Why does my cat get the sniffles?

Do you ever wonder why your cat occasionally goes through periods of sneezing, sniffling, runny nose or runny eyes? Chances are, your cat has an upper respiratory viral infection.

 

Most cats are infected as kittens with feline herpes and/or calici viruses. Once a cat contracts one of these viruses, their body can never get rid of it. Generally, the immune system keeps the virus suppressed and cats don’t show symptoms. Events such as stress or exposure to other cats that are infected can cause the virus to activate and then cats show symptoms.

 

What can be done to prevent these outbreaks?

There is no way to completely prevent or eliminate the outbreaks but there are a few things that can help lessen them.

  1. Try to eliminate stress from your cat’s life. If there are other cats in the house, make sure they each have their own space they can go to. Sharing litterboxes can also be a source of stress. A good rule of thumb is to have as many litterboxes as cats in the house- plus one. They should be in different locations throughout the house.
  2. Prevent your cat from exposure to other cats outside of your household.
  3. You can give a daily L-lysine supplement. This may help over the long term to lessen severity and number of outbreaks. Consult your veterinarian for an appropriate dose for your cat.
  4. When introducing a new cat to a household with other cats, they should all be current on their FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calici, panleukopenia) vaccines. This vaccine should be boostered 1 year after the kitten series and then every 3 years.

What to do when your cat does have an outbreak?

  1. Usually these episodes will pass on their own after 3-6 days.
  2. Watch for thick yellow or green nasal discharge from the nose or eyes. This could indicate a secondary bacterial infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics. Contact your veterinarian if you notice these symptoms.