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Dr.Fiona, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  Small animal medicine and surgery - 16 years experience in BC, California and Ontario
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My cat appears to have a very bad cold. Sneezing, watery eyes,

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My cat appears to have a very bad cold. Sneezing, watery eyes, stuffed up nose, coughing, and yesterday her beautiful long hair started looking stringy and messy. Could this be more than a cold? Is there something I can give her to make her feel better? She sounds like a human with the flu. (She's really stuffed up.) Or do we need to see a vet for some kind of cat virus?
Hi thereCustomer

Welcome to Just Answer! I would like to help you and your cat with this question, but need a bit more information in order to better assist you.

How old is your cat?

When did this start?

Has there been any change in her routine in the last few weeks/months (visitors, renovations, moving, changing furniture around, other cats on her property)?

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I think she is approximately 5 yrs. old. She's my mom's cat & mom doesn't remember much.

There has been no change in any routine that I can think of lately. Wait. I'm sorting through mom's things so everything is a bit disheveled but nothing really different.
Ok... thanks for that information!

Does she have any discharge from her nose, and if yes, what colour is it?

Is she eating and drinking normally?

If not, what percentage of normal is she eating/drinking?


Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Yes, her nose is running. Mom says it's greenish/yellowish then clear. All I see is clear.
No, she is not eating nor drinking normally. I'd say 25% normal. And she's being very clingy. Needing to be held and cuddled, wanting comforting. If there's anything else I will stay right here. If we have to go to the vet we need to go before 5:00. Thanks

I have been working on your answer - be right back!
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Ok, I'm right here.

Her left eye has more discharge and is at half mast.
Hi again,

One of the most common things to cause sneezing like you are describing in this cat is an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection. URTI's are caused by a virus (usually Rhinotracheitis which is a Herpes virus, or by Calici virus).

Since antibiotics do
not kill viruses, only bacteria, they will not help your cat get over this viral infection. Antibiotics are only helpful if she gets a secondary bacterial infection on top of this viral infection.

Rhinotracheitis typically has a very watery sneeze - in fact if the kitty sneezes on a tabletop, you can often see 1-2 feet of wet spray on the table! Because it is a Herpes virus, if a cat has it, SHE HAS IT FOR LIFE. The cat will mount an immune response to the infection, but this will just let the symptoms resolve, while the infection lies in wait. It is NOT contagious to humans. But, similar to human herpes virus infections, it can reappear later in life at times of STRESS. This is similar to human herpes virus infections that cause cold sores (which are not contagious to cats!).

Rhinotracheitis is highly contagious, and you could even bring it home on your shoes or pants. If you cat *is* fully vaccinated, but she still broke with sneezing, it suggests that she had this as a kitten and it is now latent in her body. Some stress in her world (seeing another cat, having blinds appear at the windows) may have been enough to drop her immune system to a point where she started sneezing and showing symptoms again.

So, what can you do to help her?

Lots of things!

1. Encourage her to eat.

Good nutrition will give her body the energy it needs to fight this infection. As with us when we have a cold, when the nose gets stuffed up food loses its flavour. So, you can offer her a variety of canned food (particuarly the fish flavours as they are particularly strong smelling) which has much more smell than dry. Also, you can warm the food up a little in the microwave as warm food smells more than cold.

You could try getting some human baby food in meat flavours (check that there are no onions or garlic in the ingredients) and mix that with warm water and offer that, or syringe it in little bits into your cat's mouth. Beech Nut makes a line of baby food that has nothing but meat (beef, chicken, turkey or veal) in it.

Here's a link: BEECH NUT

If you cannot find this, you could find another meat baby food - just read the label carefully to be sure there are no onions, onion powder, garlic, or garlic powder in it.

Offer her some canned cat food, and mix it with water to make a slurry if she won't eat it.

Boil a chicken breast and then put it in the blender with water to make a baby-food consistency gruel to offer.

You could pick up nutristat It is a calorie-dense paste that you can syringe into them to get maximum caloric impact from a given volume of food.

Here is another link to ways to encourage cats to eat:
It has some good suggestions.

I'm afraid you may have to force feed her with a syringe to get her started if she is really reluctatn to eat. The human baby food (or making your own puree with cooked chicken breast in a blender with lots of water) goes through a syringe quite well.

2. Encourage her to drink.

What you can do is try to get some calories into her in a liquid form - that way she is getting nutrition at the same time as fluids.

I suggest opening a can of tuna *in water* and offering the liquid.

Also, you can pick up Clam Juice in most grocery stores (sold in with the V8 or the canned tuna) and mix that with some water.

You could try Lactose Free milk (Lactaid is the Canadian brand). Whiskas makes a tetra pack of "Kitty Milk" that is lactose free milk with flavouring added.

You could get some (onion-free) chicken or beef broth and dilute it 50:50 with water, and offer that.

3. Clean her nose.

You can put a bit of warm water on a washcloth, wring it out, then hold it on her nose (if she'll let you) to soften any dried mucus so it comes off.

4. Steam her.

Take your kitty into the bathroom while you run a hot shower for 15 minutes. The hot, steamy air will help to loosen any nasal secretions so he can sneeze the mucus out and clear the airways. Doing this twice a day would be great! You could offer her some canned food while the shower is on so she didn't get too frightened. Alternatively, you could use a humidifier in a room she is in most.

5. Put drops in her nose.

Just go to the pharmacy and ask for ophthalmic saline, or have a look in the contact lens section. What you want it just sterile saline drops to relieve dry eyes - NO medication in it. The pharmacist should be able to point it out to you. Put one drop in each nostril twice daily. The idea is that you are helping to moisten the area so your cat can sneeze out any congestion in there. Continue for a week.

6. Lysine capsules.

Herpes viruses need an amino acid called arginine to replicate and survive. If you give lysine, it substitutes in for arginine but does NOT allow the virus to replicate! Thus, it can stop the virus and really help the cat's immune system to win. You can pick up Lysine at most health food stores. I usually suggest that cats be given 250mg twice daily for 3 weeks. The capsules with powder in them are easiest to give, as you can simply open it, and mix the powder in with some canned food.
You can read more about it here:

Depending on which virus your cat has (Herpes or calici) this infection could take 1 - 4 weeks to clear up. If you can do nothing else, giving her the canned food and LYSINE is going to make the biggest difference in how well she does with this. Her body just needs that extra energy and fluids in the canned food to fight this. Also, the first ingredient in canned food is water, so it is a way of making sure she is getting a bit more fluid. And the Lysine really helps to boost your cat's ability to fight this.

I'll give you some links to further information:

Given that your girl is eating so little, and because her eye is affected, please take her to see your veterinarian promptly! She may need some fluids to keep her hydrated as well as some antibiotics in case this is becoming a bacterial infection (as suggested by the green nasal discharge).

Good luck with her! She is lucky to have someone looking out for her!

If you feel that this has been helpful, please hit the green "Accept" button and leave feedback.

If you need more information, just click on reply and I will still be here to provide it.

The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.


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