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What is a kitty cold?

Cats are adorable and beloved pets, but just like humans, they can also get sick. One common ailment that cats can experience is a kitty cold. Similar to human colds, kitty colds are upper respiratory infections (URIs) that can cause discomfort and symptoms in our feline friends. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of kitty colds, exploring what they are, their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and how to manage them in a multi-cat household.

What is a Kitty Cold?

A kitty cold, also known as feline upper respiratory infection, is an infection of the upper respiratory tract in cats. It can be caused by both bacterial and viral agents. Similar to human colds, kitty colds are highly contagious among cats, especially in situations where they are in close contact with each other, such as multi-cat households or shelters. However, it is important to note that kitty colds are not contagious to humans.

Causes of Kitty Colds

Kitty colds can be caused by both bacterial and viral infections. Let’s take a closer look at each of these causes:

1. Bacterial Infection

Bacterial infections that commonly cause kitty colds include Bordetella bronchiseptica and Chlamydophila felis. These bacteria can be transmitted through droplets in the air or direct contact with infected cats. Stress, crowded living conditions, and poor ventilation can increase the likelihood of bacterial infections.

2. Viral Infection

The most common viral cause of kitty colds is the feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV). These viruses are highly contagious and can be easily transmitted through sneezing, coughing, grooming, or sharing food and water bowls. Similar to bacterial infections, crowded and stressful environments can increase the likelihood of viral infections.

Transmission of Kitty Colds

Kitty colds are highly contagious among cats, and transmission can occur through direct contact or through respiratory droplets in the air. In multi-cat households or shelter settings, the close proximity of cats can facilitate the spread of the infection. It is important to note that kitty colds are not contagious to humans. However, if you have multiple cats, it is crucial to take precautions to prevent the spread of the infection.

Symptoms of a Kitty Cold

Just like in humans, kitty colds can cause a range of symptoms in affected cats. Some of the common symptoms include:

Sneezing and Nasal Discharge

One of the hallmark symptoms of kitty colds is persistent sneezing and nasal discharge. Cats may have a runny or congested nose, and you may notice a watery or thick discharge from their nostrils.

Coughing and Wheezing

Coughing and wheezing may also be present in cats with a kitty cold. These symptoms indicate inflammation of the respiratory tract and can be accompanied by labored breathing.

Watery or Infected Eyes

Kitty colds can cause conjunctivitis, which is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane lining the eyelids. Cats may have watery eyes or discharge that can be clear or yellowish-green in color.

Loss of Appetite

Cats with kitty colds may experience a decreased appetite due to a stuffy nose or a sore throat. It is important to monitor their food and water intake to ensure they stay adequately hydrated.

Lethargy and Low Energy Levels

The viral or bacterial infection can make cats feel lethargic and have low energy levels. They may not engage in their usual activities and may prefer to rest and sleep more than usual.

If you notice these symptoms in your cat, it is important to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Kitty Colds

Diagnosing a kitty cold involves a thorough veterinary examination, assessment of symptoms, and sometimes further testing. The veterinarian may perform swab tests or blood tests to determine the presence of bacteria or viruses. Once a diagnosis is made, appropriate treatment options can be recommended.

Treatment Options

The treatment for kitty colds depends on the underlying cause. Here are some common treatment options:

1. Antibiotics for Bacterial Infections

If the kitty cold is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. It is important to administer the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by the veterinarian to ensure the infection is completely cleared.

2. Antiviral Medications for Viral Infections

Unfortunately, there is no cure for viral infections. Antiviral medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms and reduce the severity and duration of the infection. Supportive care, such as humidifying the air and providing steam therapy, can also help relieve congestion.

3. Supportive Care and Alleviation of Symptoms

Supportive care is an essential aspect of treating kitty colds. This involves making the cat as comfortable as possible by keeping them warm, providing a soft and cozy resting area, and ensuring they have access to fresh food and water.

4. Importance of Rest and Hydration

Rest and hydration are crucial for the recovery of cats with a kitty cold. Encourage your cat to drink water regularly to prevent dehydration, and monitor their food intake to ensure they are getting adequate nutrition. If necessary, you can offer soft and palatable wet food to entice them to eat.

Prevention of Kitty Colds

Preventing kitty colds is the best approach to ensure the health and well-being of your cat. Here are some preventive measures you can take:

Hygiene Practices

Regularly clean your cat’s living areas, including litter boxes, to reduce the risk of bacterial or viral contamination. Wash your hands before and after interacting with your cat, especially if you have multiple cats or have been in contact with other cats.


Routine vaccinations are crucial in preventing many common cat illnesses, including kitty colds. Talk to your veterinarian about the recommended vaccination schedule for your cat. There are specific vaccines available that target the viruses that cause upper respiratory infections in cats.

Isolation and Limited Contact with Infected Cats

If one of your cats is diagnosed with a kitty cold, it is important to isolate them from other cats to prevent the spread of the infection. Limit their contact with other cats until they have fully recovered and are no longer contagious.

Managing Kitty Colds in Multiple Cat Households

In multi-cat households, managing kitty colds can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you manage the situation:

Isolation of Infected Cats

As mentioned earlier, it is important to isolate infected cats to prevent the spread of the infection to other cats. Provide a separate living area, food, water bowls, and litter boxes for the affected cat to minimize contact with healthy cats.

Minimizing Stress and Providing a Calm Environment

Stress can weaken the immune system, making cats more susceptible to infections. Provide a calm and stress-free environment for all cats, with plenty of hiding spots and high perches to reduce tension and promote relaxation.

Implementing Proper Hygiene Practices for All Cats

Practice good hygiene habits for all cats, not just those affected by the kitty cold. This includes regular grooming, keeping living areas clean, and washing hands before and after interacting with any cat.

Monitoring and Treating All Cats if Necessary

Monitor all cats in the household for any signs of illness or symptoms of a kitty cold. If you notice any concerns, contact your veterinarian promptly for evaluation and treatment.


A kitty cold is a common upper respiratory infection in cats that can be caused by both bacterial and viral agents. It is important to be aware of the symptoms and take prompt action if your cat shows signs of a kitty cold. Early diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures such as vaccinations and hygiene practices can help keep your furry companions healthy and minimize the risk of transmission in multi-cat households. Remember to always consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and guidance when dealing with your cat’s health.


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