Upper Respiratory Infection | Winnipeg Humane Society
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Upper Respiratory Infection

Upper Respiratory Infection – or URI – is a kitty cold. Learn more about the infection below.

What is URI?

Feline Upper Respiratory Infections are common infections of the sinus and nasal passages. URI is comparable to a human cold and will normally clear of symptoms with supportive care. In some cases cats may require antibiotics.

Cats with URI may develop the following symptoms: sniffling, sneezing, discharge from eyes and nose, lethargy, and decreased appetite. These symptoms generally last anywhere from one to three weeks.

URI is contagious.  The virus is spread via saliva and discharge produced by the eyes and nose. Cats who have symptoms can pass the infection via contact with other cats or through the sharing of items (called fomite transmission).

How does the WHS care for cats with URI?

Stress is the main cause of URI in shelter settings. To reduce stress levels of cats, double caging is provided in holding areas. A double cage, a place to hide, a hard surface, a soft surface, scratching area and food and water kept separate from the litter box create the healthiest environment for a shelter cat.

This double caging practice comes from a 2007 study from Dr. Hurley of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program. It discovered the amount of floor space in a cat’s housing for the first seven days at the shelter has a huge impact on whether a cat gets sick with URI.

For more information about how double caging helps reduce URI click here.

In some cases, cats with URI are treated with antibiotics, but the symptoms will clear up on their own with supportive care.

Can cats without URI live with a cat that has the virus?

Cats having URI is a fact of life. It’s similar to how the cases of human colds increase when children go back to school. The cold – both the human and cat versions – is something we must live with and accept.

A cat that previously had URI can carry the virus for life and display symptoms when becoming stressed. To reduce the risk of passing the infection, keep your pets up to date on annual vaccines and boosters.

Cats that live in a home are less stressed and less likely to display symptoms of URI than cats living in a shelter.


With resources from: UC Davis School Veterinary Medicine

Other resources

Feline Upper Respiratory Infection aka URI – Information Sheet – Koret Shelter Medicine Program