Colds are common in kittens because these little guys have developing immune systems and aren't as able to fight off infection as well as their adult counterparts. These colds are due to upper respiratory infections caused by either virus or bacterial infection.
A little kitten with an upper respiratory infection has symptoms similar to colds in people. You'll notice that he sneezes and coughs frequently. He may also have a runny nose and watery eyes. In some cases, the little one will develop a fever, become less active and lethargic and may eat less than usual. While colds are an annoyance for adult kitties, in kittens they can quickly become serious, leading to pneumonia, trouble breathing or ulcers on the nose, mouth or eyes, according to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. The simple loss of fluids caused by a runny nose in a tiny furry baby can also result in dehydration.
What to Do?
Visit your veterinarian if you notice cold symptoms in your little kitty to properly diagnose the condition. She'll be able to examine your furry friend and determine the cause of his sneezy symptoms. In some cases, a virus could be to blame, while in others a bacterial infection could be the cause. The two major causes of upper respiratory infections are either the herpesvirus or calicivirus, both of which account for 80 to 90 percent of all such infections, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. While viruses can't be cured and may recur later in life, bacterial infections can. These may occur as the primary or secondary cause of your little one's symptoms and can be treated with antibiotics to rid your kitty of them.
What to Expect
Kitty colds last around four to 14 days, although they may last longer in little kittens -- up to three or four weeks, according to the Cats Exclusive Veterinary Center. During this time, your vet may want you to administer an antibiotic or antiviral medication orally and may also give you eye drops or nasal drops. Drops help your little one breathe more easily by relieving his congestion or may help soothe his red, irritated eyes. Follow your vet's instructions and bring your little one in for regular exams, especially if his symptoms aren't improving.
Special Vet Care
A major concern of colds in kittens is a failure of them to eat or drink properly. This is because they can't smell their food and generally feel yucky, plus their throats might be sore as well. Feed your little one slightly warm human baby food, without any onion, or soft canned kitten food, to tempt him to eat if he's already weaned. If he doesn't eat or nurse properly, your vet may need to keep him for a few days to ensure he gets the proper nutrition and fluids intravenously or through tube feeding.
While feline colds aren't contagious to people, they are contagious to other cats. Both virus and bacteria can become airborne through a simple sneeze, making your other pets sick. You may need to isolate your kitty while he's sick if you do have other animals in your home. During his recovery, make your kitty comfortable by keeping him in a comfy, warm bed and use a vaporizer to help ease his congestion. With lots of care and snuggling and a stress-free environment, your little one should be back to his bouncy, playful self in no time at all.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- VetInfo: Common Sick Kitten Symptoms
- petMD: Excessive Sneezing and Nasal Discharge
- Mar Vista Animal Medical Center: Feline Upper Respiratory Infection
- All Feline Hospital: Cat Colds
- VetInfo: Cat Cold Symptoms
- 2ndchance.info: Why is My Dog Sneezing? Why Is My Cat Sneezing?
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Upper Respiratory Infections
- The Winn Feline Foundation: Feline Herpesvirus and Calicivirus
- Cats Exclusive Veterinary Center: Questions and Answers About Feline Upper Respiratory Infections
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.