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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Hi we have a cat, we got her about 6 months ago. She has been starting to sneeze a lot, and has a lot of mucus. She will drink and eat, but not as much as she used to. I am really concerned, but really can’t afford a vet. any Ideas?


Siouxsie: Joni, we’ve seen a lot of cats with similar symptoms, and it sounds like your cat may have a cold. Yes, cats do get colds. But because colds can quickly become very serious problems in cats, you really need to call a vet.

Thomas: The vet may recommend home care and monitoring of your cat, or, depending on how serious they think the condition is from the symptoms you report, they may tell you to bring your cat in right away.

Dahlia: We know that many people have trouble affording the vet care their cats need. So we’ve compiled a list of websites that provide links to resources for financial assistance. These may be helpful for you, Joni.

Siouxsie: Now, on to the issue of the cold. The reason why colds can be so very serious in cats is that our sense of smell is very important to maintaining our appetite. If your cat’s nose is clogged with mucus, she’s not going to be able to smell her food, and therefore she’s not going to be attracted to it.

Thomas: Another reason, of course, is that when you feel sick, you just don’t want to eat or drink. And depending on what virus your cat caught, she may develop sores in her mouth that would make eating uncomfortable.

Dahlia: But you have to keep your cat eating and drinking, Joni. Dehydration and hunger will seriously weaken her and make it even harder for her to fight off the bug.

Siouxsie: Find strong-smelling foods like tuna-flavored canned food or meat-flavored baby food (make sure it doesn’t have onion powder in it) and dilute the food with water. You can also make the food smell stronger by heating it in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds.

Thomas: You can also give your cat extra fluids by using a syringe (without the needle, of course!) or an eyedropper and putting them in her mouth.

Dahlia: The authors of the Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook recommend that you keep your cat in a warm room and use a humidifier to keep the air moist. This will help to keep the mucus secretions more liquid and make it easier for her to sneeze them out.

Siouxsie: If you don’t have a humidifier, even keeping your cat in the bathroom while you shower can help.

Thomas: You can clean secretions from your cat’s eyes, nose, and mouth with moist cotton balls as often as needed.

Dahlia: If your cat refuses to eat altogether, or if she becomes dehydrated, loses weight, and is still sick despite your home care, you need to take her to the vet. If she starts having trouble breathing — that is, she’s breathing through her mouth and/or wheezing, you need to take her to the vet. No ifs, ands, buts, or I can’t afford its are going to change that.

Siouxsie: If your cat gets this sick, she may need subcutaneous fluids to rehydrate her and get her the nutrition she needs, and antibiotics to help combat the bacterial infections that can arise from ongoing viral infections.

Thomas: Even after your cat recovers, Joni, she’ll still be a carrier for this upper respiratory virus. She may get sick again during times of physical stress such as illness or surgery, or emotional stress like traveling or the arrival of a new cat or dog in your home.

Dahlia: That doesn’t mean you should never travel or get another cat. What it does mean is that you need to understand that stress can bring about a recurrence of her cold and do your best to keep her as calm as possible during stressful times.

Siouxsie: One more thing, Joni: If your cat hasn’t been tested for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia (FeLV), you should have your vet do this blood test as soon as you can afford to do so.