Can my cat catch a cold or the flu?

Can My Cat Catch A Cold Or The Flu?

In the same way as us, our little companions can also get sick. Runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing or fatigue, the symptoms resemble those of common human ailments, such as a cold or the flu. Can we apply the diagnosis of these two diseases to a cat? We are taking stock of this case.

Coryza, The “Cold” Or The “Flu” Of The Cat

The common cold or flu as we know them does not exist in felines. These, however, turn into coryza, also known as feline viral rhinotracheitisand whose etymology is explained by the Greek term koruza, which means “cold” or “flow”. However, this viral disease of the respiratory system is often nicknamed “cat’s cold” or “cat’s flu” because of its typical symptoms. Coryza is indeed defined as a syndrome, i.e. a set of clinical signs due to an infection by three viral agents:

  • Feline herpesvirus type 1 (FeHV-1), which causes an infection of the respiratory tract, manifested by coughing, sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, a rise in fever, as well as loss of appetite and general depression in the animal
  • Calicivirus which also causes the appearance of fever and ocular and nasal discharge, but especially mouth ulcers inducing significant salivation
  • The reovirus which mainly causes watery eyes (as such it remains the least virulent agent among the three involved)

These viruses are then generally complicated by infections bacterial which, for example, calls into question Chlamydophila felis (causing purulent discharge), or Bordetella bronchiseptica. Coryza remains a highly contagious disease, which is transmitted by direct contact between infected cats; however, it is not transmissible to humans. Even if coryza circulates actively among the feline population (the proportion of cats carrying the virus is thus estimated at 70%), certain groups know a higher risk of infection :

  • Cats living in groups (cattery, shelter, feral cats, etc.)
  • Kittens between 2 and 12 weeks old
  • Cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) or Leukosis (FeLV)
  • Unvaccinated cats

You should also know that animals subjected to a stressful situation – such as a move, a change of owner following abandonment or death, or the introduction of a new animal into the home – are part of this category at risk. If it is possible to cure a cat from coryza, there is currently no no treatment that eliminates the viruses responsible for the body. It is also considered that half of healthy carriers (cured after a first infection) can relapse and see the virus reactivate: this is a natural phenomenon, but which would be caused by significant stress (hospitalization, childbirth, abuse, etc.).

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Other Feline Respiratory Diseases

However, coryza is not the only possible explanation for a cat’s respiratory problems, which can be caused by very different pathologies. A sneezing cat can for example be reached by a simple rhinitis, caused by irritation (tobacco smoke, dust, household product, etc.) or by the change of season. Sneezing also sometimes results from the introduction of a foreign body into the nasal cavitythat the animal will try to evacuate, or the presence of nasal polyps, small benign masses causing obstruction at this site. Similarly, a coughing cat may have a form offeline asthma, or simply ingested too many hairballs. A runny nose can be the result of a inflammatory rhinitis, the causes of which are still unknown; a mycosis; of one dental problem chronic, or an allergy. You should know that these symptoms, when they appear in isolation in an adult individual, in good health, and do not tend to recur, generally do not hide a serious cause. However, it is preferable to check with a veterinarian, which remains the only one capable of making a diagnosis: the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances of recovery in the event of a serious problem. The appearance of clinical signs that may suggest coryza in a kitten, an older cat or a chronically ill cat (immunocompromised) should however lead to the systematic consultation of an animal health professional.

Can My Cat Catch Covid?

Some studies have looked at the likelihood of Covid-19 contamination for cats. In September 2021, only five cases of infected cats had been listed worldwide since the start of the epidemic (New York, China, Belgium and France). The latter would have been infected by their master, themselves affected by the disease. However, the data remain insufficient to date to confirm the existence of a real risk of transmission between humans and cats for this virus, even if it has been established that the latter are more sensitive to it than dogs. The rare contaminations identified have also remained benign, animals with a runny nose, listlessness or mild breathing difficulties. These symptoms then disappeared after a few days of follow-up treatment adapted to each situation, and rest.

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How To Take Care Of A Sick Cat?

An animal affected by a respiratory disease will first and foremost need rest and warmth. It is therefore recommended to set up a cozy sleeping place for your little companion, away from noise, traffic and sources of bright light. If the disease occurs during the winter, also monitor the temperature and humidity of your home, to avoid any risk of secondary infection. We also advise you to install near the basket a large bowl of fresh water, which must be changed regularly, so that your cat can hydrate, or to opt for a water fountain. You can also moisten your kibbleor opt for the dual nutrition to help feed him. Then scrupulously follow the instructions given by your veterinarian if you have already visited him: you must use the drugs prescribed and the corresponding doses by the latter, and only those. It is indeed out of the question to resort to self-medication with a pet, especially in the case of symptoms of what is close to a cold or flu, and which could push to administer a human treatment to a feline. Certain molecules remain extremely dangerous for cats, and should above all not be given without the agreement of an animal health professional; the same goes for aromatherapy or herbal medicine. The only treatments that you can perform yourself concern cleaning secretions from your little companion, which often cling to his hair or his eyes, using a soft, damp cloth with a little warm water. With the agreement of your veterinarian, it is also possible to place the animal in a very humid room, such as a bathroom filled with steam after a very hot shower, but only for ten or fifteen minutes. The humidity should then allow the release of his respiratory tract, as well as the reduction in the frequency and intensity of nasal or ocular discharge.

What Are The Prevention Rules Against Respiratory Diseases Or Feline Viruses?

If it is difficult to anticipate the crisis of sneezing which will follow the introduction of a foreign body in the nose of your cat, it is however possible to limit the risks of infection of the latter in the face of certain viruses. The vaccination remains first of all the essential pivot of prevention against coryza. The TCL protocol in force in France offers protection against coryza, but also against feline typhus and leucosis. It is often associated with another vaccine against certain bacterial strains, also responsible for the onset of coryza. The duration of immunization allowed then rises to one year, this vaccine therefore being the subject of regular reminders. It then allows reduce the risk of infection : cats can unfortunately still contract coryza, but in a mild form and with reduced contagiousness. In addition, it is essential to vaccinate your cat, even if you only have one and it lives exclusively indoors. You could indeed unwittingly bring back the virus, which has a great ability to cling to clothing or shoes, if you come across an infected animal during your outdoor outings.

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We advise you to adopt the following good actions:

  • Don’t let your sick cat mix with healthy ones. Given the extremely contagious nature of the disease, you would indeed risk creating an epidemic
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling your cat suffering from coryza
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect the sleeping place, the bowls, the litter or any other object touched by the sick feline. Generally maintain good hygiene in the living areas frequented by your cat
  • Minimize sources of stress for your little feline, providing it with care and comfort, playing with it and devoting time to it. Also seek advice from a professional in the event of a major upheaval to come: moving house, divorce, arrival of a child or an animal in the home…

Finally, whether your cat is vaccinated or not, if you notice significant salivation, a runny nose or sneezing in it, consult a veterinarian quickly. If these symptoms are accompanied by loss of appetite or lethargy, the visit is even more urgent. Coryza remains a curable disease, but which can turn out to be serious, even fatal in the case of a secondary infection, or if it occurs in a fragile individual.

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