Can I catch a cold from my cat?

To make a long answer short: technically yes, but it is very rare.

If you and your cat have an upper respiratory infection (URI or in layman’s terms “cold”) around the same time, it is likely coincidental.

There are some environmental factors that can make it more likely for you and your cat to develop URI symptoms around the same time.  For instance, stress or cold weather can suppress the immune system and make it more likely for an individual (cat or person) to develop a URI. However, the causative agent (i.e. virus, bacterium, etc.) will almost invariably be different between you and your cat.

Cats can carry diseases that infect people.  These are termed zoonotic diseases.

It is very rare for these zoonotic diseases to cause upper respiratory symptoms in people.  Most zoonotic diseases that cats carry are transmitted to people through biting, scratching or contact with stool.  Some of these diseases can be serious, so it is important to bring your cat in for annual health evaluations and vaccinations to keep both you and your cat healthy.

For a more comprehensive list of zoonotic feline diseases and their transmission click here.   If you are experiencing any abnormal or concerning symptoms, please contact your human physician.

To address the very rare circumstances in which humans can contract a URI from their cat, let’s revisit last year’s blog post:

“While most URI viral agents are highly contagious only among feline species, there are some agents that can affect dogs and even some that are considered zoonotic (infectious to people). Bordetella bronchiseptica, for instance, can be transmitted between dogs and cats, and very rarely humans.

The influenza virus, notorious for crossing species lines, has many strains.  An avian strain, the H7N2 influenza virus, has recently begun infecting shelter cats in New York City, and was even determined to have caused illness in a veterinarian as well… Additionally, the feline chlamydial agent has been reported to cause human conjunctivitis.”

Once again, these instances of cat to human upper respiratory disease transmission are very rare.  To date, there is no evidence of a highly contagious virus that can cross between humans and cats and cause upper respiratory symptoms in both species.  However, viruses frequently mutate, and there may be a day when such a virus exists.

If you have concerns about any symptoms your cat is displaying please contact us to set up an appointment.

It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.

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