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I have 2 cats that have what appears to be head colds. They…

I have 2 cats...

I have 2 cats that have what appears to be head colds. They are twins that we rescued at 3 weeks old. They are now one yr olds. I have 3 other cats that have no symptoms. All my cats are indoors only. Both are sneezing and sound like they have stuffy noses. One just threw up. They seemed better today. Now they seem a bit worse. I should have taken them to the vet today but I thought they were better. I’m worried.

Veterinarian's Assistant: I'll do all I can to help. Hopefully it didn't make a mess. Did your cat eat anything unusual?

I don’t think so.

Veterinarian's Assistant: OK. The Expert will know what to do. Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about your cat?

I’m shocked that they even have cold like symptoms. They stay in always. They were strays that I found in a storm drain and bottle fed.

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Answered in 1 hour by:
3/24/2018
Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 22,616
Experience: Small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats, happy to discuss any questions you have.
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Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you today.

How long have they had these signs?

Any nasal discharge? What color? From one or both nostrils?

Any coughing?

What did the vomit look like?

Are their gums pink or pale/white?

Are either of them breathing heavier?

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
My cats have been congested for about 3 days. When nose has been runny is has been clear. Noses and eyes are clear. They both have had a bit of coughing but mostly nose clearing by shaking their heads when sneezing. Their breathing appears to be normal at about 26 breaths per minute. Only one cat has vomited (3 am this morning when I freaked out about them being ill) and it was watered down vomit with traces of wet food (they eat dry food almost always). The gums of both my cats are rather pale looking. The female has pale gums with redder gums at the tooth line. They are both eating, drinking water and using the litter box normally. My male cat, Oliver, hasn't missed a beat in eating. He is a really big fluffy cat. Izzy is much smaller and short haired.

Good morning,

Now given the situation with these two kitties, I suspect they are herpes virus carriers. It is so common in strays and once they are infected (often from mum), they will have a life long infection that can flare up at any point. And that is likely why they have this despite being indoor cats and why the others aren't showing signs like the twins.

Now their breathing rates are normal but since you noted their gums look a bit pale, I'd advise a quick comparison to another of the cats just to make sure its a similar shade. I'd not expect paling for them unless they were struggling to get oxygen (which doesn't seem the case). Anyway, as this is viral (the clear discharge further supports that, though if it were to turn snotty we'd have to consider secondary bacterial infection --a sign we need antibiotics), we'd want to start supportive care for these two. First, we can start with steam treatment. To do so, you can take them in the bathroom while you run a hot shower. The steam will help loosen and clear discharge from the airway. You can also use a baby nebulizer, but often they don’t like things held up to their faces. So, if you find that to be an issue, you can make a little ‘steam tent’ with each cat one at a time or both in a carrier, the nebulizer next to that, and a bed sheet over both.

Furthermore, if they are building up mucus that the steam isn't shifting, use a cotton ball moistened with warm water to wipe away crust and mucus. As well, non-medicated saline nasal drops (ie Ocean Mist or Little Noses) can be used. To do so, just tilt the head back and drop 2-3 drops in one nostril. Not a favorite, but it helps. After the drops go down, you can let the head up and wipe away any discharge that gets loosened. Then repeat with the other nostril.

It is good that Oliver is eating but if they've sore throats with this (likely why we've had the vomit), we may need to use soft food. As well, if you see any appetite decline (common with congestion), you can try offering smelly wet foods (since they are high in water). It may help to warm it up a bit in the microwave to help them be able to smell it.

Furthermore, since feline herpes virus is a top suspect, we can also start OTC L-lysine. This is a nutritional supplement that can help them recover quicker. This is available over the counter at vets, pet stores, and even online. They come as gels, powders, and as crushable tablets that can be mixed into food. An average cat dose is 500mg a day. And that may be worth having on hand for these 2 if they have flare ups or you know something stressful (ie you going on holiday, them going to the vet, etc) is coming that could trigger one.

Overall, this does sound highly suspicious of an upper respiratory based infection from herpesvirus. Therefore, we'd want to use the above for these two to help reduce signs as their body fights this off. Of course, if these signs linger or are severe, then we'd want the local vet involved. They can confirm our concerns and dispense cat safe decongestants (since human ones are toxic for kitties) +/- antibiotics to help us nip this in the bud.

Kind regards,

Dr. B.

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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 22,616
Experience: Small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats, happy to discuss any questions you have.
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