The Cure for Kitten Colds
“Why is my Kitten Hacking Like She has a Hairball?”
Mrs. Lynch bustled into the examination room with purpose and efficiency. The 4 pound ball of Ragdoll fluff peered out of a brand-new, fully labelled cat carrier. A soft cotton baby blanket, 2 brightly colored, handmade cat toys, and exactly 5 morsels of untouched cat treats rested under and around Matilda’s fat, fuzzy Ragdoll paws. Doc Truli could tell Mrs. Lynch was conscientious, precise, and thorough in providing everything her kitten could ever want. A sick kitten felt like a condemnation of her kitten mothering skills.
“Doc, Matilda was fine ever since we brought her home from the shelter last week. Until last night, she started this hacking. Then she would retch and some spit came up. I asked my friends and they said it sounded like a hairball. But that doesn’t sound right to me. She’s only 12 weeks old,” said Mrs Lynch, Matilda’s new human.
“You were right,” said Doc Truli.”Matilda has tracheobronchitis, otherwise known as bordetella, or kennel cough. It’s basically like a cold for cats.”
Doc Truli lightly ran her fingers down Matilda’s furry cream-colored neck. Then back up under her chin. Whenever Doc’s fingers brushed over Matilda’s voice box, the kitten swallowed hard, almost like she might throw up.
“Matilda’s got a sore throat,” said Doc.
“How could she get that?” said Mrs Lynch. “Was there something I should have done to prevent it?”
“You rescued her from the county shelter. Cats and kittens in a populous environment like a shelter will share there bacteria and viruses through the air and sometimes the bowls and litter pans. Most cats and kittens coming from a rescue shelter will break with cold symptoms within 7-14 days of coming home,” said Doc Truli. “They will also spread these colds to cats at home.”
Symptoms of Upper Respiratory and Tracheobronchitis in a Feline
Always consult a veterinarian to diagnose your kitten or cat. You would be surprised some of the misdiagnosis! Here’s a list of symptoms of upper respiratory disease in kittens. Your veterinarian helps you put the symptoms together properly to make a diagnosis.
Symptoms of a kitty cold:
- Lethargy (tiredness, disinterest)
- Runny eyes, with or without yellow or green discharge
- swollen, red eyelids
- clogged nostrils
- runny nose
- not eating
- hacking or gagging
- gurgley or raspy breathing
- weight loss
Curing a Cat’s Cold
The main reason a kitten or cat gets a cold at the shelter is because of stress. Mixing so many cats in a space, being homeless, changes in food and schedule, changes in cat litter, or restriction for cats used to roaming all all stressors that can lower a cat’s immunity and contribute to expression of disease symptoms.
Most shelters in the United States will test for feline leukemia virus in all intakes and feline immunosuppressive T-virus (feline aids) in cats 6 months old and older. These viruses will make a cat much more susceptible to sever illness.
So the ultimate cure for the cold will be TLC, good food, good air, clean dishes, and low stress in your home environment.
Common medical treatments for a kitty cold include:
- prescription antibiotics
- L-Lysine amino acid supplements for herpes viral infections
- hydration therapy (sq fluids, IV fluids)
- nebulization therapy with sodium chloride and prescription medicines
- painkillers to help if there is throat pain
- yummy, boosted foods to tempt a cat into eating
- nursing care, unclogging nostrils, cleaning eyes
Signs of Big Trouble with a Kitty Cold
- Not eating
- Not drinking
- More diseases, like diarrhea at the same time
Please, consult your local veterinarian to help prevent your cat or kitten from getting sicker. Follow their advice for nursing care. Hospitalize your kitten if you cannot perform the nursing duties at home. Respiratory disease in cats often required as much nursing care as medicines!
When your kitty feels better, you can expect a normal, happy cat. (Certain viruses, like herpes, stay dormant in the nerve ganglia and can cause recurrent symptoms during times of stress like surgeries. Ask your veterinarian about your future responsibilities.)
VirtuaVet has more helpful stories related to nursing a sick cat or kitten: