can cats get colds from humans

Can Cats Get Colds From Humans?

We’ve all been there – your nose gets stuffy, your throat gets sore, and all you want to do is lay in bed with a blanket and a cup of tea. Colds aren’t fun for us humans, but have you ever wondered… Can cats get colds too?

The short answer is yes, cats can get colds, they just aren’t called “colds.” An Upper Respiratory Infection (or URI) is unfortunately common among cats, but what can you do to help your sweet kitty feel better?

In this article, we’ll tell you more about what cat colds are, the common symptoms of cat URIs, how to care for your sick cat, and how to prevent your cat from catching a cold in the future.

cat colds or URI

What is a Cat Cold?

A “cat cold” is a common term used to refer to an upper respiratory infection (URI) in cats. Nearly 90% of all URIs come from either feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus. This infection is highly contagious and affects the nose and throat of cats, similar to colds in humans.

Because this virus only affects cats, it isn’t possible for your cat to get a cold from you, or for you to catch a cold from your cat. Cats can only get a cold from exposure to the virus through another cat or the surrounding environment.

Even if your cat doesn’t go outside, you could potentially bring home the virus on your clothing if you’ve been in the same area as a sick cat. Although rare, there is the potential for your cat to get sick with a URI.

It is important to note that while a cat cold is not usually a serious condition, it can be dangerous in young kittens, elderly cats, or cats with weakened immune systems. If your cat falls into any of these categories, you should be extra cautious about exposing them to potential viruses.

common cat cold symptoms

Common Cat Cold (URI) Symptoms

There are a few routine symptoms of an Upper Respiratory Infection in cats. Be on the lookout for these signs if you believe your cat may be sick or was exposed to a sick cat.


One of the most typical symptoms of a cat URI is sneezing. Your cat may sneeze occasionally, but if they do it chronically, it may be an early sign of a URI brewing. Keep an eye out for other signs on this list to determine if your cat is sick or just got into some dust!

Runny Nose

Another common symptom of cat colds is a runny nose. This is usually what causes the sneezing that comes along with an Upper Respiratory Infection. You’ll be able to see watery discharge coming from your cat’s nose, and their nose and face may appear more wet than usual.

If you notice any thick red, brown, or green discharge coming from your cat’s nose, this may be a sign of a more serious infection. Take your cat to the vet immediately if you see this.


On the flip side, your cat may also be dealing with some congestion if they have a URI. Cats with congestion, also called rhinitis, may struggle to breathe. You may notice your cat pawing at their face or breathing more forcefully through their mouth.


If your cat’s URI is serious, they may develop a fever. You can determine if your cat has a fever by taking their temperature with a rectal thermometer. If you’re unable to check your cat’s temperature by yourself, your veterinarian will be able to help you.

Loss of Appetite

Just like many humans, cats don’t usually like to eat when they’re sick. If you notice your cat isn’t touching their kibble along with a few of these other symptoms, they may have a kitty cold.


Finally, lots of cats with Upper Respiratory Infections may be lethargic while they’re sick. Being sick takes a lot out of your cat, so don’t be surprised if they aren’t as high-energy as they normally are.

uncommon cat cold symptoms

Uncommon Cat Cold (URI) Symptoms

Though most cats only get common cat cold symptoms, some cats may also experience not-so-common symptoms.

Eye Infections

Depending on the severity of your cat’s URI, they could also develop an eye infection. This usually results from your cat pawing at their face due to their congestion or runny nose. However, some cats may also end up with more sensitive eyes while their body tries to fight off the URI.

Excessive Coughing

Though coughing is not common in cats, it is possible with a URI. Cat coughs don’t sound like human coughs, so you have to listen carefully for them.

Some cat coughs may sound like a “wheeze” or a crackly “honk.” They may also appear to be hacking up a hairball, but nothing will come out.

caring for sick cats

Caring for Your Sick Kitty

To get over a cold, your cat will need some special love and attention. Since the colds cats get are viruses and not bacterial infections, there aren’t as many medications available to help them. If your cat is having basic symptoms, you should start by treating them at home.

Give Them a Quiet Place to Rest

Cats that are stressed will take longer to recover from an illness or injury than those able to properly rest. Make sure your cat is put in a place that is quiet and comforting for them to recover in. This may mean keeping them away from other pets that may stress them out or keeping them indoors until they’re healthy again.

Nutritious Food Can Help

Though sick cats don’t always want to eat, a healthy diet is part of a quick recovery. Congestion may prevent your cat from smelling their food, so try to tempt them with some strong-smelling wet foods like tuna or salmon.

You should also make sure your cat has lots of water available at all times, as they’ll be prone to dehydration if their nose is running.

Try a Steamy Sauna

Cats with severe congestion may need some extra help to clear their sinuses. Consider putting them in your bathroom and letting the room steam up from the hot water in your shower. This steam may help to clear their sinuses and give them a bit of relief from their congestion, helping them breathe better.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

If you want to get rid of the virus for good, you’ll have to do some regular cleaning. Make sure you clean any discharge from your cat’s eyes and nose as often as possible. This will also help keep them comfortable as they recover.

You should also clean all of the items your cat uses regularly, including food bowls, water bowls, toys, and litter boxes. You should disinfect these items at least once per day as your cat recovers. Though changing the full litter isn’t realistic every day, you can still wipe down the sides of the box itself.

cat veterinarian visit

When It's Time for a Vet Visit

If your cat’s cold isn’t improving, taking them to the vet is the responsible next step. Your vet can run some tests to make sure they have an accurate diagnosis and they can get the best care possible. 

If your cat does indeed have a URI, your vet may offer to give them some IV fluids to keep them hydrated. They may also offer medications to relieve your cat’s symptoms as they recover.

Your veterinarian may also give your cat additional treatment such as antibiotics for any secondary infections that arise from their Upper Respiratory Infection. It’s important that you give your cat any medications they need at the proper times to help them get better. Your cat will appreciate it!

Remember: if you have a kitten, elderly cat, or cat with prior health problems, going to the vet should be your first option. Don’t wait to see if they’ll recover first, as colds can be deadly in weaker cats.

preventative care

Preventative Care for Future Colds

When your furry friend gets a cold, it can be scary for both you and the cat. Luckily, there are a few ways you can reduce your cat’s chances of getting a cold in the future.

Minimize Stress

Stress can seriously affect your cat’s health. It can keep them from recovering from illness, and can also make them more susceptible to getting sick in the first place. Make sure your cat has an environment that is stress-free and has access to beds, toys, water, and litter boxes.

Keep Your Cat Indoors

Though there’s long been a debate about outdoor versus indoor cats, indoor cats are much less likely to get sick than outdoor cats. Because your indoor cat won’t come into contact with any potentially sick cats on their own, keeping them safe from illness is much easier.

Isolate Other Sick Pets

If you have several pets and suspect one is sick, isolate that pet from the rest of your cats. The last thing you want is for any illness to spread to your whole pack! You should also stay away from any of your friends’ sick pets in case you accidentally bring it home to your own kitties.

Wash Your Hands and Clothes Regularly

Because viruses are everywhere, we should do our best to keep them out of our homes. That means washing your hands and clothes regularly. If you accidentally come into contact with a feline virus outside, you may bring it inside on your clothing.

Keeping your cats away from dirty clothes and washing your hands before playing with them can help keep them safe and healthy!

annual cat vaccines

Stay Up-to-Date on Vaccines

Finally, one of the best ways you can prevent any illness in your cat is by taking them to the vet regularly for check-ups and their annual vaccines!

Since cat colds (URIs) come from feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus, these can be prevented by two simple injections given on a yearly basis.

Final Thoughts

Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs) are highly contagious in cats and affect their nose and throat. While not usually serious, URIs can be dangerous in young kittens, elderly cats, or cats with weakened immune systems.

To prevent future colds in cats, you should do your best to minimize stress, keep your cats indoors, isolate sick pets, wash your hands and clothes regularly, and stay up-to-date on vaccines and preventative care.

If your cat has a cold that isn’t improving, make sure you take them to the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. With love and care, your cat can recover from a URI and be back to themselves in no time!

Thanks to Lex Leigh for This Article!

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