you can do a few things to make her feel better.

Cats almost always get over a respiratory infection, but they feel miserable when being sick (like we feel when we have a cold), so in order to help them feel better you can something.

1. Use a clean coat soaked in warm water

Take a piece of clean coat (a piece of towel) that was previously soaked in warm water to wipe off your cat’s eyes and nose from any crusty stuff or pus, which would hinder its breathing or sight.

Be very gentle when wiping out the eyes, and especially the nose because due to the respiratory infection, the nose of your cat could be very sensitive.

2. Use a cotton swab (Q-tip) soaked in saline solution

You can use plain saline solution to clean your cat’s nose several times a day if needed.

Gently take back the head of your cat and squeeze the head of a Q-tip that was previously soaked in saline solution.
You have to be sure that the saline solution enters the cat’s nose, because only this way you can clear its airways.

Don’t use the bottle to drip saline solution in your cat’s nose. You have to control how much solution enters into the nostrils, so always use a Q-tip soaked in saline solution.

After receiving the saline solution, some cats will sneeze, which is great because this way they will clean their nasal passages in an instant.

It is very important to keep your cat’s nose clean because only this way you can keep its sense of smell active (if a cat can’t smell it won’t eat).

3. Gently groom your cat

When cats are sick, they don’t want a groom, so in order to keep them groomed, you can brush them gently.
You can also use a damp washcloth to wipe them off and keep them clean, and all these things will make them feel better.


You have to spend time with your cat every day, and especially when its sick to help her or him get well quicker.

Don’t forget how you feel, when you are hit by a respiratory infection, and if a member of the family takes care of you, it will help you get over it much easier.

If you take good care of your cat when she is sick, be sure that she will love you more.

Article written by:

Darius Savin is a lifelong animal lover and protector and the chief editor of Checkmember. He writes and edits articles and is also the creator of the distribution maps for all the creatures featured here.