Can You Catch a Cold From a Cat? (2023) | Busting the Myth

Autumn and winter are great times to snuggle up by the fire with your cat, drink warm beverages, and play in the snow. But the chilly temperatures bring the risk of catching a cold with them for both cats and their owners. It may be surprising to some, but cats can get colds.

This brings up the question, can you catch a cold from a cat? And, what other diseases and illnesses can you catch from your cat, or which ailments can you give your cat? As a cat owner, you only want the best for your feline friend, which is why these are crucial questions to answer.

silver and white cat about to sneeze

If you’re not used to a sick cat, it can be challenging to pinpoint what is wrong with your pet. Outdoor cats are more likely to catch colds than indoor cats. This is because they’ll come in contact with other cats who sneeze and disperse the bacterial droplets. If you notice that your cat keeps sneezing, it might be on its way to getting the sniffles.  

Here are more symptoms to look for when your cat has a cold:

  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Poor appetite
  • Breathing issues
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Teary eyes
bengal cat at vet with ice pack

No, you cannot catch a cold from your cat. They also cannot catch a cold from you. Humans and cats get the common cold from different viruses because the common cold virus tends to be species-specific. This means that the virus can only survive in a certain host under the correct conditions.

Cats catch colds from species-specific viruses and bacteria, usually airborne or transferred from cat to cat through water or droplets. There are many respiratory viruses for humans, but the most common cold virus for us is the rhinovirus.

However, while you may not catch the sniffles from your feline friend, there are a few other illnesses or diseases you can catch from your cat.

black and white cat with ice pack

Any illnesses or sicknesses from an animal that can infect a human are called zoonotic diseases. These diseases may be viral infections, bacterial, or parasitic infections. Some zoonoses are entirely preventable through vaccines, while others are not.

Lyme disease is an illness caused by tick bites. It is unlikely (but not impossible) that your cat will get Lyme disease. If your cat picks up the bacteria from a tick bite, it might not even show symptoms.

However, your cat may carry ticks on them, which can cause you to contract Lyme disease. Lyme disease in humans is curable, but patients might get a condition called Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS).

This condition can cause symptoms to persist for weeks to years after the initial diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms include a skin rash, fever, and fatigue. If it remains untreated, the infection can spread to your joints, heart, and nervous system, which can cause more significant problems.

Lyme disease can disappear on its own, but it is always better to see a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

black cat at the vet

Cat scratch disease is a bacterial infection that humans can get from an infected cat carrying the Bartonella henselae bacteria. This disease can get transmitted through a scratch, a bite, or a cat licking a human’s open wound.

If your pet has fleas, it’s best to get rid of them with a flea treatment because that’s how cats or kittens pick up this bacteria. Symptoms of infection show up three to 14 days after the wound is formed or licked.

These symptoms include swelling or redness around the injury, fever, headache, and exhaustion. After a few days, the person’s lymph nodes near the wound can also start to swell, hurt, or become tender.

cat scratches man in bed

Most cats don’t exhibit any symptoms of this disease but seek immediate medical advice if you show any of the above symptoms after a bite, scratch, or lick.

Although you’re more likely to catch rabies from a wild animal bite, you can get it from your pet too. If your outside cats get bit by a rabies-infected animal, they may catch the disease. That is why the main thing to do while caring for cats is to ensure they’ve gotten all their vaccines.

The disease transmits through saliva, so infection is more likely through a bite. It is improbable that you can get rabies from a cat scratch, but because they often lick their paws, this cannot be completely ruled out. Rabies affects the host’s central nervous system and causes strange behavior like aggression, loss of appetite, and nervousness.

ginger cat in orange scarf

Once the infection reaches the brain, your cat will exhibit symptoms and die within seven days. For a human, symptoms can take a few days to a year to show.

Toxoplasmosis is one of the most common parasitic diseases among all mammals. It is curable and treated with antibiotics and other medications. High-risk people are pregnant women, babies, and people with weak immune systems.

Cats pick up and carry the parasite by eating uncooked infected meat. Humans can also contract it by eating raw or undercooked meat infected by the parasite. But, your cat can also pass it on to you ‌through their feces.

Infected cats might push their heads against surfaces, have ear twitches, balance issues, and have a fever. Symptoms show up differently in humans, depending on their age or health conditions. A healthy adult might experience swollen lymph nodes, body aches, and a fever. Immunocompromised people may experience additional blurred vision and lung problems.

ginger cat mid sneeze (2)

This is probably not something cat owners would like to hear, but there are a few ways you can infect your cat. In the same way, you can catch diseases from your cat, your cat might also catch an illness from you.

Studies are still in their infancy, but there have been a few instances of pets getting sick with the Covid-19 virus. This happens with pets that have come in close contact with people who have tested positive for the highly infectious disease.

Just like humans, your cat may not present any symptoms or get sick. If they do get sick, you can expect a full recovery. Symptoms are usually mild and very similar to ours. Expect a runny nose, shortness of breath, sluggishness, fever, and coughing. They may also have a fever and eye discharge.

ginger cat mid sneeze can you catch a cold from a cat

According to the CDC’s guidelines, if you suspect your pet may have the Coronavirus, it is best to isolate them at home. It may be risky to take them to the vet, especially if you are sick yourself, so call your vet to find out the best steps to take. Some vets can offer over-the-phone consultations in these cases.

Ringworm is a fungal infection on top of the skin that is very contagious between humans and cats. Cats pick up ringworm by touching infected humans or items, like blankets or countertops, with the ringworm fungus. If you are infected, you can pass ringworm to your cat by coming in contact with an open skin wound.

People with a weak immune system, like young children or older adults, are more perceptible to contracting ringworm. This is why if you suspect you or your pet has ringworm, it’s best to get it treated as soon as possible to avoid spreading it to others.

grey cat about to sneeze

Luckily, it is easily treatable for both humans and cats. An enzymatic skin cream might provide temporary relief to your cat. Symptoms in both are quite similar and include hair loss and scaly or itching skin. A cat’s nail beds and claws may become infected, while humans may also notice their nails becoming brittle or discolored.

Giardia infection is a waterborne infection in your intestine. It generally happens when you drink unsafe water or are near poor sanitation contaminated with a microscopic parasite.

As to be expected, symptoms show in the stomach area and include stomach cramps, nausea, bloatedness, and diarrhea. The infection spreads through food or person-to-person contact.

silver scottish fold cat with cone

This makes it easy to affect your cat with this stomach bug. Symptoms in both cat and cat owners can persist for a few weeks. In cats, it can cause watery diarrhea and vomiting, which can cause rapid dehydration.

The best course of action is to take your pet to the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Treatment will include oral therapy for about a week. After that, they will get tested for two to four weeks.

  • Vaccinate — The best way to protect your pet from any disease is to prevent the disease from forming. Ensure that you’re up to date with your pet’s vaccines and veterinary check-ups. This will prevent them from contracting any life-threatening diseases, like rabies.
  • Keep them away from infected cats — Some diseases are highly infectious and can spread through microscopic droplets or sneezes.
  • Keep clean — Keeping your and your pet’s living space clean is already half of the battle won. A regularly cleaned area doesn’t allow germs or sicknesses to breed. It is also important to regularly wash your hands after handling any pets to avoid any illnesses for yourself too.
  • Balanced diet —A nutritious meal is vital to your pet’s health. While bacteria carry many diseases, an unhealthy diet could be making your cat sick as well, especially when they’re missing out on essential immune-building vitamins.  
silver cat with vet

You might also be interested in reading my post Can cats be autistic?

While you cannot catch a cold from your cat, you may catch other illnesses and diseases from them. Similarly, your cat may also contract a few sicknesses from you.

There are a few ways to prevent this cross-infection. Try to do regular cat check-ups at home to check that your furry friend is still in top shape. If you feel that they may not be, do not hesitate to go for a vet check-up.

When it comes to health and related risks, you and your feline friend must look out for each other.

tabby cat about to sneeze

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This can you catch a cold from a cat post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through and make a purchase I will most likely receive a small commission. This won’t affect the price you pay. Just wanted to make sure you knew.

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Amanda created and owns The Discerning Cat. A lifelong cat lover she is the proud parent of two Siberian cats, Alexei and Vladimir. She is passionate about understanding cats and different cat breeds.

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