Unlike humans, cats don’t generally catch colds and other illnesses multiple times per year. It can be understandably unsettling when kitty is suddenly dealing with coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, or is lethargic. 

There are certain bacterial and viral infections that can be passed from pets to people in a process called ‘zoonosis’. Because the common cold is so easily transmissible between people, it’s only natural to wonder if we can also catch a cold from a cat. Let’s find out!

Feline Upper Respiratory Virus

Bacteria or viruses, or sometimes both, are to blame for cat colds. In some cases, cats who have suffered a cold will become lifetime carriers of the virus, meaning they can become sick again during times of high stress (such as a move or the introduction of a new pet). Immunocompromised cats are also at greater risk of upper respiratory infections.

The symptoms of a cat cold include:

  • Sneezing/wheezing
  • Sniffling
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Coughing 
  • Lethargy 
  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite

For the most part, cat colds are harmless and can be allowed to run their course (about 7-10 days). If a cat is sick enough to stop eating or drinking, or has a high fever, seek veterinary attention immediately. Kittens are especially vulnerable to dangerous dehydration as a result of a cold, and should be under the care of a veterinarian.

Can Humans Catch a Cold From a Cat?

For the most part, the answer to this question is no. Humans are at very low risk for contracting a cold from a cat, although there have been a few documented cases of cat-to-human cold transmission. Most of the bacteria and viruses that cause feline colds are specific to cats, but it is technically possible for humans with lowered immunity to catch a cold from a cat.

Protect yourself by washing your hands frequently, and be on the lookout for signs of respiratory infection in yourself.

Keeping Kitty Healthy

Making preventive wellness a priority is the best way to prevent your cat from becoming ill:

  • Keep all of your cat’s regularly scheduled wellness appointments.
  • Make sure your cat is up to date on vaccinations.
  • Keep your cat on a year-round parasite prevention protocol (even indoor cats need protection).
  • Strive to make your cat’s environment as stress-free as possible. Each cat should have their own litter box, plenty of places to hide, high perches to sit on, and lots of playtime with you each day.

For answers to more of your cat-related questions, don’t hesitate to contact the team at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital!