Pet Education

Browse our veterinary-reviewed Dog and Cat Illness Guide to learn more about pet health. Always talk to your veterinarian if you have a concern about your pet's symptoms or health.
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Feline Upper Respiratory Infection


Feline upper respiratory infection is a very common viral infection, caused most commonly by calicivirus or herpesvirus. It is compared to the human common cold and usually lasts for about a week. The viruses are spread through moist contact, like sneezes, infected discharges, or sharing dishes.

These viruses are recurring, sometimes over a cat's entire life. Herpes virus usually recurs about a week after a stressful incident (like a new pet in the house, boarding, surgery).

Susceptible cats include:


The following symptoms indicate a mild infection, just like a human cold:

If the infection becomes more serious, you will notice the following symptoms:

In kittens, these viruses can lead to pneumonia or arthritis. Call your vet immediately.


Your vet may be able to diagnose your cat with a simple physical exam.

Additional tests may include:




Your cat may need to be hospitalized to safely survive the symptoms, but there is a very good prognosis. Death in adult cats is unusual; serious illness and death in young kittens are more common.

Medically reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM

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