Cat Upper Respiratory Infections (URI)

by Melissa R. on June 3, 2010



Ritter, our 8 month old kitten, has always been a sneezer. He sneezes several times a day usually, and occasionally something comes out (gross)! We’ve had him into the vet for vaccines & neutering – and the conclusion was just that he might be sensitive to dust, etc., and not a problem. However, last week he started sneezing A LOT more. We started to get a little concerned, and then overnight he developed some heavy head congestion. The poor little guy was snorting and coughing and just sounded miserable! We carted him off to the vet ASAP of course.

Our veterinarian concluded he probably had an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), and gave him an antibiotic shot. While waiting for the antibiotics to kick in, we started several natural remedies to help loosen up his congestion because it was so severe he had to breathe through his mouth mostly: 

  • “Steam Baths”-bring him into the bathroom with the door closed and the shower on hot. We do this for about 10 minutes, and the steam caused by the hot water really seems to help break up the mucus.
  • Wipe his eyes & nose with a warm cloth occasionally to get any mucus that might be there.
  • Wash out his nose with a saline spray. This really is just trying to squirt a little liquid up his nose (which is a bit difficult). We found one made for babies that worked well.
  • Apply a bit of Sesame oil to his nose. This is supposed to help clear things out as well.
  • Turn on a cool mist humidifier in the bedroom where he sleeps most of the day to continue to help break up the mucus.
Ritter is feeling better!

Ritter is feeling better!

Ritter has been a pretty sad sight for the last couple of  days, but he finally seems to be perking back up!

The biggest concern we had was that he would stop eating & drinking. With his nose stuffed up so much, he couldn’t smell, and that tends to decrease interest in food, especially if the cat doesn’t feel good. I did some searching, and discovered a few tips to entice a sickly cat to eat:

  • Try soft food if they don’t normally eat it.
  • WARM the food up – this will release more strong aromas (BTW – watch this carefully in the microwave. It explodes if it gets too hot!).
  • Try adding a little bit of tuna oil, or similar to their food.
  • Add a little bit of warm water to increase hydration and make it easier to eat.
  • Boil some chicken or fish in the kitchen to make the whole room smell and entice the cat even more.

The tuna worked great for us! The minute he smelled that he started chowing down, and then when he was done with that, he went over to his real food bowl and ate some dry food (after we hadn’t seen him eat for 24 hours). That really did the trick!

We were also advised by our veterinarian to supplement Ritter’s diet with an amino acid called L-Lysine. It will hopefully help boost his immune system. We are also giving it to our other cats, with the hopes that neither of them develop illness. We discovered that cats often get URI’s, especially if stressed, or already a little under the weather. We don’t know what got Ritter started down this path, but we hope to keep him healthy from here forward!

For more information, read this article written by our veterinarians: Feline Upper Respiratory Disease.

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About the author: Melissa is a devoted pet owner with several cats: Kai, Cirrhi & Ritter; and the newest addition, Emme a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Melissa is an avid dog agility enthusiast, and hopes her new pup will someday be an agility champion! She is a Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator for the and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Michigan State University and is a lifelong pet lover and owner. See more articles by Melissa R.

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June 3, 2010 at 9:29 am

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JulieD June 3, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Glad to hear that Ritter is perking up. When they are sick, it’s so stressful.

Gracey June 4, 2010 at 8:58 am

So glad to hear that Ritter is feeling better. Thank you for posting with so much information to help other cats.

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