Thursday 20 March 2008

Cat colds and bacterial infections

cat at the vets
This is a lovely picture of a cat at a vets. The cat has not got a cold as far as I am aware. The photograph is copyright by Chuckumentary (reproduced under CC - nice pic, well done) and the vet is the best he has known. The vet's name is Dr. Grindle and he works at the Lyndale Animal Hospital. Not sure where that is but I think it is in Minneapolis.

There is a difference between cat colds and bacterial infections that sometimes gets missed particularly these days when we think that drugs can help almost anything and we like quick fixes.

There is still no known cure for a human cold and the same is true of a cat's cold. Colds are caused by a virus. A virus is a very small "agent" that can only live in a host cell. It is debatable whether a virus is a life form. It has genes but does not have cells. It is on the edges of life.

When your cat gets a viral infection (an Upper respiratory infection or URI - an invasion by a virus) the cat's immune system responds to neutralize the invading agent. The response is the production on antibodies, which bind to the virus and make it non-infectious. Also T cells attack the virus. One symptom of this activity is a runny nose. The discharge is usually clear. The cat will have to deal with and cure herself of this infection. It's a watch a see situation while making her as comfortable as possible.

If the infection has been around for a long time the cat may suffer a bacterial infection; a secondary infection in which bacteria have found the environment of the symptoms of a cold attractive, infected the cat and multiplied. A bacteria is a very small organism (single cell) that can live in a host or outside a host.

This infection adds to the first infection. An indicator is a colored nasal discharge (yellow/green - I know as I have suffered from these myself).

Bacteria can be killed by antibiotics. Antibiotics are drugs that either interfere with the cell walls of the bacteria or the cell itself, killing it, or the drug stops them multiplying.

Clearly if your cat has been ill with a viral infection for longer than usual, it may have developed into secondary infection requiring antibiotics. A visit to the vet will sort that out.

Antibiotics shouldn't be used carelessly on cats or ourselves as they can become less effective as the bacteria develops a resistance to the drug.

Cat colds and bacterial infections to Home page


  1. A few weeks ago my cats exhibited watery eyes and bouts of sneezing, and refused to eat. Before I had them checked by their veterinarian, I offered them warmed up canned food and added warm broth. They were running around the living room after a few days.

  2. my kitten, 5 months old, has been sneezing a few times a day, a big compulsive sneeze, leaving a long green snot hanging out of her nose, and this has shown no change for the last month, despite vet giving her ten days of antibiotics twice over (20 doses in total) vet will not give her her vaccine till it clears up but seems to be no change. Otherwise she is very well, great appetite, loads of energy, inquisitive and affectionate. Could she just be allergic or something? I am at a loss.


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