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Home > Cats > Can Cats Get Kennel Cough Like Dogs? Vet-Approved Facts

Can Cats Get Kennel Cough Like Dogs? Vet-Approved Facts

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

Veterinarian, DVM

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Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease affecting dogs and cats. Kennel cough is most commonly seen in dogs, though cats can carry the disease without showing signs. Kennel cough affects our pets as the common cold affects us. Like the cold, this condition can cause other more severe infections, such as pneumonia. So, while you might treat your own cold symptoms with medication and chicken noodle soup, you’re not going to want to try the home treatment method if your cat starts exhibiting signs of the disease. Keep reading to learn everything you’ve wanted to know about kennel cough in cats.


What Causes Kennel Cough?

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Image By: Ada K, Pixabay

Several microorganisms like Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria or parainfluenza virus can cause kennel cough. The bacteria that causes this condition is transmitted through the air by sneezing or coughing, via direct contact, or by shared objects like food bowls or toys.

This disease is highly contagious and transmissible across different species. If your pet is sick, keep it away from other animals in the house, small children, seniors, and anyone who may have a compromised immune system.


What Cats Are at Risk of Kennel Cough?

cats in animal shelter
Image By: Yulia Grigoryeva, Shutterstock

The cat population at the highest risk of developing kennel cough are those in crowded living situations such as pet shelters or pet stores. In addition, the risk of developing the illness is higher if the facility has poor hygiene.

Cats that live with other pets that have been exposed to the disease are also at risk, as are those who travel and go outside.

Certain conditions, such as stress or smoke exposure, can affect a cat’s immune system and put them at risk of developing infectious respiratory diseases.


What Are the Signs of Kennel Cough?

The most common signs of kennel cough include:
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Ocular discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Listlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Labored breathing


What Is the Treatment for Kennel Cough?

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Image By: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

Most mild cases of feline kennel cough need to run its course, as with the common cold for humans. They should clear up within two weeks without medication. Unfortunately, as mild as your kitty’s symptoms may be, you should still try to get him or her into the veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

Occasionally cats can develop more severe symptoms or complications from the disease. If your cat is having difficulty breathing, you need to treat it as an emergency and get to the nearest veterinary hospital as soon as possible. In these situations, you may need to look into treatment with antibiotics and fluid therapy as needed. Cats showing severe symptoms or signs of pneumonia may require more intensive care and hospitalization. Your vet may also recommend a healthy diet (which your kitty should be on already) or nutritional supplementation to boost the immune system.

Under no circumstances should you administer over-the-counter cough medication designed for humans.


How Is Kennel Cough Prevented?

A Bordetella vaccine is available for both cats and dogs and is recommended if your pet is in situations where it’ll be exposed to other animals. Generally, the Bordetella vaccine is rarely used due to the rarity of this disease in cats, but it is sometimes used for cats in daycares and boarding facilities.

The best way to prevent kennel cough is by practicing good hygiene and being careful when introducing new pets. For example, if you’re bringing home a new kitten you’ve adopted from a shelter, keep it in a separate space from the other animals in the house for the first few weeks.



Though kennel cough is most often associated with dogs, it’s not entirely unheard of in cats. Thankfully, this disease is typically self-limiting. But, of course, there are always exceptions to this. Kennel cough can be incredibly hard on the system if your cat has an underlying medication condition. That’s why keeping an open line of communication with your vet and always seeking medical advice if your pet is exhibiting any unusual signs is essential.

Featured Image Credit: Ramy kabalan, Pixabay

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