Upper Respiratory Details

09/18/2014 12:06

Feline Upper Respiratory Infection

Thank you for choosing to adopt a shelter cat from Spare Cat Rescue! As a new cat parent, you should be aware that your cat may be carrying Feline Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) without your knowledge. Carrier states (or latency states) are very common in shelter animals, particularly in stray cats and kittens born to stray mothers. We are concerned about this because it may affect how your cat recovers from surgery, or how she adjusts to her new home. Please read below for further information.

Cats with URI typically sneeze and have runny eyes, and may occasionally cough. Many people assume this is allergies. While it is possible for cats to have allergies, the vast majority of cats presenting with these symptoms actually have an infection (URI).

There are several agents (both bacterial and viral) that cause URI in felines. All are extremely contagious among cats. Fortunately, humans and dogs cannot get these infections from cats as they are not “zoonotic” (diseases that travel between species). Cats spread this disease by sneezing microscopic droplets loaded with the infectious agent into the air, by sharing food and water dishes, or by licking each other’s faces. In many cases, once these infectious agents are in the body, the immune system cannot completely get rid of them. Unfortunately, there are no medicines or vaccines that can completely “cure” or kill these agents once they become a part of the body’s systems. The infectious agents hide inside tissues associated with the respiratory system, where they will later emerge as active infections when the cat’s body is stressed. Stressors capable of bringing out a latent infection include: anesthesia and surgery, injury, change in living situation (new home, marriage, divorce, new baby, etc.), and even other illnesses. It is common to see a carrier cat who has outbreaks throughout his lifetime.

Mother cats lick their kittens’ faces and are thus able to transmit the infections they carry to their kittens very early in the babies’ lives, before we can safely vaccinate them against diseases. This is why there are so many carrier cats in shelters, especially among strays and their kittens. Because URI is so contagious, any cat that goes outside and contacts other cats can pick it up any time. Many cat parents have carrier cats and they are not aware of this.

If your cat is a carrier of this disease, the stress of anesthesia and surgery may bring out an infection, usually within a week after surgery. This is also true when any stressors occur in the cat’s living situation. Signs you might see are sneezing, runny eyes (perhaps involving squinting and/or swollen membranes), and occasional coughing. If these signs do show up, you should have your pet’s regular veterinarian check your cat as soon as possible. Fortunately, the majority of cats experiencing an outbreak recover easily. There are also vitamins and supplements you can give your cat to help reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks. Please bear in mind, too, that a carrier cat is always contagious to other cats during an outbreak, so other cats in the home will likely develop symptoms later on.

If you have any further questions about URI, feel free to contact Spare Cat Rescue using the information below.

Spare Cat Rescue

address: P.O. Box 335, Carthage, MO 64836 e-mail: spare_cat_rescue@yahoo.com website: www.sparecatrescue.org phone: 417-358-6808