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How to Treat Cat Cold or Flu

| Updated September 26, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • Canned food

  • Tuna fish

  • Water

  • Cotton balls

  • Hand soap

  • Humidifier

Feline cold and flu viruses, or upper respiratory infections (URIs), cause symptoms similar to those in humans suffering from those ailments. Your ailing cat might exhibit lethargy, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, runny eyes, coughing or fever. Cats with a stuffed-up nose will probably also have little appetite. Although all URIs should be checked out by a veterinarian, there are some treatments you can do at home. Read on to learn how to treat cat cold or flu.

Take your cat to the vet. Don't wait for the cold or flu virus to go away on its own. Severe cases can lead to dehydration, anemia, blindness, pneumonia or even death. Although a cold or flu is not treatable, your vet might prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. Follow your veterinarian's instructions regarding any prescribed medications.

Entice your sick cat to eat. Smell plays a major role in kitty appetite levels, so they often won't eat when their noses are stuffy and they can't smell their food. Try giving your cat canned food instead of dry because canned cat food has a stronger odor. You can warm the food in the microwave for a few seconds or add a bit of warm water to release even more enticing odors. If he still doesn't want to eat, try smearing a little canned cat food or tuna fish on his paws. Cats are clean creatures by nature, so he should lick the food off of his paws.

Be sure your cat has access to fresh water at all times. She needs to drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.

Keep your cat's nose soft and clean. Use warm water and cotton balls to clean the crusty buildup from around his nose and keep the tender skin in that area from cracking. If your cat's nose is runny, try using a nasal bulb to remove extra mucus from his nostrils.

Keep your cat's eyes clean. A cold or flu virus can cause your cat's eyes to have a slightly runny discharge. Gently clean the discharge from the eye area with warm water and cotton balls to stop a crust from developing. If pus starts discharging from your cat's eyes, get her to the vet immediately.

Turn on a humidifier. Putting extra moisture into the air will help relieve congestion in your stuffed-up cat.

Isolate your sick cat. If you have more than one kitty, keep the ailing cat away from the others until her symptoms disappear, which is usually 10 to 14 days. Set up a recovery and resting area in the corner of a warm, well-ventilated room. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after petting or medicating your sick cat so you don't inadvertently spread the cold or flu virus to the others.


  • While feline colds are extremely contagious among cats, humans cannot catch them. Be sure your cat has all of her current vaccinations. Keeping your pet up-to-date on her shots can protect her from cold and flu germs. Even indoor cats need their vaccinations because cold and flu viruses are airborne.


  • Cats with weakened immune systems caused by illnesses, advanced age or poor diet are far more likely to catch a cold or flu virus.