How to Deal with Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

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If your cat starts suffering from sneezing and sniffling or if he or she has a discharge from the eyes and/or nose, lethargy, and coughing, it could be an upper respiratory infection in cats. These are pretty common symptoms of this type of ailment. Just like we get colds from viruses or bacteria or even both, so do cats.

Bacterium & viruses that Cause Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

The bacteria and viruses that most commonly cause upper respiratory infections (URIs) in cats are:

  • Bordetella bronchi septical (B. bronchi septic a)
  • Chlamydophila felis (C. felis)
  • Feline calicivirus (FVC)
  • Feline herpesvirus type-1 (FHV-1) aka Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR)

There are a few others that are much less common. They are Feline retrovirus (FIV or FeLV) and The Mycoplasma bacteria, but they can also contribute to upper respiratory infections in cats as well.

Contagion & Carriers of Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

Since viruses and bacteria are highly contagious, as well as always present in both discharge from The nose and eyes and in The sick cat’s saliva, healthy kitties could be infected when coming into direct contact with a sick one. It’s just like when school kids come in contact with a classmate at school who has a common cold.

Unfortunately, recovered cats can also become carriers of these diseases because they are often still present in their systems. Then they pass them on to other cats that they come in contact with. In fact, mother cats can even pass them on to their kittens. Once cats have contracted FVR, they can carry it for their entire lives and could get sick again at any time when they become stressed by things like moving or The arrival of a new baby or other addition to The home.

Duration & Incubation of Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

The duration of upper respiratory infections in cats is usually from for 7 to 21 days. The incubation period is generally 2 to 10 days and that’s The time when The infected cat is The most contagious.

Treatment of Upper Respiratory infections in Cats

A veterinarian is The best person for determining a course of treatment for upper respiratory infections in cats. This could include prescriptions and/or possibly hospitalization. It depends on The severity of The infection. If it’s only a mild infection, he or she might suggest one or more of The following at-home treatments:

  1. Increase The level of humidity in The home. This could mean using a humidifier or accompanying your sick cat into a bathroom full of steam like you sometimes do with a sick and congested child. This you would do several times daily for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Offer your cat some tasty appetizing cat food. When a cat isn’t feeling well, soft canned food generally smells better to him or her than dry food and this is helpful with encouraging healthy eating.
  3. Clear the discharge from your cat’s nose and eyes that can accumulate throughout The day by wiping them with a soft warm wet washcloth.

If these steps do not alleviate your cat’s symptoms or they seem to be getting worse, call your vet as he or she might need stronger tactics like prescription drugs or possibly hospitalization.


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