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Can Cats Catch Colds From Humans? Vet Approved Facts & Advice

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on March 11, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

man sick with cat beside him

Can Cats Catch Colds From Humans? Vet Approved Facts & Advice


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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For most of us, our pets are our pride and joy, and we wouldn’t want to do anything to endanger them, which is why many people worry that when they catch a cold, they might pass it on to their pets.

Fortunately, cats cannot catch most colds from humans, as the cold virus that affects humans is not contagious to cats. Still, keep reading as we discuss whether cats can get colds at all and if there are any diseases that they can indeed catch from us.

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What Is the Common Cold?

A virus called rhinovirus is responsible for the common cold in humans. It can cause a stuffy or runny nose, fever, sore throat, coughing, and sneezing, with the symptoms starting within 3 days of catching it. While there is no cure, most people recover in 7–14 days without any need for medical care unless they have other health problems. Recovery can also take longer if the person is unhealthy or smokes.

Can Cats Catch the Common Cold?

Fortunately, the rhinovirus is specific to humans, and there is no danger of it spreading to your cat or dog. While some people believe that getting extremely close to your pet while you are suffering from a cold can cause them to come down with one, no direct scientific studies support this, and even adjacent ones admit that it would be extremely rare. Therefore, there is generally no need to worry about your pet’s health if you come down with a cold.

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Image Credit: fizkes, Shutterstock

What Is a Feline Cold?

Certain viruses affect cats in similar ways that rhinoviruses affect humans, including the feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus. Both are extremely contagious to other cats and can cause signs similar to those of a cold, including a runny nose and sneezing. However, the feline herpes virus is more serious, as it will stay with your pet for life, with clinical signs occasionally flaring up. Feline calicivirus usually clears up in 1–6 weeks, though cats may become lifelong carriers.

Are There Any Human Diseases That My Cat Can Catch?

Unfortunately, there are a few viruses that you might transmit to your cat, including the H1N1 virus, a.k.a. the swine flu. We may also be able to transfer COVID-19, the infection caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, to our pets.

If you come down with a strange illness, it’s best to discuss with your doctor the risks to your cat and any other animals that you might have.

Image Credit: Julia-Cherk, Shutterstock

Cold Preventative Measures and Best Practices

  • While the risk of transmitting your cold to your pet is extremely low, it can still be a good idea to put a bit of distance between you to minimize the risks even further, especially when it comes to face-to-face interactions and petting.
  • Wash your hands frequently with a high-quality antibacterial soap to reduce the risk of depositing germs around your home that might negatively affect your pet.
  • Disinfecting objects that you regularly interact with, like doorknobs and countertops, can also help reduce the number of germs in your home.
  • Ensure that your cat has a stress-free environment to make them less susceptible to disease.
  • If you are too sick to care for your cat properly or have one of the more infectious diseases, like the swine flu or COVID-19, it can be helpful to hire someone to care for your pet until you get better.
  • Keep your cat up to date with all their vaccinations to help keep their immune system strong.

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Fortunately, cats are not likely to catch your cold if you come down with one, so there is no worry about that. You will likely be healthy again in about 2 weeks, and your cat will be ready to play. If you notice your cat sneezing or having a runny nose, they may have caught a feline cold, so it can be a good idea to have them looked over by a veterinarian to help them get back to good health as soon as possible. If you have contracted a virus that cats can get, such as H1N1 virus or SARS-CoV-2, it can be a good idea to separate yourself from your pets and hire a sitter until you feel better, just to be safe.

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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