Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats

icon March 15, 2024

What is Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats?

An Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) in cats is a common infectious disease that affects the upper respiratory tract. The infection can be caused by a variety of viral and bacterial agents, including feline herpesvirus, calicivirus, and chlamydia.

Cats with URI may also have ulcers in their mouths, particularly if infected with calicivirus. These ulcers can be painful and can cause the cat to drool and have difficulty eating.

URI is highly contagious and can spread quickly from cat to cat, especially in multi-cat households or in shelters. Treatment typically involves supportive care, such as keeping the cat comfortable and well-hydrated, and may include medications to help manage symptoms or fight the underlying infection.

It's important to seek veterinary care if your cat shows signs of a URI. Your vet can diagnose the infection and recommend appropriate treatment to help your cat recover. Additionally, practicing good hygiene and keeping your cat's living area clean can help prevent the spread of URI to other cats.

What Are The Symptoms of a Feline Upper Respiratory Infection?

Colds in cats are commonly referred to as Upper Respiratory Infections (URI) and can have similar symptoms to human colds. Some of the most common symptoms of a cold in cats include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye discharge
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes)
  • Ulcers on the tongue and mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

In severe cases, cats with URI may also experience difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, or wheezing, which can be a sign of pneumonia or other respiratory complications.

A URI With Extra Oomph

Causes of Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are common in cats and can be caused by a variety of pathogens. Some of the most common causes of URIs in cats include:

  1. Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1): This is the most common cause of URIs in cats and is highly contagious. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, and eye discharge.

  2. Feline calicivirus (FCV): This is another common cause of URIs in cats and is also highly contagious. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, and mouth ulcers.

  3. Chlamydia felis: This bacterium can cause conjunctivitis and respiratory symptoms.

  4. Bordetella bronchiseptica: This bacterium can cause coughing and respiratory symptoms.

  5. Mycoplasma felis: This bacterium can cause respiratory symptoms.

  6. Streptococcus equi subspecies zooepidemicus: This bacterium can cause respiratory symptoms.

  7. Influenza viruses: Cats can be infected with influenza viruses, which can cause respiratory symptoms.

  8. Allergies: Cats can develop respiratory symptoms due to environmental allergens, such as pollen or dust.

  9. Parasites: Certain parasites, such as lungworms, can cause respiratory symptoms in cats.

Viruses can be transmitted in a number of ways.

  • Aerosol transmission, for example when a cat sneezes near another inhaling bacteria.
  • In contaminant transmission, it is estimated that FVR can survive outside the host for less than 18 hours, while FCV can survive for up to 10 days. Susceptible cats may become infected through direct contact with another infected cat or through contact with an environment contaminated with infectious secretions, such as food and water bowls, litter boxes, toys, and bedding.
  • Immune status can also play a role in upper respiratory infections in cats. Cats are susceptible to URI when their immune system is weakened (stress or co-morbid illness) and it is therefore common for shelter cats to show clinical signs of URI 7-10 days after moving to a new home. Stress from changes in daily life can lead to reduced immune function and make viruses or bacteria stronger.

Can Lysine Prevent Upper Respiratory Virus Flare-ups in Cats?

L-lysine supplements are not effective in preventing or treating herpes infections in cats, but can only be used as a nutritional supplement to provide an immune boost.

Feline Upper Respiratory Infection Treatment

Feline upper respiratory infection (URI) is a common illness that affects cats. It is caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria, and symptoms include sneezing, coughing, runny nose, watery eyes, and fever. Treatment of feline URI depends on the severity of the illness and the underlying cause. Here are some common treatments:

Doxycycline: If the URI is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed by a veterinarian. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotics, even if the cat's symptoms improve.

Antiviral medication: If the URI is caused by a viral infection, antiviral medication may be prescribed. However, there is no cure for viral infections, and the medication is typically used to help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.

Fluids: Cats with URI may become dehydrated due to a lack of appetite and increased fluid loss from sneezing and runny nose. Providing plenty of fresh water and offering wet food can help keep them hydrated.

Nebulizer for cats: Providing steam therapy by placing a cat in a steamy bathroom or using a humidifier can help relieve congestion and coughing.

Nutritional support: A balanced diet with high-quality protein and plenty of vitamins can help support a cat's immune system and aid in recovery.

It is important to consult with a veterinarian if a cat is showing signs of URI, as it can progress quickly and may require additional treatment. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary for supportive care, such as oxygen therapy or an antibiotic shot for cat's upper respiratory infection.

Recommended medication

Doxycycline+Cough suppressant

Cats Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) Bundle









If your cat has excessive eye discharge, scrub with a gentle, all-natural eye wash.

Puainta® Eye Wash for Dogs and Cats







Home Remedies for Cat Upper Respiratory Infection Treatment

Steam therapy: Place the cat in a carrier and put the carrier in the bathroom while you run a hot shower or boil a pot of water. The steam can help relieve congestion and make it easier for the cat to breathe.

Saline solution: Use a saline solution (available at most drug stores) to flush out the cat's nasal passages. Use a dropper or syringe to apply a few drops to each nostril. This can help relieve congestion and remove mucus.

Wet food: Offer the cat wet food to help keep them hydrated and make it easier to eat when they have a reduced appetite.

Warm compress: Use a warm, damp cloth to gently clean the cat's eyes and nose. This can help remove discharge and make them more comfortable.

Vitamin C: Some studies suggest that vitamin C may help boost the immune system and reduce the severity of URI symptoms. You can give your cat a small amount of vitamin C in their food or water, but it is important to consult with a veterinarian first to determine the appropriate dosage.


How Long Does an Upper Respiratory Infection Last?

The duration of an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) in cats can vary depending on several factors, including the cause of the infection, the severity of the symptoms, and the cat's overall health. In general, most cases of URI in cats will resolve within 1-2 weeks with proper treatment.

However, some cats may experience more prolonged symptoms or a more severe infection that can last for several weeks or even months. Factors that can prolong the duration of a URI in cats include a weakened immune system, exposure to multiple infectious agents, and inadequate or delayed treatment.

It's important to note that some cats may become carriers of the infectious agents that cause URI, even after the symptoms have resolved. This means the cat may continue to shed the virus or bacteria and potentially infect other cats, even if they no longer show signs of illness.

Is Upper Respiratory Infection Contagious?

Yes, Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) in cats is highly contagious and can easily spread from cat to cat. The infection is primarily transmitted through direct contact with an infected cat's respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal discharge, or eye discharge.

Cats who are infected with URI can shed the virus or bacteria that causes the infection for several weeks, even after their symptoms have resolved. This means that even apparently healthy cats can still be carriers of the infectious agent and spread the infection to other cats.

Can Upper Respiratory Infection Cause Loss of Taste and Smell?

While cats can experience symptoms similar to human colds, such as sneezing, coughing, and congestion, they do not have the same sensory abilities as humans, and therefore, it's unlikely that Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) in cats would cause loss of taste or smell in the way that it can in humans.

Cats have a different sense of smell than humans, and their taste preferences are different as well. In addition, URI in cats primarily affects the respiratory tract, causing symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge, and coughing, rather than affecting the olfactory or gustatory systems.

That being said, URI can cause a loss of appetite in cats due to congestion and other symptoms, which can lead to weight loss and dehydration if left untreated. It's important to monitor your cat's eating habits and seek veterinary care if they show signs of a reduced appetite or other concerning symptoms.

How Long to Quarantine Cat with URI?

In general, it's recommended to quarantine a cat with URI for at least 2-3 weeks after the onset of symptoms or until the symptoms have completely resolved. During this time, the cat should be kept in a separate room away from other cats and their living areas and should not have contact with other cats or people.

Will Massage My Cats Nose Help Congestion?

While massage may help to stimulate blood flow and relieve muscle tension in the nose and sinuses, it is unlikely to provide significant relief for congestion caused by Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) in cats.

Congestion in cats with URI is caused by inflammation and swelling of the nasal passages and sinuses, and massage alone is unlikely to address the underlying cause of the congestion. Treatment for URI in cats typically involves medications such as antibiotics, antivirals, and/or anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as supportive care such as keeping the cat hydrated and ensuring they are eating enough.


Leave A Comment
All comments are moderated before being published.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Join The Puainta

Become one of pet parents and get professional tips, immediate product info, updated promotions and discounts, and more surprises from us!