Ahhh-choo! Does your cat have a cold?
What is a "cold" in a cat?
Typically known as an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), it is more commonly referred to as the "cat flu." The URI can be caused by bacteria, or viruses such as Feline Herpes (rhinotracheitis), Chlamydophila, Feline Caliciviru (FVC), or less commonly, Bordetella or Mycoplasma.
A cat that is a carrier of herpes, or calici virus, can easily contract a URI and suffer from flare-ups throughout its life. Simply having any type of stress related incidents can also lead to a cat having a flare-up.
What are the symptoms?
Your kitty or cat can typically have the following symptoms:
- Discharge from eyes and nose
- Crust around the eyes and nose
- Conjunctivitis (inflammation around the eyes)
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth or Eye Ulcers
- Fever (NEVER give Tylenol, Advil, Aspirin, or Naproxen)
- Excessive Salivating
The illness can last anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks.
Is my cat contagious?
Yes, immediately separate and isolate your sick kitten, or cat from other felines. A URI is highly contagious.
As this is an airborne illness, if your kitten or cat has been sick for a few days, and not isolated, the other cats have been exposed. It is imperative to wash, disinfect, and clean all the contaminated areas:
- Sleeping areas
- Litter Boxes
- Window Sills
- Your own hands and clothing should be cleaned and washed after handling the sick cat before coming into contact with other felines
What can I do to make my cat feel better?
- Making sure your kitty or cat is eating is a priority during this time. If their airways are ";stuffy" or "blocked" they might not smell their food and therefore won't feel enticed to eat
- Encourage your kitten, or cat to eat by providing them with wet food (sometimes warming it up can help too)
- Baby Food is also a great way to get your kitten, or cat to eat
- Providing plenty of clean, fresh, chlorine and fluoride free water is imperative during this time for your kitty, or cat to prevent dehydration.
- Try using a humidifier, or vaporizer in the room your cat is isolated in. Putting moisture back in the air will help ease the "congestion"; your kitty is experiencing
- Use a warm washcloth to gently wipe away the discharge from your kitty's or cat's eyes
- Carefully apply a healing ointment to chapped areas on the nose, making sure to NOT block their airways
- Provide a warm place (like a heated pet bed) for your kitten, or cat to sleep on
When should I seek Veterinary attention?
Seek out veterinary attention if your kitten or cat has been sick for more then 3-5 days. If you see green or yellowish discharge, it most likely is a serious infection, or they have an underlying illness/disease that weakens their immunity.
Your vet will be able to prescribe antibiotics: eye ointment (AVOID using a steroid), Tetracycline, Doxycycline or Clavamox are the drugs of choice to use against these secondary bacterial infections. L-Lysine is also used as a nutritional supplement to help with the illness. Depending on the severity sometimes an antiviral fluid will need to be administered.
Is there long-term care if my cat is a virus carrier?
Yes, there is! Both of my cats, Oliver and Casey are carriers of the feline herpes virus. Unfortunately this leads to them both being susceptible to contracting a URI very easily.
We work very hard to make sure that their environment is stress-free, as well as treating them medically with a daily dosage of L-Lysine to help prevent any flare-ups from this virus.
You will need to talk to your vet about a life-long treatment you can provide to your kitten or cat if they are a carrier of one of the viruses. Providing them a clean and stress free environment will make a huge a difference as well.
Yearly vet checks and vaccines are a must for cat owners.
How can I prevent my cat from getting an Upper Respiratory Infection?
A yearly vaccine is all your cat needs to help ward off this nasty "cat-flu." Unless they are already a carrier of one of the viruses, then preventative measures, in addition to the vaccine, will be needed.
Keeping your cat indoors can help, but does not guarantee they won't get this infection. Because this is an airborne type infection, an outdoor cat hanging around your windows can easily spread the infection to your indoor cat.
Before bringing home a stray cat, make sure they are not contagious to other cats in your household. Providing a separate room, and taking the precautions listed above, until you can find out if the stray cat is sick, is imperative in keeping your other cats safe.