What Is Feline Upper Respiratory Infection?
Feline upper respiratory infection is a common illness in cats. It’s similar to a cold, but it can be much more serious. It’s caused by different viruses or bacteria, and it targets the upper airway — the nose, throat, and sinuses — rather than the lungs.
Feline Upper Respiratory Infection Symptoms
Symptoms differ depending on the cause and location of the infection, but some common clinical signs of upper respiratory problems in cats include:
Clear to colored nasal and eye discharge
Loss of or decreased appetite
Nasal and oral ulcers
Squinting or rubbing eyes
Feline Upper Respiratory Infection Causes
By far, viruses are the most common causes of upper respiratory infections in cats. About 80%- 90% of infections are viral, while most of the rest are caused by bacteria. The most common culprits often show up in shelters and multi-cat households:
Feline herpesvirus. This is related to the virus that causes chickenpox and cold sores in people, but cats can’t give it to their owners.
Feline calicivirus. This highly contagious virus causes a mild to severe respiratory infection and oral disease.
Chlamydia. Runny eyes are a typical sign of this bacterial infection.
Bordetella. This bacterial infection is usually associated with stress and overcrowded living conditions. It’s more common in dogs.
Fungus. Cats can pick up fungal infections by being exposed to bird droppings and decaying plants.
Viruses are found in the saliva, tears, and nasal secretions of infected cats. They’re easily spread through direct contact, like touching and grooming, or when cats cough and sneeze on each other. Viruses can also live on surfaces cats share, like food and water bowls or litter boxes. People can spread them from one cat to another with contaminated hands or clothing.
Most cats that get feline herpesvirus will carry it for the rest of their lives. They may be able to spread it even if they don’t seem sick. That can include a mother cat with a new litter of kittens.