Curing Kitty Congestion

Has the recent outbreak of flu, sinus infections and general creeping-crud attacked you this season? When I visited family over Christmas, one person was just getting over the flu, and two more came down with it while there, and a fourth got the bug a week later.

I’m washing my hands constantly and staying home with the fur-kids. That’s one more positive about working alone at home–less contact with contagious folks. I’ve been told that the flu vaccination (always a good thing!) isn’t necessarily working well against the current illness, either. *sigh*

A stopped up nose and crusty eyes are not only miserable for humans, it can be a sign of a wide range of health problems in cats. Discharge that’s runny and clear usually goes away in a couple of days by itself. But any time it continues longer than that, or the discharge is cloudy or thick and clogs up the eyes or nose, a virus could be the culprit.

Cats have more problems with congestion than dogs. The bugs that cause kitty congestion usually aren’t lethal in adult cats. But cats won’t eat unless they can smell their food, so they starve if they get a stopped up nose. Home care not only keeps pets more comfortable, it often decides whether they recover or not.

  1. Use a vaporizer to help unclog the nose. Put your cat in a fairly small room with a cool mist humidifier and use it just the same as you would for a child a couple of times a day. That not only helps break up the congestion, it can moisten inflamed or tender eyes and nostrils and make them feel better.
  2. If you don’t have a vaporizer or humidifier, a hot shower can work. Take the pet into the bathroom with you and run the hot shower so that the air becomes filled with steam. A 10-minute session several times a day works great. Don’t go for longer than that, though, because heated air for too long can be hard for some pets to breathe, especially short-faced Persians.
  3. If the nose is crusting over, or the eyes are sealing shut, use warm wet cloths or cotton balls to soak and soften the secretions and clean them off. Don’t peel dried matter off, because that can hurt or even form scabs.
  4. To soothe sore tissue after you’ve cleaned off the mucus, dab on a bit of plain saline solution, or some baby oil. That can also make it easier to clean away any more crusts that might form. I’ve also used Udderbalm (for cows) and a new product I’m trying out on Magic’s chapped nose called Musher’s Secret also works well for dogs.
  5. When thick secretions fill up the lungs it can be hard for pets to breathe even when their nostrils are clear. A technique called coupage helps break up the clogged matter so the pet can clear his lungs. It’s a French word meaning “thumping on the chest” and is often used to help children with Cystic Fibrosis breath more easily. Hold your hand in a cupped position, and gently thump on either side of the cat or dog’s rib cage to break loose the mucus. Use coupage two or three times a day along with humidified air to ease the pet’s congestion.

FOLLOW-UP CARE

Refusing to eat can make cats sicker or even threaten their life. Wiping away the crusts and mucus to keep the nasal passages open helps, but offering pungent and more tempting foods can cut through congestion and spark the sick cat’s appetite. Warm the food for five seconds in the microwave to just below cat body temperature—about 95 to 98 degrees. That not only makes the treat more alluring, it also unlocks the aroma so the food smells more pungent and penetrates even a stopped up kitty nose. Moisture also helps enhance aroma, so try adding a bit of warm water, chicken broth, or tuna juice from the can to the cat’s regular food. Run it through the blender to make a mush, and there’s a good chance that will tempt his appetite.

Have your cats suffered from upper respiratory issues? How did you manage them? When vaccinated early as a baby, some of these bugs can be prevented but once they’re in the cat’s system, stress can cause an outbreak. Cats also are tough customers when it comes to “pilling” and medicating (although compounded medicine can help with that). What are your tips for nursing a sick cat? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Comments

Curing Kitty Congestion — 12 Comments

  1. We have rules.

    1) No one furry leaves the house unless leashed
    2) Or is in a carrier
    3) They have to visit that horrible lady in white who pokes & prods them

    So far, this has worked. Mostly. We were doing great until I invited a starving Orange Tabby into the house. Unfortunately he had unwanted friends, who came with him.

    Getting a flea infestation under control isn’t difficult, but it does mean that the dogs, who love sniffing noses with chance met strangers have to be denied that joy till we are certain they are clear. This isn’t something you want to pass along.

    Wayne

      • Yes, he’s an amazing snuggle-puss. And a great foot warmer.

        He’s the laziest cat we have, now that he’s gotten used to being indoors all the time.

        Wayne

  2. Anubis has been getting sinus swelling just like momma and daddy this year – weather’s been nasty, pressure changes abound, and apparently he’s as sensitive to them as we are. The fuzzball and I have been pretty miserable this season. LOL

  3. The kitten I adopted back in October had a cold when we brought her home. Pretty much every cat in the adoption shelter had been or was sick. We tried half of the things on the list: humidifier, more enticing foods. We even got syringes (without the needle) and filled them with PediaLite to feed the kitten, but she just kept getting worse until her sides had started caving in. Then it was time to take her back to the adoption center’s vet. Of course, it didn’t help that she wasn’t on the right antibiotics. I don’t understand why vets don’t just jump to the good meds when an infection is so persistent. Poor thing was on antibiotics for 7 weeks before it cleared up, and now she’ll likely have a chronic cough from scarring and possibly develop allergies later. She’s happy and healthy now, but that was a very stressful time for all of us.

    • Oh Angela, so sorry she (and you!) went through this, and glad she’s better. The thing is with the “cat colds” there are several different infectious agents that cause them–alone or in combination. If it’s a virus (most common), antibiotics don’t help, but sometimes secondary infections with bacteria complicate the situation. Paws crossed she’ll be healthy and happy from now on!

  4. Amy, a much needed post this time of year. I had never heard of coupage- but good to know. Our indoor kitties never get sick, thank goodness but my cat prior would get the “crusties”. I’m glad I have you as a resource if if happens again.

    • I’ve been fortunate with Seren, too. Indoor kitties are less exposed of course, but as Wayne mentions in his post, anytime a kitty newcomer enters the house there’s a chance of bringing in bugs.

      • Yep. And any time one of the animals has contact with another animal outside the house, there’s the chance of picking up bugs too. You’ve got to be constantly on guard.

        We have a responsibility to protect our furry friends, even when they don’t want you to.

        Wayne

  5. Amy..first time on your blog. Awesome. Know you’re not a vet, but both my cats have herpes and constantly sneeze and sniffle with eyes running. Nothing seems to help, not even L-Lysine. Any ideas? The wacky Texas weather doesn’t help. But: HELP!

    • Hi Bonnie, so glad you stopped by! Sorry about the sniffly kitties. A couple of years ago I wrote an article for Catnip after attending Western Vet Conference and interviewing Dr. Michael Lappin and Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski. Has your vet diagnosed it as Herpes? Is the sniffle/runny eyes clear or cloudy? There are so many things that can cause sinusitis and sometimes a secondary infection makes things worse so short term antibiotics from the vet MIGHT help.

      “We don’t know jack about treating viral sinusitis in the cat,” says Dr. Lappin. “Lysine and alpha interferon are unlikely to lead to a cure, but hopefully will lessen clinical signs of disease.” He also said that intranasal administration of modified live, intranasal herpesvirus 1 and calicivirus vaccines may lessen disease in some chronically infected cats.

      As long as the kitties otherwise feel good (eat, not depressed) it’s likely just something they’ll have to live with and more upsetting to the humans than the cats. :) Wish I had better ideas. I’ll be returning to the Western Vet Conference next month to get lots of updates for revising the Purina/Cat Ency so maybe there’s some new info to share soon.