If your cat is sneezing it probably has URTI.
Upper Respiratory Tract Infection URTI, or sometimes just known as UTI (although this is also used for Urinary Tract Infections) , is a common problem among domestic felines. It is much like a cold, or flu, in humans and can occasionally develop into pneumonia, particularly in kittens and older animals. In some cats the condition becomes chronic with the animal experiencing several attacks throughout the year, mostly manifested by sneezing fits only.
Symptoms of Colds in Cats
- Sneezing is often the first symptom, and by itself is really no concern for alarm.
- Watery eyes, of concern when they become crusted over.
- Nasal Discharge, which is of concern and especially so if it becomes bloody.
- Lack of appetite.
- Conjunctivitis (pinkeye) an indication of Chlamydia.
- Open mouth breathing, cause for immediate attention.
- Ulcers may form in the mouth and around the nose and eyes.
There are several viruses and bacteria that can cause this problem. The most common viral causes are feline herpesvirus 1 (FHV) and feline calicvirus (FVC). The most common bacteria responsible is feline chlamydia (not the same as human chlamydia), but there are others.
Cats living close together, especially in stressed situations, can easily spread the organisms, direct contact is not necessary. As such cats in shelters, stores, and kennels are often exposed to risk factors.
Cats who are stressed, young, underfed, have lower resistance and often become very ill.
Feral cat populations can spread the disease.
Owners who have been exposed can carry the viral organisms home to their own cats.
Plastic food and water bowls cannot be properly disinfected and can carry bacteria and viruses.
URTI can be airborne and viruses can live on uncleaned surfaces for up to 6 months.
Cats may become sick up to 10-14 days after exposure.
How to Treat a Sick Cat
If the cat is just sneezing, it should be kept indoors, and kept warm.
Feeding extra canned food (chicken and rice mush) is also a good idea. You might try adding warm water to the food, making it more soup-like, especially if the cat is having difficulty eating. Feed small amounts, but several times a day. The cat should still have access to its regular dry food.
If the cat is not eating, it can be encouraged to eat more by placing the food in the microwave for a few seconds to make the food smell better. It is smell that attracts cats to eat, and a cat with a stuffy nose may have problems smelling.
If the cat has more than one symptom a trip to the vet is important. Especially if it is a young kitten.
The vet will want to determine if the cause is bacterial or viral before suggesting a treatment. If they send the cat home for treatment it is very important the owner monitor its condition and call the veterinarian if symptoms worsen.
Water should be offered in stainless steel or ceramic bowl, it should be refreshed several times daily. Monitor the cat for drinking. In severe cases a cat may be given water with a syringe or eye dropper, being careful not to shoot too much water into its mouth that the water goes into the lungs.
Keep the sick cat indoors, isolated from other cats. Treat them last, after taking care of any healthy cats first. Change clothing afterwards.
Young kittens may require a hot water bottle in their beds and should be confined to a small room to encourage, and allow, rest.
In dry climates a humidifier may make breathing easier.
Preventing Sickness in Cats
There are some vaccinations available but none are 100% effective.
Use stainless steel or ceramic bowls, never plastic.
If getting any used cat equipment, such as a carrier, wash it thoroughly with bleach.
Keep cats indoors only especially kittens, and especially in areas with a lot of stray or feral cats.
Change clothes after being around sick cats, as at a friends home.
Use bleach to clean areas in the home where a sick cat has been.
Do not bring stray, or unvaccinated cats, into your home or expose your cats to them.
Other Tips on Cat Care
When getting a new cat, be sure it comes with at least a 14 day health guarantee.
Even after recovery cats can still shed the organisms responsible, as such be very careful when introducing a new pet to your home where one who has been sick resides. It is better to select a more mature cat rather than a very young kitten.
These cat diseases are not contagious to humans, nor can a cat catch a cold from a human.
If unchecked upper respiratory tract infection can spread into lower, and lung, infections such as pneumonia.
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