A kitten with a stuffy nose should be taken to the veterinarian promptly. They could have an upper respiratory infection (URI). Until you can get in to see the doctor, a hot steam room and some gentle nose wiping can reduce their discomfort.
What is feline upper respiratory infection?
Feline upper respiratory infection is an infection of the respiratory system in a cat that is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. These infections tend to happen in the throat and nose and can cause nasal congestion or stuffiness, sneezing, discharge from the eyes or nose, or conjunctivitis of the eyes.
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Some specific causes of URI in cats are feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. Vaccination can help reduce the severity of symptoms but the FVRCP vaccine won't completely prevent infection of these two viruses. Sometimes these viral cats (herpes or calici) will also develop a secondary bacterial infection.
Symptoms of a stuffy nose in cats
If your cat is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, it could be a sign that your cat is suffering from a stuffy nose and may need palliative care or a trip to the veterinarian. Some symptoms to watch for are:
- Mucus or nasal discharge
- Discoloration of fur around the muzzle/nose
- Coughing or sneezing
- Sounds of nasal congestion
- Loss of appetite
- Rubbing or pawing their face
- Swelling around the nose
- Labored or difficulty breathing
- Weepy or runny eyes and eye discharge
Why kittens get a stuffy nose
There are a number of reasons your cat might have a stuffy nose, ranging from benign causes to those that are much more serious. For example, an upper respiratory infection can be a cause for concern because if left untreated, infections in kittens can quickly lead to pneumonia, which can be deadly. If your cat is open-mouth breathing, has bloody discharge from the nose, or is having labored breathing, take them to a veterinarian right away. If your regular veterinary hospital is closed or can't get you in, go to an emergency clinic.
Some common causes a of stuffy nose in cats are:
- Rhinitis: Rhinitis is an irritation and inflammation of the nasal passages that can be caused by a number of things, including fungal infection, viral infection, bacterial infection, allergies, or an upper respiratory infection.
- Injury to the nose: A traumatic hit to a cat's nose or face can cause nasal discharge. If you notice bloody discharge, visit your veterinarian promptly. Discharge may also be clear, but if it turns yellowish-green, your cat may have developed an infection.
- Nasal irritants: Sometimes, cats (especially outdoor cats) can be exposed to toxic irritants in the environment that can cause nasal inflammation or sinus irritation and make the nose stuffy or runny.
- Foreign substance or body in the nose: Sometimes, a cat can accidentally inhale a foreign body into the nostril, which can then cause irritation, stuffiness, and often sneezing.
- Cancer: Nasal cancer can cause a runny nose in the early stages. Nasal cancer is particularly aggressive in cats, and the symptoms can quickly escalate to exaggerated congestion, pain and swelling, and thicker discharge from the nose.
- Polyps: Polyps are growths that occur on the mucous membrane and are generally benign. Nasal polyps can cause a runny or congested nose and sometimes sneezing.
For less serious cases of stuffy nose or while you're waiting to see the veterinarian, you can try to make your kitten more comfortable with home remedies.
How to cure a kitten's stuffy nose at home
Sometimes, your kitten might have a mildly stuffy nose caused by a virus or temporary allergy or irritant that might just need some time to get better. If so or if you are looking for ways to ease your kitten's discomfort while you wait for an appointment with your veterinarian, here are some suggestions to make sure your kitten stays comfortable and well fed.
Feed aromatic foods
When your kitten has a stuffy nose, they probably can't smell their cat food and may not have much of an appetite. Help them keep up their strength by heating moist cat food so it smells appealing. Also monitor their fluid intake so they don't run the risk of becoming dehydrated. Make fresh water available to them at all times.
Appetite is extremely important in cats. Some cats, especially overweight ones, can develop a serious condition called hepatic lipidosis if their appetite declines for even just a couple of days. So if your cat isn't eating well for more than one day, or is not eating at all, call your veterinarian right away.
Keep your cat away from tobacco smoke and indoor irritants, such as cleaning products and room deodorants, which could make their nasal irritation worse.
Keep your cat warm
Keep your kitten indoors as well as warm and free from drafts. Exposure to the elements could exacerbate their congestion and make their condition worse. See your veterinarian as soon as you can and follow their recommendations for ongoing at-home treatment.
Take your kitten into a bathroom and close the door. Run your shower on hot to create steam inside the room. Sit with your kitten and allow them to breathe the steamy air, which will help reduce congestion. Use a soft, damp cloth to gently wipe away mucus or discharge from your kitten's nose. Dab the end of their nose with a touch of petroleum jelly to relieve discomfort. A vaporizer or humidifier in a small room can have a similar effect as a hot shower.
How to prevent a kitten from getting a runny nose
Of course, you can't keep your cat safe from everything no matter how much you might want to, but luckily, there are some steps you can take to help protect your kitten from a stuffy nose. These include:
- Keeping your cat indoors: Outdoor cats are much more prone to encountering toxins, irritants, and foreign bodies and are much more likely to contract a contagious disease.
- Vaccinating your cat: Staying up to date on your cat's routine vaccinations can help reduce the severity of communicable diseases that can cause a runny nose.
- Making sure the home environment is safe: Keeping your home free of irritants within reach of your cat, such as cigarette smoke or toxic chemicals, can help keep your curious feline from getting into things that could cause nasal issues.
There are many causes of congestion and stuffiness in cats, including rhinitis, polyps, cancer, a foreign body in the nose, traumatic injury to the nose or muzzle, and nasal irritants. If your cat has any of these, it's a good idea to make a trip to your veterinarian in order to rule out more serious conditions, like upper respiratory infection or cancer. While waiting for your cat's veterinary appointment, you can try treating the symptoms at home with a steamy bathroom to help open up airways, by avoiding irritants, and by making certain your cat continues to eat.