The short answer to the question “can I catch a cold from my cat?” is yes, but it is extremely rare.

Otherwise known as an Upper Respiratory Infection, or URI, the common cold in both cats and humans is caused by any number of different viruses. However, they generally are not transmitted between species.

There are some environmental factors that may make it easier for you and your cat to be susceptible to these viruses. For example, stress and cold weather can suppress the immune system and make it more likely for cats and humans to be affected by a URI. But, the causative agent will (virus or bacterium) will most likely be different.

Zoonotic Diseases

There are some diseases that can be spread from cats to humans. Zoonotic diseases are those that can be spread between species. In cats, these diseases are usually transmitted through a bite, a scratch, contact with the skin and fur, or through exposure to a cat’s stool. And it’s very rare that a URI would be spread in this manner.

Some of the diseases that are transmittable to humans can be serious, however, so it’s always smart to bring your cat to see us regularly so we can evaluate their health and make sure they’re protected from infectious diseases and parasites. If you are worried about your own health, please contact your human physician.

Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats

What is a URI in cats? Simply put, your cat will experience symptoms that are similar to your own when you have a cold. These include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Watering eyes
  • Clear or colored nasal discharge
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Fever

URI in cats is highly contagious to other cats, so if you have a multiple cat household, chances are all your cats will get sick. Although we don’t normally seek medical care for ourselves when we have a cold, if you’re concerned about your cat’s health or wellbeing, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Some breeds and very young or old cats should also have veterinary support for their URIs.

Can I Catch A Cold From My Cat?

To address the very rare instance when it’s possible to catch a cold from your cat, let’s look at a few instances.

Although not technically a “cold”, the influenza virus is notorious for crossing species lines. According to the CDC, an avian strain known as H2N7 was recently found to be infecting shelter cats in New York City, and it was transmitted to one veterinarian who was caring for the cats.

Cats can contract chlamydia bacteria that causes severe inflammation and infection of the conjunctiva of the eye. There have been a few cases reported of the transmission of the Chlamydia bacteria from cats to people, so good handwashing practices are recommended when treating these cats.

Again, these instances are extremely rare, and to date there is no evidence of a highly contagious virus that causes upper respiratory infection which can cross between species lines. However, viral mutation is always occuring and there may be a day when this does happen.

If you have any questions about your cat’s health or wellbeing, or concerns about whether you can catch a cold from your cat, please don’t hesitate to contact us.