Cats and Colds

Kittens and cats, whether barn cats or house cats, are susceptible to respiratory problems. Bacteria and viruses are out there. But why is it that some cats never seem to get sick, when others have recurring bouts of cold and flu symptoms, and is this something to worry about?

Although some of these conditions can become serious, most are not. If your furry feline gets the sniffles and gets over it without much fuss, it is a sign that the immune system is functioning. Why he succumbs in the first place is a matter of not having immunity to that particular virus or bacteria in place, in which case he needs to build one, which can take a week or more. The next time that same virus or bacteria comes along, however, he should be fully prepared to fight it off right away. Why the other cats did not succumb is because they did have a strong defense already in place when they encountered the antigens (the invading virus or bacteria). If there is a recurrence of a seemingly same problem attacking Kitty, it may be a completely different antigen attacking, or it may be a sign of a weak immune system that is not maintaining its forces. Either way, the symptoms exhibited by the sick kitty would be the clues to treating him homeopathically, so make note of them.

If Kitty continues to eat and drink normally, seems happy and is playful, he will probably recover by himself. The immune system builds its defenses by such challenges. If he loses his appetite, seems lackluster, or has trouble breathing and functioning, see your holistic veterinarian. The vet can diagnose the problem and determine if it is viral or bacterial, and may suggest antibiotics if it is bacterial and if the cat is really in need of them.

The cat flu is usually caused by a viral infection - feline calicivirus and viral rhinotracheitis (feline herpes virus), or a bacterial infection - Chlamydia psittaci and Bordetella bronchiseptica. There may be sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, and possibly other respiratory problems and conjunctivitis (irritated eyes). Viruses, unlike bacteria, do not respond to antibiotics, and supportive treatment is the usual routine, although subcutaneous fluids and antiviral medications may be resorted to in severe cases. The patient will need good nutrition and plenty of fresh clean water, and a comfortable, draft-free place to rest. Do NOT give cats aspirin, Tylenol or similar human medications. They can be deadly. Avoid using aerosol or cleaning sprays and flea products. Provide fresh air as much as possible. Wipe away discharges with a warm, moist cloth and give lots of TLC.

Can cats catch colds from people and vice versa? Actually, no, because the feline flu and the flu or cold that affects people are different. The cat flu comes from either viruses or bacteria that are specific to cats. Like our cold symptoms, cat symptoms include sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, eye discharge, excess salivation, and elevated temperature. Fever is a healthy response that makes a hostile environment for the invaders. The sneezes, coughs, and discharges are the body's attempts to expel or flush out the invaders and eliminate the wastes of battle. Salivation may be due to mouth ulcers caused by the invaders.

Homeopathy can be quite helpful for feline respiratory problems. Homeopathic treatment is individualized and is chosen according to the symptoms presented, whether viral or bacterial. One cat may be fighting off the same invaders as another, yet their symptoms could be quite different, indicating a different remedy for each cat. To differentiate, observe colors, consistencies, quantities, odors, and frequency of discharges, stool and urine. Note the cat's tendencies and preferences for sleeping places, drinking water, foods and company. Be aware of things that aggravate the condition or alleviate it, and times of day or night when he is better or worse. Note the color of the mucous membranes and observe the temperament of the patient. This 'totality of symptoms' will be the guide to choosing the best remedy. Enlist the help of your homeopathic veterinarian, who is familiar with the symptom pictures of the remedies and may also prescribe nosodes to stimulate the production of antibodies.

A homeopathic Materia Medica will give complete pictures of remedies, but here are a few possible remedies to consider:

Aconitum - suitable for the sudden onset of any condition, especially if brought on by cold dry winds; fever; eyes watering profusely, dilated pupils, photophobia; symptoms worse from cold winds
Allium cepa - thin, watery, burning tears and runny nose with sneezing
Antimonium tartaricum - loose, rattling but unproductive cough, respiration difficult; symptoms worse in the evening, from lying down, in cold damp weather
Argentum nitricum - intensely red or pink conjunctiva, corneal ulceration and opacity, profuse mucopurulent discharge; symptoms worse for warmth and at night, better for fresh air and cold.
Arsenicum album - watery and burning discharges, causing redness or ulceration; frequently changing position, restless; dry mouth with thirst for small amounts often; nose blocked but runs; better for warmth, worse for cold, wetness and at midnight
Bryonia - dry, hoarse hacking cough, increased thirst, patient does NOT want to move or be moved; better for rest
Ipecacuanha - cough with vomiting, attacks can lead to collapse; worse from lying down
Kali bichromicum - characteristic ropy, yellow discharges from eyes or nose, or coughed and sneezed out; eyelids may be stuck shut; symptoms worse in the morning
Mercurius sol - eyelids swollen, burning purulent greenish discharge; pus and mucus expectoration with cough; ulcers in mouth, slimy excessive salivation, possibly bloody; worse during night between sunset and sunrise
Natrum mur - thin, watery burning discharge from eyes and nose, small fluid-filled blisters on tongue or mouth, unquenchable thirst, large mounts of clear urine
Pulsatilla - thick, creamy discharges that come and go, itchy eyes, patient rubs them; changeable moods; symptoms are worse from heat and towards evening, better in open air
Spongia - cough, congestion; cat rests for long periods in sternal recumbency position; cough is often better after eating

Cat colds and upper respiratory diseases are usually seen more often in young kittens and immunocompromised cats. Mild cases can be readily handled at home with homeopathic and supportive care. By enlisting the help of your homeopathic veterinarian, your cat can recover more quickly and with less complications and side effects than may be encountered with antibiotics. Supporting the body with sound nutrition and a healthy environment, and allowing and enabling the immune system to meet these challenges and build new or activate existing defenses, ensure good health in the long run.