Hilo’s respiratory distress

Hilo’s respiratory distress

Our question this week was:

My partner and I have recently adopted our first child…our cat “Hilo”. He has quickly taken control of the house and definitely loves his new found reign. He has a bad sniffle, clogged nose with constant sneezing. It seems to be affecting his breathing but not appetite. He’s a good eater. We first noticed it when we were picking him up from the shelter. The worker there said that it was normal, with him being with so many other cats.

My question is….Can we help him get rid of this obvious drag on his happiness?

Thanks for your advice.

Mike Walton


Hi – thanks for your email. Your question is about your new shelter kitty that has the sniffles, sneezing and congestion. It sounds like a common problem referred to as “Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Disease”. It is a common problem in cats and especially a common problem in shelters or in situations where there are a lot of cats.

Feline upper respiratory tract disease refers to a viral infection that affects cats. There are a couple viruses that cause the problem – and they are very common and contagious. The viruses’ will primary affect the nose, sinus and throat areas of cats. The common symptoms are sneezing, nasal discharge, runny or watery eyes, and in some cases lack of appetite, drooling and breathing problems. Many cats won’t eat if they can’t smell their food. With all the congestion associated with this virus, it is common. I’m happy to hear your cat is eating. That is a good sign.

This condition is much like the common cold. It just needs to run its course. There is nothing you can really do to change the course of the infection. The disease typically resolves on its own in about 2 weeks.

Some things that you can do to make your cat more comfortable include:

  • Keep him indoors where he is warm and safe.
  • Keep his nose clean. You can use a moist cloth or napkin to gently clean nasal discharge.
  • Make sure he continues to eat. If he doesn’t, clean his nose and offer smelly canned food. Heating up canned food can help release aromas that may also entice him to eat.
  • You can put him in the bathroom when you take a hot bath or shower – the steam and humidity and help break up some of the secretions. Alternatively, you can run a humidifier in your home.
  • Monitor for complications of the disease. Complications of the disease include eye ulcers, sores in the mouth or pneumonia. If you notice squinting and eye discharge, trouble breathing, drooling, or your kitty loses his appetite – then the safest thing to do would be to have him evaluated by your vet.An article that might be helpful to you is on our Petplace.com is “Feline upper respiratory infection in cats“.

    Best of luck!

    Dr. Debra

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