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Does my Cat Have a Cold?

Does my Cat Have a Cold?

You've just adopted an adorable little kitten from a shelter and 3 days later, he starts sneezing and having a runny nose at home. Is it possible that he caught your cold? Actually, it's not a cold, but a feline respiratory virus that causes "feline infectious rhinotracheitis". Two viruses can cause rhinotracheitis in the cat: the herpesvirus and the calicivirus. The herpesvirus being the most frequently involved, it is of this one that we're discussing today. A vast majority of cats have already contracted this virus during their life and will unfortunately remain carriers of it. The herpesvirus hides at the trigeminal ganglion level and comes out when Kitty experiences a period of stress (like a move). It is then transmitted very easily by respiratory tract secretions or sneezes.

Symptoms are similar to the common cold and may last for about 10 days. Sneezing and nasal discharge are common. Some cats may also develop eye discharge or conjunctivitis, which can even lead to corneal ulcers. Kitty may have a fever and decreased appetite. Sometimes, in addition to the viral infection, a bacterial superinfection may develop. The eye and nose discharges then become coloured (yellow or green).

Vaccination remains the most effective prevention. If Kitten has already contracted the virus before her first immunization, don't hesitate to have her vaccinated anyway. She'll still carry the virus, but she will be much less likely to develop chronic rhinitis.

When Kitty is heavily congested, it's important to remove her nasal secretions with a saline solution and increase the humidity of the environment. It is also important to make sure that Kitty is eating and drinking properly. If necessary, secondary infections can be managed with antibiotics. In some cases, antivirals and nutritional supplements may also be used. Don't forget to isolate Kitty from other cats, as she will be highly contagious!