Cat colds, or Rhinotracheitis Virus Infection (Rhinitis), might be more familiar to you as feline herpesvirus 1 or FHV-1 (the virus that often causes rhinitis in cats). It’s an upper respiratory infection (meaning the nose and throat rather than lungs) that often leads to secondary infections, usually in the eyes.
What’s interesting is that it maps pretty well onto human illness, so if you’re on top of your own health you can recognize and help out your feline friends.
Just like humans, an otherwise healthy cat can be an asymptomatic carrier of FHV-1. That means being around other cats, even ones in your own home, is the main risk factor, but that risk factor is mitigated by the same principals. A healthy diet, good/quiet places to rest both inside and outside, ways to destress/exercise, and good sanitation (change cat litter as often as you’re able, sweep/clean the area it’s in, and keep things generally tidy).
Cat cold symptoms are pretty similar to human symptoms with sneezing, nasal discharge (AKA runny nose), fever, malaise, and loss of appetite with the addition of a high risk of eye infection (more discharge, redness, twitching, or keeping it closed). A vet can help you determine what’s wrong by going over history, symptoms, and even taking samples.
With care, cats usually get better in a week or so. (Again, care looks a lot like what you would want: provide them some comfort and undisturbed rest, a healthy meal, and follow any additional directions your vet gives).
And here’s a really big “just like humans”: the same things that weaken our immune systems and make us more prone to illness apply to cats. Being very old or young, stress, poor diet, or another condition (pregnancy, or a chronic illness or new/unhealed injury) increases their risk of getting ill. You can support their immune system just like you do your own with a small amount of colloidal silver in their water bowl (and for outdoor cats, it can even help keep it a bit more fresh).
Tell me about your cats in the comments: