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Cats and Upper Respiratory Tract Infection


cats_and_upper_respiratory_tract_infection.jpgCats, much like humans, can get upper respiratory tract infections. The nose, throat and sinus areas are susceptible to a number of infections caused by viruses and bacteria. At first look, a feline upper respiratory tract infection seems much like the human cold. Your cat may suffer a runny nose, sneeze or even cough. They may seem to get better after a time, just like humans, before the head cold moves into their chest and develops into a much more serious condition. If allowed to go untreated, these infections can develop into serious conditions such as pneumonia.

What Causes Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

Viruses are the most common cause of upper respiratory tract infections or URI’s. The calicivirus and herpesvirus are responsible for 80-90% of all contagious URI’s and are commonly found in shelters and multi-cat homes. They can be trasmitted through sneezing, coughing, mutual grooming or sharing food and water bowls. Once a cat is infected they become carriers for life though they may not show sings. It is important, therefore, to vaccinate early and to follow the vaccination recommendations of your veterinarian. Age, whether your cat has been vaccinated and how recently, and physical condition are all important parts of your cats susceptibility. Stress also plays a roll in causing URI outbreaks. Certain breeds such as Persians and Himalayans are predisposed to URI’s due to their facial structure.

Keeping cats indoors, minimizing stress, remaining up to date on vaccines and having regular examinations are the best ways to protect against URI’s. It is also a good idea to make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and often when dealing with cats in a multi-animal environment such as a shelter. If you visit a shelter and suspect that some of the cats you may have interacted with were carriers, it is important that you avoid coming into contact with any cats you may have at home.

Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

Runny nose
Clear or colored snot
Gagging and drooling
Decreased or loss of appetite
Rapid Breathing
Nose and mouth ulcers
Squinting or rubbing the eyes
Open mouth breathing


If you suspect your cat has an upper respiratory tract infection, get them to the Vet. Your vet will perform an exam to determine if your cat needs medication, has a fever or is suffering from dehydration. Self-diagnosis is not recommended as your cat may be infectious and spread the virus to other members of your feline household. They may require isolation and antibiotics.



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