Can cats get colds?

cat sneezing into tissue

Learn when coughing and spluttering could be a sign of cat flu and what you can do to help and prevent repeat infections.

Ah cats – the animals said to have nine lives and whose agile abilities are something to be desired. Our little four-legged friends sometimes seem almost indestructible, right?

And while felines can put on an amazing tough front when they need to, that doesn’t mean they don’t suffer and pick up the occasional cold virus now and again.

You see, our beloved pets all evolved from the African Wildcat whose need for survival meant hiding when it was in pain or feeling frightened. But luckily for us, certain illnesses, like cat flu, come with a range of tell-tale symptoms that make it hard for your little fluff ball to disguise its suffering.

So, is a bout of the flu that bad for your feline friend? Did they get it from you? How can you help them get better? If you’ve noticed your cat’s got the sniffles, you’ve probably asked all these questions and more!

Don’t worry, we’ve got all the answers and tips to prevent future infections with vaccines and pet cover. We’ll also discuss the cat insurance cost and why the investment is well worth it to protect your feline friend throughout its life.

How can you tell your cat has a cold?

Just like the flu manifests in us pet parents, there are a few obvious signs your kitty has a cold. In most cases, feline flu isn’t too serious and your cat should fully recover, but it can be serious and even fatal in particularly weak cats and kittens.

According to the Blue Cross, symptoms can take up to two weeks to appear, after which a cold can cause:

  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Loss of voice (you might welcome a quieter cat for a few days, but it could be seriously ill)
  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever (Hot ears, shivering and rapid heart rate)

If you spot any of these signs in your beloved mog, take them to the vet immediately to be on the safe side. They might get over it in a couple of days, but the last thing you want is for it to develop into something more serious.

If you have pet cover with us, your cat insurance cost includes access to 24-hour vet video consultations where you can get professional advice in minutes regarding your pet’s condition.

In addition to taking your cat to the vet, you can also take steps to help your cat feel better. Make sure your cat’s environment is warm and comfortable, and keep them away from other cats if possible.

You can also provide them with clean, dry bedding and plenty of fresh water. Additionally, steam from a hot shower can help clear your cat’s airways, which can help them to breathe more easily.

Can my cat catch a cold from me?

If you’ve got a case of the sniffles, you’ll be pleased to know there’s no issue with lots of cat cuddles to help you recover.

Most cold-causing viruses in humans are specific to us, which means there’s no risk of symptoms passing to your feline friend and you won’t need to lock yourself in your room.

However, there have been incidents of other infections and diseases being passed on from humans to animals so it is always important to practice good hygiene when handling your cat at all times.

So, what are the causes of cat flu?

According to feline charity Cats Protection, around 80% of cat flu cases are caused by one of two viruses – Feline Calicivirus (FCV) or Feline Herpesvirus (FHV).

Other less common causes include Chlamydophila Felis and Bordetella Bronchiseptica (the reason for kennel cough in our canine companions).

Contagious cats can transmit any one of these viruses to other cats via droplets in their saliva, eye discharge or by sneezing. Again, very similar to how the human common cold moves from one person to another.

How are these germs spread?

If you’ve got a sickly mog, you’ll need to keep them far away from other pets. Cats can easily pick up germs from food bowls, bedding and other affected items in your home.

Coming into contact with other felines is also a sure fire way to encourage these germs to flourish!

The lurgy can last for ages, too. Sure, your pussycat might appear to be over the worst, but they can be contagious for weeks after. In fact, some animals never get rid of the flu completely and can infect others their whole life.

If that doesn’t stress the importance of getting the vaccination, we don’t know what does!

Symptoms of a feline cold

Cats, like humans, can be affected by the common cold.

Symptoms of a feline cold can include:

  • Runny nose: This runny nose may be either clear or yellowish in colour.
  • Sneezing: Sneezing is the body’s way of trying to expel any irritants that may be present in the respiratory tract.
  • Watery eyes: Can indicate an underlying infection or disorder, such as conjunctivitis.
  • Nasal congestion: Your cat may have difficulty breathing through their nose, and their breathing may be noisy.
  • Fever: This may lead to pneumonia in extreme cases.
  • Decreased appetite
  • Coughing

Do kittens and adult cats experience the same symptoms?

ginger kitten on the table

Kittens are more likely to get seriously ill from the flu, which can prove fatal. A young cats’ immune system is still developing, meaning it’s usually weaker than their adult counterparts.

By vaccinating your kitty as soon as you’re able to, you’ll be protecting them from colds and other nasty viruses that can make it very poorly.

Cat flu in kittens can progress to much more serious conditions, including:

  • Pneumonia
  • Eye ulcers (can be so severe an eye needs to removed)
  • Breathing issues (can cause long term problems to the nose, lungs and throat)
  • Limping due to swelling around joints

At Purely Pets, we cover tiny felines from as young as 8 weeks old but remember that this cat insurance cost doesn’t include preventable illnesses.

As your cat’s responsible pet parent, you’ll need to budget for routine care like vaccinations, flea and worming treatments and neutering along with pet insurance for emergencies.

Not convinced the cat insurance cost is really worth it? Just take a look at our A-Z of feline health problems and you’ll see why it’s a good idea.

How will my vet diagnose cat flu?

While it might seem obvious to you that Tom has been hit with a cat cold – sneezing, coughing and weakness is usually a dead giveaway – you’ll need to hurry to the vet for an official diagnosis. Make sure you stay outside the waiting room until called in, or you risk spreading the virus to other pets!

Now, your cat insurance cost won’t cover illnesses preventable with a vaccination, like feline flu, so you’ll need to pay for tests and treatment yourself (staying up to date with vaccines would help you avoid this).

Once your vet has thoroughly examined your pet, it’s time to send some samples off to the lab. Expect them to take some swabs from your kitty’s mouth, nose and eyes and to run blood tests to identify bacteria and viruses that could be making it to feel so unwell.

With the right diagnosis, your vet will be able to prescribe the right course of treatment, which leads us nicely to…

Cat flu treatment options

We’ve already mentioned how cat flu ranges from being a minor illness to very serious, and your cat’s treatment plan will reflect the severity of their condition.

There’s no actual cure for a cold, but here are a few ways your vet will try to speed up recovery and get your cat back to its normal self:

  • Mucolytics – these break down all that mucus blocking your cat’s airways, allowing them to breath and smell properly (this is important to get their appetite back).
  • Anti-inflammatories – these work to bring down temperatures and reduce inflammation and body aches.
  • Antibiotics – your vet will only prescribe these if they believe your pet has a bacterial infection. They don’t kill viruses. Make sure you finish the whole course of antibiotics if you get them.
  • Eye drops – lubricating drops soothe and heal sore eyes. If your pet’s eyes become infected, you might need to administer antibiotic eye drops. Remember to finish the treatment plan.
  • Antivirals – these might speed up your cat's recovery but aren’t always effective. They’re also more expensive than most other treatments, so it’s best to explore all options with your vet.
  • Hospitalisation – seriously affected cats who stop eating and drinking may need intensive care in a veterinary hospital.

5 tips to help your cat recover from a cold

While following a treatment plan can boost your cat’s recovery process, a big dose of home care and lots of love can also be a great help.

So, what can you do to dote on your four-legged family member while it’s under the weather?

  1. Wipe their nose and eyes with cotton wool soaked in warm water.
  2. Reduce any stressors in your home as these will only prolong their illness. 
  3. Encourage them to eat as much as possible. If they don’t eat their normal food, add a teeny amount of tuna or sardines to their bowl.
  4. Help open their airways by letting them into the steamy bathroom while you shower. Don’t force them in and let them out if they seem distressed.
  5. Provide plenty of cuddles and strokes (if your cat likes this sort of thing) and leave them alone when they want to rest.

How to treat a cat's blocked nose?

If your cat has a blocked nose, your vet may prescribe a decongestant to help them breathe more easily.

Additionally, you can use a humidifier in the room where your cat is staying to help keep their nasal passages moist and clear.

You should also make sure that your cat is well hydrated by providing them with plenty of fresh, clean water.

How long will my cat be ill?

With the right treatment and a bit of TLC at home, your feline friend should be back to normal in a week or two, although it can sometimes take up to 4 weeks to fully recover.

Unfortunately, after a bout of cat flu, your pet may suffer lifelong consequences, warns Cats Protection. According to the charity, permanent damage to the eyes, sinuses, nasal passages and airways is always a risk.

Lifelong carriers will often experience flare-ups and require constant care and attention. Kittens, stressed and poorly pets are most at risk of prolonged symptoms.

Can I vaccinate my cat against colds?

Yes! The best way to treat a cat cold is to avoid it in the first place. Not sure your pet really needs it? Just take a look at what happened to two poor kittens who weren't protected.

You can vaccinate your tiny kitten from as young as 8 weeks old, but they’ll need regular boosters throughout their life to make sure they stay guarded against the flu.

Even if your pet has already been struck by the dreaded lurgy, a vaccination can help reduce the severity of symptoms in the future.

In addition to your cat insurance cost, vaccinations are just one of the routine treatments you should budget for to help your feline friend live a long and happy life.

And remember, if your beloved Felix falls ill due to an illness that could have been prevented, you’ll have to pay for care yourself.

What other vaccines does my cat need?

Every 12 months or so, your feline will need a few vaccinations to keep them protected against a variety of illnesses. The three most essential vaccines are:

  • Feline Parvovirus (FPV)
  • Cat flu
  • Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

There are also three other possible vaccines, but you’ll need to discuss with your vet whether or not your cat needs them:

  • Rabies
  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica
  • Chlamydophila Felis

If you're struggling to keep up with routine care payments as well as your cat insurance cost, speak to your vet about a pet health plan to spread payments throughout the year.

Can I catch the flu from my cat?

No, just like we can’t pass on the influenza virus to our feline friends, they can’t infect us with cat flu. Sure, we might experience similar symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat and general tiredness, but the viruses aren’t the same.

Can cats catch COVID from humans?

Information on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and transmission to pets is a little cloudy, but some studies suggest that it’s possible. If they do become infected, it seems that symptoms are mild or almost non-existent, and our four-legged friends tend to make a speedy recovery.

Dr Broen, from the Veterinary Microbiological Diagnostic Centre says that while cats (and dogs) might catch the virus from their pet parent, there’s 0% risk of us getting it from them.

Should I adopt a cat that’s had feline flu?

So you’ve fallen in love with a cat but it’s recently had the flu. Should you still adopt? As long as the rescue centre has nursed the cat back to full health, there’s no reason you can’t go ahead. These little guys are in as much need of a forever home as the rest!

As the RSPCA points out, kittens and cats ready for adoption have already been vaccinated, so as long as you’re prepared to give them the support they need if they do get ill, they can live their best life.

What other common health issues do cats have?

The flu isn’t the only thing that makes you feel under the weather, and it’s no different for your meowing mog.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common cat health conditions and what they could mean for your beloved pet.

  • Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
  • Affecting your kitty’s bladder or urethra (or both), inflammation – or cystitis – causes a few unpleasant symptoms in your feline friend:
  • Straining before or after urinating
  • Blood in urine
  • Passing small amounts of urine
  • Going to the toilet more frequently
  • Over grooming around lower abdomen and genitals

If you spot your cat suffering while going to the loo, a vet’s visit is in order. They’ll ask you about your pet’s current health and check their medical history. Expect urine tests, too.

Battersea says that FLUTD is most common in felines that are:

  • Overweight
  • Neutered
  • Middle-aged
  • Sedentary
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Kept indoors
  • Fed a dry diet

Parasitic infections

Although it might give you the shivers to think about, parasites are one of the most common problems domestic cats face, especially roundworms.

In fact, these creepy crawlies are so common, it’s extremely likely your beloved Tom will become a host at some point in their life! How do they pick up the parasites in the first place?

  • Eating poop from another animal
  • Eating infected dead wild animals
  • From anything else that’s contaminated in the environment

If your cat starts shedding pounds fast, has a swollen tummy or starts being sick, whisk them off to the vets. Treatment is simple, luckily, and deworming meds should do the trick. Stay on top of these treatments every few months to avoid a reinfestation.

Dental disease

Your cat will likely suffer with oral health issues at some time or another. According to International Cat Care, a whopping 85% of felines aged three and up have some form of dental disease.

Spotting the signs early on is key to getting those teeth and gums back on track. You may spot:

  • Smelly breath
  • A swollen face
  • Red and bleeding gums
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wobbly, broken or missing teeth

Your vet will prescribe treatment based on the exact issue, which could include surgery in serious cases – making that cat insurance cost more than worth the investment*! It must be noted that dental illness is only covered from year 2 of the policy.

You can do your best to prevent dental disease, though, by taking good care of your kitty’s gnashers. A bit worried about sticking your fingers in their mouth? We’ve got cat oral hygiene tips elsewhere on our site.

So, how can you keep your cat fighting fit?

grey kitten playing with an orange ball

The flu and other health concerns mentioned are only scratching the surface on the medical risks to your pet, but don’t worry. You can’t stop them from becoming ill now and again, but we’ve got a few ideas to stop things getting too serious:

  • Feed them a high quality, nutrient-rich diet
  • Schedule regular health check-ups
  • Keep them active with exercise and games
  • Make their environment as stress-free as possible
  • Protect them with pet insurance

Do I need cat insurance for my pet? 

We mentioned above how treatment for cat flu isn’t covered under your cat insurance cost, so is it even worth insuring your pet?

Protecting your feline friend with lifetime cover is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Why?

Get help with unexpected vet fees (up to £15,000 with Purely Pets lifetime plans)

  • Take your cat to the vet you want
  • Make sure your pet gets the best health care possible
  • Cover your cat before they develop an illness
  • Help find your lost pet with funding towards advertisements

Yes, you need to pay monthly or yearly to protect your pet, but if something does happen to them, you could save hundreds in unexpected medical bills and treatment.

So, how much does cat insurance cost anyway? There’s no one price that covers every pet. When you contact Purely Pets, we’ll look at things like:

  • Your pet’s age, sex and breed
  • Where you live
  • How much cover you need

Once we have all your details, we’ll come up with a policy and price to suit you and your cat.

Here at Purely Pets, we can’t get enough of your furry friends. We love cats just as much as you do and want to give them the protection they deserve through every stage of their lives. That’s why we start cover from as young as 8 weeks old and have no upper age limit for the senior generation.

Worried about the cat insurance cost? Choose from 15 levels of lifetime cover to find a plan that’s right for you.

Get your cat top-level protection and give it the long and happy life it deserves by contacting Purely Pets today

*Subject to pet annual health checks

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