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Cat Respiratory Infections: What Are the Common Causes? Guest Blog by Jason Lowder

Lori Davidson | 21 February, 2023

            Cat Respiratory Infections: What Are the Common Causes? Guest Blog by Jason Lowder

Are you aware that your cat can catch a cold? Yes, cats can get upper respiratory tract infections, which happen more frequently than you expect. 

In fact, the most typical disease in cats is a respiratory infection. It's comparable to a cold, but it has the potential to be far worse. It is brought on by several viruses or bacteria and affects the nose, throat, and sinuses rather than the lungs.

You should keep reading to get all you need to know about cat respiratory infection.

What You Need to Know About Cat Respiratory Infections

Depending on the underlying cause, cat respiratory infections can swiftly worsen, especially in kittens. Untreated infections in adult cats can result in persistent issues such as secondary infections or damage to the sensitive sinuses. This is why it is vital to learn as much as possible about cat respiratory infections. 

What Causes Cat Respiratory Infections

A cat's upper respiratory infection resembles a human's common cold. It is quite contagious and can be caught from regular veterinary visits, among other things. 

Although bacterial infections might occasionally be to blame, viral infections are the predominant cause of cat respiratory infections.

Several different viruses and bacteria can give cats colds. Feline viral rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus are the most frequent culprits; both of these viruses are highly contagious and can spread rapidly through a home with multiple cats, either through direct contact between cats or through contact with a contaminated surface or object, such as a shared water bowl.

The same goes for bacterial infections. Bacteria can grow in a variety of places including food sources, stale water bowls and even contaminated fabrics and toys which is why it’s important to regularly wash them and even replace cat toys that have run their course.

Now, here are a few of the common viruses and bacteria responsible cat respiratory infections:

  • Feline Herpesvirus (FHV):

This is also known as Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR). The extremely contagious Feline Herpesvirus (FHV, FHV-1) is one of the leading causes of cat upper respiratory infections (URIs) or cat flu.

This more severe virus lives out its entire existence in the cat's body. Along with coughing, sneezing, appetite loss, pharyngitis (sore throat), and inflamed trachea, this virus frequently causes eye infections. The virus will develop later in the cat's life if it goes through a stressful phase, and the cat could be contagious forever.

This virus is responsible for most cats' acute upper respiratory infections. Some of its symptoms can include:

  1. Fever
  2. persistent sneezing
  3. Conjunctivitis
  4. Rhinitis
  5. Salivation brought on by an oral ulcer
  6. Ocular and nasal discharge
  • Feline Calicivirus (FCV):

Feline calicivirus (FCV) infection is also highly prevalent in the feline population, with more than 40 different FCV strains known. With this virus, the symptoms are less severe, though there may be more mouth ulcers. There is also a higher chance of contracting pneumonia. Once it has healed, the cat can have a virus-carrying capacity and become infectious whenever it sheds the virus. Symptoms of FCV infection include:

  1. Sneezing
  2. Nasal and oral ulcers
  3. Fever
  4. Conjunctivitis
  5. Inappetence
  6. Lethargy


  • Bordetella bronchiseptica

The gram-negative bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica is a common component of the respiratory flora in many cats and dogs. This can cause serious sickness, especially when it coexists with another respiratory condition. Indicators of a cat borrelia infection include:

  1. Cough
  2. Pneumonia
  3. Eye and nasal discharge



  • Mycoplasm:

Mycoplasm is a bacterial illness characterized by eye swelling and ocular discharge.


  • Feline Reovirus

Feline Reovirus is an intestinal viral infection that occasionally displays signs of a respiratory illness.


  • Pasteurella

Pasteurella is an infection caused by germs and frequently spread by animal bites.


  • Chlamydophila Felis

Chlamydophila Felis is a bacterial infection that frequently causes mild sneezing and eye infections.

How Do These Infections Spread?

When numerous cats come into contact with one another, some or all of the infections mentioned above spread rapidly. Because of this, cat colonies, animal shelters, and any other significant gathering of cats are most likely to host epidemics of bacterial or viral infections.

The transmission of these upper respiratory infections in cats can occur when they hiss, spit, groom, or even lie close to one another. Sharing eating utensils or litter boxes increases the risk of infection.

How Can I Keep My Cat Healthy?

Respiratory infections are less likely to affect cats housed indoors. Cats permitted outside who have recently stayed in a shelter, boarding house, or cattery or live in a home with multiple cats are more likely to get these illnesses. Kittens are also more vulnerable since their immune systems are still developing.

There are vaccines available to aid in preventing or lessening the severity of the most prevalent illnesses. Although many vaccinations don't always prevent diseases, they help reduce how ill your cat becomes if it contracts the disease. Owners can also try cat respiratory support supplements to keep their immune system strong.

Final Thoughts

Upper respiratory infections are common in cats, especially in kittens. Make a consultation appointment as soon as your cat exhibits any symptoms of respiratory infections, such as sneezing, wheezing, "gummy" eyes, or a runny nose.

The most frequent method of transmission for viral or bacterial feline infectious respiratory disorders is direct cat-to-cat contact with ocular, infected nasal, or oral secretions.

Indirect contact with contaminated sources, like dirty dishes and contaminated persons, can potentially spread them. 

Take great care not to infect your own cat with the illness if you are around a sick cat. Ensure your cat cannot smell your dirty garments before washing them and wash your hands thoroughly.

Fortunately, ordinary disinfectants like bleach solutions can effectively treat these illnesses.


"Jason is a full time writer covering topics in the pet care space with a focus on holistic health for cats and dogs. You can find his work on Prana Pets as well as other pet blogs. When he’s not writing he enjoys spending time with his family as well as his two tabbies and bulldog." 





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