Is it possible my cat has a “cold” or the “flu”?

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While your cat may be exhibiting signs that we often associate with a cold or the flu in people, (e.g. lethargy, sneezing, coughing, seeking warmth, stiffness), it is very important not to disregard these signs as “just a cold” or “just the flu”. There are many other conditions, some very serious, that can cause these signs.

A “cold” is a catch-all term for upper respiratory infection (URI), caused by viruses. People are plagued with many of these infections, and in fact, cats get their fair share of URI’s too! Our feline friends will sneeze, have a runny nose and/or eyes, and if they could talk, they would likely tell us they have a headache and generally feel pretty “blah”.

On the other hand, cats are not susceptible to influenza viruses, which often cause similar signs to a cold in people but are much more severe and debilitating (causing illness beyond just the upper respiratory tract). Cats do catch some very nasty viruses from other cats, such as herpesvirus (feline viral rhinotracheitis), calicivirus, parvovirus (feline distemper), feline retroviruses (leukemia virus and immunodeficiency virus), and coronavirus (feline infectious peritonitis). Your cat can be vaccinated against most of the above.

The bottom line is if you think your cat is showing signs of a cold or the flu, and this persists for longer than 24 to 48 hours, you are observing a sick cat. A general rule of thumb with animals is if there is even the smallest suspicion your pet is sick, it likely is, since pets instinctively hide illness (in order to not show weakness to their predators).

Err on the side of caution and have your pet examined to determine the extent of its illness.

Caution: These news items, written by Lifelearn Inc., are licensed to this practice for the personal use of our clients. Any copying, printing or further distribution is prohibited without the express written permission of Lifelearn Inc. Please note that the news information presented here is NOT a substitute for a proper consultation and/or clinical examination of your pet by our clinic veterinarian.