Upper respiratory infections are common in cats. Most (90%) are caused by two viruses – Feline Herpesvirus (FHV) and Feline Calicivirus (FCV). But other causes such as bacteria, mycobacteria or other viruses are possible too. Infection occurs through contact with other cats that may either be infected or persistently carry the disease. Alternatively, cats can be infected when coming into contact with an object (eg water bowl, shoe) that has recently been in contact with an infected cat. Kittens, stressed or immunosuppressed cats are more likely to develop infections. Once a cat is exposed to FCV or FHV they often become a “carrier” and are capable of spreading it to other cats. This “carrier” state can last from weeks to years..


  • Acute (the most common)
  • Chronic and intermittent – comes and goes.
  • Chronic and persistent – stays all the time.

Clinical Signs

  • sneezing
  • nasal discharge (clear or mucky)
  • red sore eyes with discharge
  • drooling

Upper respiratory tract infections are usually diagnosed on clinical signs and examination. Specific tests are available to diagnose the specific virus or bacteria but are expensive and not always diagnostic. Usually theses tests do not alter the treatment either

Most upper respiratory tract infections are self-limiting and do not require specific treatment other than supportive care. They usually take between 7 to 10 days to resolve.

Important supportive care includes:


  • fresh water always available
  • sometimes in very sick or immature kittens IV fluids may be required


  • adequate good quality food
  • cats rely heavily on smelling their food. Nasal discharge and congestion may impair this so feeding WARMED and SMELLY foods can help.

Removing discharges

  • Clean face, eyes and nose of discharge many times daily. Use a cotton ball soaked in warm water.
  • A steamy bathroom or vaporiser for 15-20 minutes 2-3 times daily can help too.

may be required if clinical signs are severe. Antibiotics are used if we are suspicious of bacterial cause or secondary bacterial infection. Oral Anti-viral drugs are only used if infections are severe.

Other Medications
Decongestant – pediatric topical decongestant
Lysine – a supplement to help combat feline herpes virus
Eye ointments – topical antibiotics or topical anti-viral agents

You should notify us if;

  • Your pet is does not to eat or seems depressed.
  • Your pet vomits or has diarrhoea.
  • Your pet’s condition worsens.