Sneezing Cat May Spread Infection

Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is immediate past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q: In the past week, my two cats have started to sneeze and have runny eyes. They both are eating OK but look like they feel bad. My husband and I have both had colds recently and I wonder if my cats were able to catch our colds. Is this possible? They are both indoor/outdoor cats and have always been very healthy. What should I do to treat them?

Mrs. John Sharpe, Garden Grove

A: It is extremely unlikely that your cats got their colds from you because most cold viruses tend to be species specific. However, cats do occasionally have an organism called chlamydia psittaci, which causes runny eyes and sneezing and could be spread to humans. In man, if the organism comes into contact with your eyes, it can cause a burning, watery eye irritation. I would recommend that you wash your hands thoroughly after handling your sneezing cats and try not to let them sneeze into your face. Fortunately, the eye infection is treatable with antibiotics.

You should have your cats examined by your veterinarian to help determine what type of infection they may have. It would also be wise to update your cat’s vaccinations, especially for chlamydia. Your vet will most likely start your cats on antibiotics and eye medication to help ease their symptoms and discomfort.


Cats also can get a herpes virus that can cause upper respiratory problems, including sneezing. This virus can be spread to people by contact with the discharge, and can cause some irritation. If you follow proper cleanliness after handling your sneezing cats, your risk for exposure is minimal. In either case, there are vaccines available to help protect your cats.

Q: This may be a silly question but can cats or dogs see colors? Our dog occasionally watches TV, and I wonder if he can see the colors or is it just the motion?

NNS, Santa Ana

A: Cats and dogs do not have the ability to see colors other than black and white and the various shades in between. The retina or back part of the eye that receives light does not have the proper neuro receivers for sensing color. Your dog may be responding to the motion or sounds coming from the television when he “watches” TV.