Can My Cat Catch a Cold From Me?

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?

~ Mary

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.

LOLcat: cat sneezing into a tissue with caption *Achoo*

Image courtesy of I Can Has Cheezburger

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!

  • Rebecca

    This article is very timely for me, as I just took my cat back to the vet for her intermittent sneezies and mysterious itching fits. She has been on lysine for the sneezing and now Revolution in case of mites, for the itching. But she’s sneezing a little more then usual today and I do wonder if it’s just allergies. The lysine has done nothing. Every once in a while she sounds congested or gets hoarse – do you kitties happen to know if this rules out either allergies or a viral infection? By the way I LOVE the picture of the sneezing lolcat! Absolutely fabulous choice!

  • Dafquez
  • The Paws and Effect Gang

    Rebecca, we don’t know for sure whether or not the lysine’s ineffectiveness would rule out allergies or a viral infection. This is definitely a question you should ask your vet, though. Meanwhile, try taking the steps we talked about to help get your environment cleaner and less allergenic. Sometimes, we think, lots of little irritants build up until the body finally begins overreacting–and an allergy is essentially an overreaction by the immune system.

  • The Paws and Effect Gang

    While it is true that a cat tested positive for H1N1 after his people had reported having flu-like symptoms before the cat got sick, the vets quoted in the article say that it would be extremely rare for this to happen. For those worried about the infection going from cats to people, they also say that it’s all but impossible for a cat to transmit H1N1 to people.

  • naganpets

    A cold is serious business for a cat and even more serious if you have a multiple cat household.
    Oddly enough, your cat’s symptoms will be very similar to yours, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, wheezing and sometimes a mucous discharge either from its nose or mouth. It is also possible for your cat to have a breathing problem, cold sore type ulcers around it mouth and red teary eyes that have a discharge.
    Cat colds are very contagious and interestingly, cats are more susceptible to colds in the summer time.

  • naganpets

    my cat cannot catch your cat’s cold. It is said that cold viruses are species-specific, which means pets and humans cannot pass a cold back and forth.
    Your cat’s symptoms will be very similar to yours, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, wheezing and sometimes a mucous discharge either from its nose or mouth. It is also possible for your cat to have a breathing problem, cold sore type ulcers around it mouth and red teary eyes that have a discharge.

  • anne

    hi i have 12 cats 8 are adults 4 r kittens. unfortunatly we lost 2. 1 week old kittens to a nasty cat bug .which has gone threw to all our cats and its wiping them out 1 by 1. the vet has given my 7 adult cats antibiotics. but could not give the last adult cat as she is mum of kittens as she is feeding them still and could not help the kittens as they were to young they r a week old as i have stated this bug is all the above symptoms and if you are a worried pet owner get them to a vet asap. as its not a pretty site to see a dead kitten. they died in my hands struggling for breath so treat your cat/s as if they were your child and seek medical help from a vet.

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