Do Indoor Cats Get Colds?

It’s unlikely, but indoor cats can and do get colds. More specifically, they can contract an upper respiratory infection (URI) which causes the symptoms which we associate with colds like a runny nose and sneezing.

Although indoor cats are protected from getting sick by directly interacting with other animals, there is a smaller chance that viruses and diseases can be passed on to them. There may also by other more likely reason that your cat is displaying cold-like symptoms.

How do indoor cats get colds?

It can be very confusing if your indoor cat has gotten a cold if they live indoors all of the time. Most of the time, cats get colds through direct contact with other sick cats. However, there are ways for cats living in isolation to get sick. Most of these will involve you carrying germs into the house and onto your cat.

If you come into contact with a sick cat outside, you can potentially bring germs into your own house by petting them or just by being around them. Harmful bacteria and viruses can also live on surfaces for a short amount of time, you may have been unlucky enough to just touch an object a sick cat has recently infected.

A lot of the viruses that can cause colds in cats can travel through the air. If outdoor cats visit your house by coming up to a window or door, they can pass germs onto your cat through ventilation.  

Its difficult but not completely impossible for your indoor cat to catch a cold this way. If a vet hasn’t explicitly said that your cat has a cold, there may be other causes for them to have cold-like symptoms.

Irritants in the air like strong smells, smoke, or cleaning products may be sending them into a sneezing fit and cause a runny nose. This can easy be confused with a cold and is much more likely to affect indoor cats.

How to tell if your indoor cat has a cold

The most obvious sign that your cat has a cold is sneezing and a runny nose. They may also have a continuous cough which will have a distinct sound.

In extreme cases, your cat might have a fever. Its very difficult to tell your cat’s temperature just by feeling their skin. You will be looking for a very small change in body temperature and their fur will make getting an accurate reading by touch or a thermometer impossible.

You should bring your cat to the vets if you have any concerns at all about their health or if they are displaying any symptoms of a cold.

It’s a common misconception that cats can catch a cold just by being cold. Indoor cats will normally be comfortable as long as you are comfortable with the temperature at home. A bacteria or virus is what actually causes them to be sick.

Can cats pass colds on to humans?

If your cat has a cold, it is extremely unlikely that they will pose any danger to you. Viruses are species specific and will normally pass on to other animals, like humans, through mutations. While this does happen, it is extremely rare.

If you live with a sick cat, your efforts will best be spent taking care of them so they can get back to their healthy normal selves as soon as possible.

Your cat can however, pass their cold onto other cats in the house. To prevent the cod from spreading to other cats in your house, you should isolate your sick cat in a room with access to their litter, food, water, and a comfortable place to sleep. Disinfect the rest of your house and try to get your other cats to keep their distance from shared doors.

What should I do if my cat gets a cold?

Start by taking them to a vet so you can get a professional’s opinion on what is actually happening to them. Although the signs may show that they have a cold, they may also be suffering from a large variety of other respiratory issues.

Cats will generally recover from a cold by themselves in about a week. Not getting a vet to check their health is risky though. Older cats and cats with pre-existing health conditions can suffer more from a cold and even die as their health takes a turn. Speaking to  


It is rare for indoor cats to get colds. If they are displaying symptoms of a cold like a runny nose and sneezing, it can be much more likely that their airways are being irritated by something in the house.

However, it is still possible for indoor cats to get sick with colds if you bring harmful bacteria or viruses into the house from other sick cats. You should always get your cat checked out at the vet if you think that they are ill.

Cats will normally recover from colds by themselves in one to two week, but they should be given plenty of care and rest during this time. Make sure they always have access to food and water and keep an eye on their health.