Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I am home recovering from sinusitis, with my lovely purry tabby kitty on my lap. I accidentally coughed on her and I got worried: can she pick up any illness from me? Also, this summer promises to be a very nasty season for allergies — can my kitty be affected by this? What symptoms would signal nasal allergies in my cat?
Siouxsie: Well, Mary, you’ll be relieved to know that your cat can’t catch a cold from you.
Thomas: So you can rest assured that although your kitty may have been annoyed by being coughed on, she’s not going to get your germs.
Dahlia: There are some zoonotic diseases — diseases that can be passed between cats and people — but they are very few in number, and a little common sense will prevent them.
Siouxsie: Now, on to your next question about allergies. Cats can get allergies, but we tend not to get them as easily as humans do.
Thomas: When we do get allergies, the most common way they manifest is in skin irritations. Digestive upsets are another way allergies and intolerances frequently show up.
Dahlia: But indeed, cats can and do develop allergic rhinitis (runny nose and watery eyes) sometimes.
Siouxsie: If your cat is suffering from nasal allergies, she’ll have occasional “sneezing fits,” but she won’t sneeze all day long.
Thomas: You’ll see a watery discharge from her nose, and occasionally her eyes as well.
Dahlia: If your cat has these symptoms, keep a careful eye on her. As an allergy sufferer yourself, you probably know that allergies can leave the body vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections.
Siouxsie: If your cat’s nasal discharge starts looking mucusy — it gets thicker and maybe becomes yellow or greenish in color — or bloody, and the discharge makes her eyelids stick together, your cat has an upper respiratory infection and should go to the vet for treatment.
Thomas: Cats with allergies generally act healthy, if a bit sneezy. Even if your cat has allergies, she’ll maintain her appetite and her behavior shouldn’t change. But if she’s getting sick, she’ll become more lethargic, reduce her food and water intake, and probably develop a fever.
Dahlia: A cat’s normal body temperature is around 100.5 to 102.5 degrees fahrenheit. A feverish cat will feel hotter than usual to the touch and her eyes may be glassy-looking. If you dare, you can try and take her temperature (here’s how).
Siouxsie: The best way to prevent your cat from getting allergies is to keep the air in your home as clean as possible. Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter. Vacuum frequently, preferably with a vacuum cleaner that has HEPA filtration. Avoid using chemical air fresheners and use unscented cat litter and laundry detergents, and of course, nobody should smoke inside your home.
Thomas: Those measures will help you feel better, too.
Dahlia: But as we said earlier, if your cat is going to get allergies, they’ll probably take the form of a skin irritation. Fleas are the most common “allergen” for cats, and some cats are so sensitive to flea bites that even one bite can cause itching and misery from head to tail. Prevent flea allergies by using spot-on treatments every month.
Siouxsie: Mary, if you find that your cat is suffering from symptoms you think may be allergies, call your vet and see if you should bring your kitty in for a visit. Your vet will be able to tell whether your cat has allergies or a bacterial or viral infection.
Thomas: Cats with allergies should never be given human allergy medicine unless they are specifically prescribed by a veterinarian.
Dahlia: Some human allergy medicines can be toxic to cats, and your vet will be able to tell you which medication you can safely use on your cat and give you the proper dosing instructions.
Siouxsie: Best of luck to you and your kitty as you “enjoy” the upcoming summer allergy season!