How Long to Keep a Sick Cat Isolated From Other Cats?

"Can I come out yet, warden?"
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Having more than one cat means Frick and Frack will always have a friend to share their days with. Unfortunately, your cats can also share germs should one catch a virus, resulting in two very miserable and sick kitties. Quarantining Frick as soon as symptoms appear helps contain the outbreak.

Days or Weeks

Quarantine time frames are not a set-in-stone type of thing, as the length of time Frick needs to stay in solitary confinement depends upon what's wrong with him in the first place. Cats can become ill from numerous sources, including viral, bacterial or fungal agents, and each illness has a different lifespan and length of contagion. All are infectious to other cats, whether airborne or through physical contact. Depending on the condition, keeping Frick isolated until he's no longer infectious could require days, if not weeks. Ask your vet for an approximate time frame.

Colds and Upper Respiratory Infections

Runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing are the telltale signs Frick's caught himself a cold. If it's truly just a cold, he should clear up without treatment in a few days or so, which means he'll only need to be separated from Frack for a week at most. Trouble is, cat colds tend to turn into upper respiratory infections, which have more severe symptoms and extend both the length of the illness and danger of contagion. Depending on what caused the infection, Frick could be out of commission for anywhere from one to three weeks, as he is contagious to other cats the entire time he has an upper respiratory infection. Antibiotics could help shorten this sentence, but only if the infection was caused by bacteria -- viral infections do not respond to antibiotics and can take two weeks or longer to clear up.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Just because you have Frick set up with his own room safely isolated from Frack, with his own litter box and food dishes, doesn't mean he can't still spread his illness to his housemate. Although the two friends won't pass notes under the door and share germs that way, they do share one thing that does go in and out -- you. After you spend time with Frick, giving him medication and offering some one-on-one time, you become a carrier for whatever ickiness he's battling. When you leave the room, head straight to the sink and scrub your hands thoroughly to remove any germs that have hitched a ride. Do not touch Frack, or any of his things, until you have scrubbed down. Otherwise Frick's quarantine will have proved meaningless.

Release Orders

Cats are masters at hiding their pain or discomfort, and Frick may seem all better even when those nasty germs are still partying in his bloodstream. Just because he's not sneezing anymore or has finished his medicine doesn't mean he's completely healthy and ready to be released. See your vet for confirmation that Frick is in fact no longer contagious before allowing him to roam the house freely again. Once set free, clean his isolation room thoroughly with hot, soapy water to sterilize the area and prevent possible reinfection.

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.

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