Feline Upper Respiratory Infections

an infected cat

If your cat has irritated eyes, nasal discharge, and is sneezing and feeling lethargic, they may have an upper respiratory infection (URI). Feline URIs are commonly caused by certain viruses and spread by exposure to infected cats and their secretions.

Though the viruses that cause feline URIs are present within cat populations, Dr. Christine Rutter, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said many feline URIs are preventable through vaccinations and other health precautions.

“Avoiding a URI infection includes avoiding contact with infected or carrier cats,” Rutter said. “Keeping cats indoors, boosting immunity with vaccination, and avoiding dense cat populations such as shelters are key.”

Additionally, Rutter said if one cat in a multi-cat household has a URI, all of the feline members of the household should be considered infected and quarantined from cats outside of the household. If the URI virus is in your home, use a common disinfectant to effectively prevent the virus from spreading to other cats. Hand washing and changing clothes after handling infected cats will also keep other cats safe from contracting the virus.

Despite these precautions, reoccurring symptoms of feline URIs may occur in some cats throughout their lives. There are limited remedies available for chronically effected cats, but Rutter reminded owners that most cats can avoid developing a URI through preventative practices.

However, if a cat does develop a URI, Rutter said supportive treatment is available to help most viruses run their course within seven to 10 days.

More severe URIs may lead to other health concerns, such as bacterial infections, eye infections, and even anorexia. In these cases, antibiotics, plenty of fluids, and eye medications may be required to help the cat regain its health.

Fortunately, the viruses that cause feline URIs are not contagious to dogs and people. However, remember to vaccinate your cat and regularly visit your veterinarian to prevent your furry friend from developing a URI. If you notice that your cat is showing symptoms of a URI, be sure to contact your veterinarian.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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