Colds are no fun for anyone, and it can be surprising to realize that your cat can catch them too. Feline upper respiratory infections are similar to the human common cold, with many of the same symptoms. While sometimes the infections are only a passing nuisance, there are occasions when your cat’s cold can be more serious.

When your cat starts sneezing and suffering from a runny nose, it can be easy to panic about what’s wrong with them. We put together this guide to help you learn more about cat colds and to know when you need to visit a veterinarian.

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Symptoms of Feline Upper Respiratory Infections

Feline upper respiratory infections affect your cat’s throat, nose, and sinuses and have many of the same symptoms that you’ll recognize from your own colds. Not all cats will experience all these symptoms, though, and they may take a few days to appear. It’s good to know what to look out for, so you can help your feline best friend feel better:

  • Excessive sneezing or coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Nasal and eye discharge
  • Nasal and oral ulcers
  • Drooling
  • Gagging
  • Fever
  • Decreased or no appetite
  • Squinting or itchy eyes
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Hoarse voice
sick cat
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What Causes Cat Colds?

Your cat’s infection can be caused by viruses or bacteria and is often spread the same way that human colds are: through droplets from sneezes by other cold-suffering cats.

Unsurprisingly, outdoor cats are more susceptible to catching a cold than your indoor feline. Outdoorsy cats have a greater chance of meeting fellow adventurous kitties when they’re not under your watchful eye. Similarly, your cat can catch a cold from fellow felines in a cattery if you boarded them while you were on vacation or a business trip.

Cats can spread colds just as easily as humans can. Here are a few other common illnesses that our feline friends can pass to each other:

tired sick cat
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Can a Human Catch a Cold From a Cat?

While your cat sneezes and sniffles as they suffer from their cold, you may wonder whether humans can catch the same virus they have. Fortunately for us humans, your cat’s upper respiratory infection is only contagious to other felines.

If you have multiple cats and don’t want to spread the germs around, though, it’s a good idea to keep your felines separated until your sick kitty is feeling better. Wash your hands after you interact with your sick cat too, as this will help you limit how many sick-kitty germs make it to your healthy felines.

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How to Care for Your Sick Feline

No matter who you are — feline, canine, or human — colds have a way of sapping away your energy and leaving you feeling uncomfortably miserable. Your cat might not be able to whine about how they’re feeling, but they can certainly make their discomfort known, and we can’t even give them a bowl of ice cream to perk up their day.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other, feline-friendly ways that we can make their colds a little less horrible.

Do note, however, that you should never give human cold remedies to your cat.

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1. Humidifier

You’ve probably experienced enough colds to know how much they dry out your throat and nose. There’s only so much water that you can drink before you start feeling uncomfortably bloated or constantly dragging your weary limbs to the bathroom.

Setting up a humidifier will help your cat by increasing the level of humidity in your house. Your cat will breathe in the damp air, and it’ll soothe their dry nose and throat.


2. Warm Wet Food

Convincing your cat to eat something can be challenging, and it’s easy to see why. Eating cold, dry kibble with an already dry throat sounds unpleasant, and we don’t even have to experience it. If your cat is refusing to eat anything, try wet food instead of their usual kibble. The moisture will help keep them hydrated and be easier on their stomach.

You can also warm it up a little so the scent is more likely to reach through your feline’s blocked nose and be more enticing to your cat.

Bengal cat eating
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3. Damp Cloth

Another familiar symptom that sick cats can suffer from is the dreaded runny nose and eyes. To keep your cat as comfortable as possible, use a clean, damp cloth or cotton wool to mop away any nasal discharge. You can also use saline solution and gauze pads to cleanse irritated eyes. Remember to do so gently, and expect your cat to dislike your attempts.

Keep a close eye on the color of the discharge, especially from your feline’s eyes. You can expect your cat to have irritated eyes and redness is normal, along with clear discharge. Thick, yellow, or green discharge is cause for concern.


One of the best ways that humans make themselves feel better when sick is by doubling up on blankets. Your cat can benefit from a little spoiling in this way too. Fluffing up their favorite pillow or bundling extra blankets into their chosen napping spot is a great way to make sure they’re comfortable without crowding them. This will also help them stay warm and fight off any cold-induced shivers.

Related Read: 10 Best Carpet Cleaners for Cat Vomit

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When to Visit a Veterinarian

Most colds, even for our feline friends, only last a few days. In most cases, your cat will be back to normal and getting up to their usual mischief in no time at all. If your cat is still suffering from their cold at the end of the week, though, it’s time to consider a visit to your veterinarian.

Even cat colds have the potential to cause more serious infections, and a lingering illness can leave your cat vulnerable. Pay particular attention to your cat’s breathing and how much they eat, if at all. If they can’t breathe at all or haven’t eaten anything despite your best efforts, visit your veterinarian.

cat at vet with owner and veternarian
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Related Read: How To Nurse A Starving Cat Back To Being Healthy

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Final Thoughts

Cats can catch colds, like feline upper respiratory infections, just like we can. They can spread their cold to other felines too. Fortunately for us cat owners, we’re immune to cat colds, which makes us excellent choices for nursing our ailing kitties back to full health.

Outdoor exploration or recent visits to a cattery are both ways for your cat to catch colds from other felines.

Help your cat stay warm and comfortable by setting up a humidifier and extra blankets. Also, remember to keep an eye on how long your cat’s symptoms last, along with their severity. While most cat colds pass in a few days, some can lead to serious infections and require veterinary treatment.


Featured Image Credit: Anna Nikonorova, Shutterstock