The short answer is yes – cats can catch both the flu and common colds! Most cat colds will be spread cat to cat however there are some strains of human cold which can be caught by your cat.
If you or your cat have a cold wash your hands regularly before and after handling your cat. Colds and flu are viral illnesses which affect your cat’s respiratory system making breathing difficult for your cat. This can be problematic as it can cause them to eat and drink less which will cause them to lose weight.
Treating your cat’s flu or cold illness is important to ensure that they maintain good overall health however in order to effectively treat a cat cold you first need to be able to recognize the symptoms.
Cat Cold & Flu Symptoms
Symptoms to watch out for which indicate that your cat may be suffering from either the flu or a cold are much the same as the sort of things you would see in any human suffering from the flu or a cold. Some of the more common cat flu symptoms include:
- Not Eating
- Not Drinking
- Runny Nose
- Deposits around the eye
- Difficulty Breathing
- Loss of voice
It can take as long as two weeks for the signs of flu to appear in your cat.
Treating a Cat Cold or Flu
Treating a cat cold is simple. If your cat has a cold there is usually no need to worry, simply wait it out. Most cat colds will last no more than 7-10 days. The cold virus will remain in your cat’s system for years which significantly increases the chances of it recurring in the future.
This can cause problems, particularly as your cat ages, because as they age their body will be more prone to respiratory ailments such as pneumonia which can be fatal.
A veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to treat a severe feline flu. In the most advance cases, cats with sever flu symptoms can be hospitalized for further treatment. Flu vaccinations are available for cats, they won’t give 100% protection, but a flu vaccinated cat may lessen flu symptoms in the future.
Helpful Tips to Care for Your Sick Feline
Unfortunately, the virus never truly leaves your cat’s system, while this is no major cause for concern it does mean that your cat is likely to suffer from the same sickness again in the future. It’s important to properly care for your cat’s flu or cold.
If your cat has a cold or the flu, follow these steps to make sure they get sufficient care and make as fast a recovery as possible.
- Wipe their eyes and nose regularly with a damp towel to remove discharges.
- Change their cat food; offer them warmed up wet food to encourage them to get enough nutrients in (remember what your mum told you – always feed a cold!).
- Make sure they have plenty of access to clean fresh drinking water. Water is key to your cat’s recovery as it helps to loosen secretions. If your cat isn’t drinking this can slow their recovery and exacerbate pre-existing health problems…particularly if your cat is a senior cat. For information on what to do if your cat isn’t drinking read this article.
- Keep your cat warm and dry. On wet and cold days, keep your cat inside, no matter how much they insist. If you have other healthy cats in the house, confine your sick cat to one room with food, water, litter tray and a warm comfortable spot for them to recover peacefully away from your other pets.
- If your cat has absolutely no interest in eating any food for a prolonged period (2+ days) and their symptoms seem to be getting worse then consult a vet.
How Your Cat Can Catch the Flu
Understanding why your cat has caught a viral illness can help you to take steps to avoid it happening again. Here are the main ways that your cat may have caught a virus:
Interacting with An Infected Cat
The flu is a viral infection, the most common way that your cat can catch this is by coming into contact with an infected cat. Cats spread the flu and other viruses most often through direct contact from saliva or nasal discharge. Some healthy cats can even carry viral bacteria without suffering from the flu or a cold. Outdoor cats are the most likely to catch a flu or the cold by meeting an infected cat. If you are concerned about your cat’s wellbeing the best thing to do is to simply keep your cat inside. This is especially true, if you believe that your pet may be at risk for COVID-19.
Using an Unclean Bowl
Your cat doesn’t have to have contact with another cat to catch cat flu, they can even catch it by using an infected drinking bowl or food bowl.
Viral bacteria can survive on a bowl for up to a week.
If your cat is staying overnight in a cattery or somewhere where other cats have been recently then it is always a good idea to ensure that you take your cats own bowl to minimize the risk of them catching anything.
If your cat catches a cold, don’t worry it will soon pass. Do your best to wipe their eyes and nose regularly. Keep them indoors and make sure they have access to plenty of fresh clean water as well as warm wet food if possible. Most cats will be back to normal in less than a week if after ten days your cat shows no sign of recovering and is losing weight then consult your vet immediately.
Can My Cat Catch COVID-19?
Since this article’s original publication, we’ve had a lot of questions from cat owners about COVID-19 and whether their cat can catch it. According to the FDA, it is possible for cats and other household pets to catch COVID. If you or another member of your family tests positive for COVID, self isolate from everyone, including your pet.
Cats and dogs that test positive for COVID generally have only minor symptoms and very infrequently need to be hospitalized. Many pets are able to be taken care of at home, if your cat shows any cold-like symptoms and have recently been in contact with a COVID positive human, contact your veterinarian immediately. Depending on your veterinarian’s current COVID policy, they may want to examine your pet remotely or have you bring them into their office at a time where your pet can avoid interacting with other animals.