At this time of year colds are very common; with a young son at school I am convinced he brings colds home and gives them to the rest of us. But what about cats? Have you ever wondered whether cats can catch a cold or flu from humans?
It’s a topic that many pet owners will ponder during winter time. So, today I decided to present to you that facts about cats catching colds from humans.
Can cats catch a cold from humans? It’s very unlikely that a cat could ever catch a cold from humans. Cold viruses rarely jump between feline and human species. Cats can get colds though, but they are typically feline specific and not from humans.
Understanding feline colds versus human colds
The feline cold is infectious and usually affects kittens who have not yet developed full immunity to it. It does cause abdominal discomfort but is soon dealt with by the kitten's developing immune system.
If a kitty is born to a healthy mother, it should have a good kickstart to its immune system. Colostrum, which is secreted from the mother’s mammary glands directly after giving birth, is rich in antibodies.
In effect, the kitty inherits some immunity to the common feline cold from its mother.
Cats can catch colds but not from humans
Cats have symptoms similar to those of humans when they catch a cold. They will sneeze, have a runny nose and a general malaise. They will lose their appetite and may even develop a cough.
Much like humans, the condition is usually confined to the head and will improve after a few days, when your cat should be back to its normal cheerful self.
However, if any of the symptoms persist and seem to be causing your cat discomfort, it is advisable to seek the advice of a vet.
Shelter cough is a contagious disease that will spread rapidly to other cats. It needs to be diagnosed and treated by a vet. It can also be prevented through vaccination. It is not transmissible to humans.
Can cats catch a flu from humans?
Once again the influenza viruses for humans and cats are not transmitted from one to the other. So no, cats can’t catch flu from humans.
There are cases, however, of horses and birds being able to infect cats with an influenza virus.
The disease attacks the respiratory system and symptoms are similar to those suffered by humans and can cause your cat to feel equally miserable.
The virus is spread through infected droplets in the air and through the sharing of water bowls.
Did You Know? Cats can catch ear mites from cats so you need to be careful if you have two pets like this living in the same house.
Carrying feline colds and flus from one cat to another
Although the feline cold and feline influenza are not zoonotic with respect to humans. That is, people cannot contract these viruses and then pass them on to cats.
However, the viruses can remain viable on a human’s skin, clothing or accessories for a period of time.
It is best not to touch or cuddle unvaccinated cats or kittens if you know you are going straight home afterwards to your cats.
If they are anything like my pack, they will be all over you like a rash, trying to get information about the cats you have been with.
A good policy would be to wash your hands and even to change your clothes before greeting your cats.
Signs of a cold in a cat
Whilst a cat can’t get a cold from a human, they can still get colds. Here’s a list of signs to look out if you suspect your cat might have a cold.
Common cold signs in a cat can include:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
These signs of a cold could possibly be a virus, but they could also be signs of something more serious. They can also be symptoms of shelter cough, influenza virus (cat flu), the parainfluenza virus, bronchitis, or even feline distemper – sore throats can also be a sign.
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus cavities in the head. It has several causes, including:
- Tooth problems.
- Allergies to the cat's diet.
- Allergies caused in the environment.
Symptoms of sinusitis are similar to colds and ‘flu but is usually distinguished by the presence of an excessive discharge of mucous.
The pet’s discomfort needs to be addressed as well as the underlying cause of the sinusitis. For example, the cat may be allergic to dairy products in its cat pellets. It would make sense to change the brand of cat food you feed it.
If the symptoms of cold, ‘flu or sinusitis are allowed to persist without relief, they may provide opportunity for secondary infection, caused by:
These will cause the cat added distress and make the overall condition of the cat more difficult to treat. They will also severely impact the cat’s overall immune system and lower resistance to further disease.
Transmissible diseases and infections between cats and humans
Although feline cold and flu viruses are not transmissible to humans, the secondary infections may be, e.g. staphylococcus.
A staph infection can cause food poisoning or severe skin lesions such as blisters or boils. If not treated, it can get into the blood stream and affect internal organs and prove exceedingly dangerous. Fortunately, it responds well to antibiotics.
Other transmissible pathogens are salmonella, brucella and pasteurella each causing their own list of horrific problems.
Rabies is a viral disease that is easily carried from one specie to another. If not diagnosed and treated in time, it is fatal.
In some parts of the world, it has been eradicated through vaccinations and strict controls on the movement of potential carriers across borders. In these countries, only 5% of infections are as a result of contact with an infected cat.
Rabies is transmitted through saliva. A bite or scratch that breaks the surface of the skin is necessary to spread the disease to humans. Cats can contract the disease in the same way or by eating the contaminated flesh of an infected animal, usually a rodent. There is little chance of a cat contracting rabies from a human.
Fungal infections, such as ringworm, can be spread from humans to cats and vice versa. Athlete’s foot can spread to cats and is not confined to their feet only. Other similar fungi that thrive in damp folds of skin, are also contagious across species.
Fortunately, there is a range of effective antifungal remedies to address these health problems. If they remain untreated, they can spread throughout the body and to other animals your cat comes in contact with.
It is not advisable to use veterinary products for treatment of human conditions and vice versa.
Parasites, such as worms, do not discriminate between the species. It is advisable to regularly deworm the entire family – humans, cats, cats, etc. to prevent the damage that can be caused.
These parasites do not necessarily migrate from one species to another directly but can be ingested through contact with contaminated water or soil. It is vitally important to wash your hands after gardening even if you have been wearing gloves.
These kinds of parasites can also be taken into the body by eating raw meat and unwashed raw vegetables. Always cook your cats’ meat.
Many cats have an unfortunate affinity for manure of any kind, whether to roll in it or to devour it. As far as possible, prevent them doing either of these unsavoury activities, for the sake of their health.
Most colds and ‘flus do not take hold in cats or humans who have healthy immune systems. As stated earlier, the immune defences are boosted at birth by colostrum when a kitten first suckles.
During the weaning process the milk of a healthy mother increases the kitten's ability to fight disease.
Once the kitten is weaned, it needs regular exercise to boost its lymphatic system, plenty of rest to restore its cells and a nourishing diet to build bone and muscle strength. Age-appropriate practices should see your cat having a healthy immune system throughout its life.
There are some diseases however that, because of their virility, potential for damage and novelty, require vaccines to help the cat’s body to fight the disease. These are diseases such as parvovirus, feline distemper and shelter cough.
The next time you are feeling under the weather with a cold and feel like you need a cuddle from your cat, don’t worry about getting close to them. It’s almost unheard of that cats can catch colds from humans, so let him give you the comfort you need whilst you recover.