Colds in cats are just like colds in humans and are caused by a virus. Indications are sneezing, lethargy, third eyelid up (the little white membrane at the inner corner of the eye), stuffy nose, and possibly fever. Since viruses are not affected by antibiotics giving them to a cat with a cold is like trying to chop down a large tree with a steak knife…it’s just not going to help much. The virus must run it’s course on it’s own.
However, if the cat is exhibiting signs of secondary infection such as green or yellow gooey discharge from the eyes or nose and fever, then antibiotics are indicated. Again, the antibiotics do not impact the cold directly; they merely address the bacterial infection that has taken hold due to the immune system being impaired by the virus.
At our clinic, we treat symptomatically if the cat seems to be uncomfortable. Most cats do some light sneezing, sleep a lot and get over it quickly. Others, especially kittens, the elderly, or cats with suppressed immune function can get very sick, very quickly in which case the cold could become a serious medical emergency.
Believe me…at our clinic, we’d much rather you keep your cat at home unless it is seriously ill because this exposes more cats to the virus. This can adversely affect other ill cats and hamper their ability to recover. With the greater good in mind, here are some things you can do at home to make your cat more comfortable while he’s sick:
There are antiviral herbs such as elderberry available at your local health food store but be careful and talk to your local vet, herbalist or health food store employee before administering herbal treatments to your cat. Most health food stores have a pet section where safe, effective products can be purchased without much concern. Echinacea can also be given to cats for a limited duration.
Chlorephineramine Maleate 4mg is an over-the-counter antihistamine that can safely be used in cats . Depending on the age/size of the cat, the dosage is 1/4 to 1/2 tablet twice daily or as needed for sneezing/watery eyes. For larger or over-weight cats, up to one tablet twice daily can be given. As in humans, antihistamines can make your cat drowsy so don’t be alarmed if they sleep a lot.
If the cold is causing stuffiness in the nose, your cat can be treated with infant nose drops to the tune of one drop in each nostril once daily for 3 to 4 days. Cats won’t eat if they can’t smell so lack of appetite is nothing to be worried about unless it lasts over 2 days. Offer your cat bland foods such as baby food meats (which are easy to syringe feed if necessary) or smelly canned cat foods such as tuna or other fishy flavors. Water is very important at this time so be sure your cat is still drinking plenty of it. If not, a dropper or syringe is useful in getting water down Fluffy or, if dehydration is evident, get him to the vet.
Normal feline body temperature is 101.5 to 102.5 but if you think your cat has a fever 81mg baby aspirin can be given at 1/2 tablet every other day. But no more than every other day for the duration of the cold! Cats have a hard time metabolizing aspirin so it stays in their system for a long time. NEVER, EVER give a cat acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen. These products can cause liver or kidney failure even at small dosages!
I hope this information comes in handy the next time your cat gets a cold. It could save you and Fluffy an unnecessary trip to the vet and help stop the spread of viral infections. Now, if only we could get humans to stay at home when they get sick…