Thriving Cat

How to Treat an Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats.

How to Treat an Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats

How they get it and what are the symptoms?

Many cats get upper respiratory infections. This is especially common in those that were rescued and spent time in a shelter. Once they get a bad infection they can be prone to get them throughout their lives. You never know when one will suddenly appear. Common signs are sneezing, eyes watering and getting mucus discharge, nose running and eyes swelling. The normally pale color around your cat’s eyes can become bright pink or red if they get conjunctivitis. These infections are contagious so if one cats get it the others will likely contract it soon after. Therefore it can be hard to stop the infection. So, many cat owners wonder how to treat an upper respiratory infection in their cats?

Vet Check and Preventative Approach Combined

The most common approach is to take your cat to the veterinarian who will examine them and then prescribe an antibiotic and or antiviral drop, ointment or other medication. This may work, but it can take weeks to take effect and sometimes multiple medications need to be used. Sometimes re-checks are needed before the vet will refill the prescriptions. This can get expensive and stretch out over weeks or months especially if you have multiple cats whom all get infected. This was a vicious cycle that seemed never ending in our house with three rescued kitties. I thought there must be a better way to handle these recurring infections that doesn’t require endless medications! Here is the best option I have found for preventing these infections in the first place:

What I Recommend for Prevention and Overall Immune Health

There are a number of home remedies, supplements and treatments. I will address several here and follow up with more in later posts. The first product I recommend to PREVENT and treat upper respiratory infections in cats is a supplement by my favorite brand PetAlive. It is called Immunity and Liver Support. It can be used for cats and dogs. I noticed my cats were finally infection free when I added this to their wet food. When I ran out of the first bottle, Tigger, who is the most prone to these infections started getting the goopy eyes within a few days. Since I started him on the Immunity and Liver Support again he has been fine! I have been extremely impressed with all the PetAlive supplements. You can read my previous posts about their supplement for tooth and gum disease prevention here and my post for weight control and maintenance here.

All the PetAlive supplements use natural ingredients which are often found in human products. The capsules are easy to twist apart and mix into wet food.


The ingredients in Immunity and Liver Support include:

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis)

Dandelion contains high level of Vitamins A, B, C, D and many minerals such as zinc (used in people to fight colds), magnesium, potassium,

iron and more. It aids liver, gall bladder functioning and blood pressure.

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

Echinacea is an antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. It is used for allergies, boosting the immune system and aiding the lymphatic system.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwanganha is an anti-inflammatory, and has anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties. It also increases blood hemoglobin levels, has calming

properties and aids in recovery after illness.

Milk Thistle (Sylibum marianum)

Milk Thistle has been used for 2 millinia to help people remove toxins and aid in liver function. I take it myself every day.


Another supplement for upper respiratory infections in cats is Lysine. Just like people take Lysine to prevent and treat cold sores, cats can benefit from Lysine as well. I buy regular Lysine capsules for people, twist them apart and pour the powder into my cat’s wet food and mix it up with the other supplements. Lysine is cheap and easy to find.

This is one natural supplement that my vet recommended for the cats but I have found it just is not enough to combat upper respiratory infections by itself. We keep using it every day and maybe that in combination with the Immunity and Liver Support is the magic bullet as they are not getting any infections now! I must tell you however, I have seen research studies that show Lysine is not very effective in cats. I don’t know if it works well for some cats but not others, but the research shows the expected results do not match with real world results in real cats. I don’t know if I should continue the Lysine.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you have found other remedies for upper respiratory disease in your cats or if you have any questions or thoughts.

Stay tuned for part two of How to Treat An Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats, where we will address home remedies such as MSM and apple cider vinager (for the fur not to be put in eyes!!!). I find we still need a preventative however, so I am covering the supplements first.

Here is Part 2 with an apple cider vinegar home remedy for your kitty’s health! Home Remedy For Cat Colds

I hope this information helps you and your fur babies! Please leave me a comment below and let me know!




  1. Raymond

    I didn’t know that a cat would have an infection that long. I though these furballs have 9 lives and can survive better. But yeah, that is serious if that’s the case. This is something new that I will be careful about if I ever have a cat again.

    I am glad you found a great cure or homeopathic remedy by using supplements that people use. Guess that means we can apply our supplements to our pet as long as it is approved by the vet. The picture of your cats is adorable. =)


    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Thanks Raymond,

      Yes, I like the picture too! No, the nine lives concept only applies to their ability to fall and land on their feet. In other regards they are just like you and me. They get sick, need good food, good medicine, good supplements etc. I am glad there are better options available now that include higher quality food (so they don’t get sick so much) and supplements to avoid dependence on expensive and dangerous prescriptions.

      There are a lot of “human” supplements that cats and dogs can use. I am just starting to learn about them!


  2. Steve

    I have a cat named Felix, not very original but it suits him. He has never had an upper respitory infection thank God. But now that I came across your site if my cat ever does get sick I will know how to treat him. Thanks for the awesome information, I’ll check back again soon for more cat tips!

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Thanks Steve,

      I have posts here on food for weight loss, supplements for tooth and gum disease and bad breath and many other topics such as products to deal with behavior problems as well.

      That’s good Felix doesn’t get kitty colds. They are hard to get rid of.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Mike

    Great information. Cats do have nine lives, But they also need good food, vitamins etc love the way you have items listed to help our pets thanks.

  4. Anna

    Hi Jessica,

    I’m so happy that I came upon your wonderful site!! I have been the proud mama of 2 cats now – one has passed away, so I eventually got another!

    I love them to death and want to be very informed when it comes to their health. I am so happy to know that there are treatments that are more natural rather than having to just rely on antibiotics.

    It’s nice that you can just blend the supplements into their wet food. I remember many years ago having to give my kitty these awful pills and I was so afraid he would choke!

    I love your site and I will be taking some time to read your other posts! Thank you so much!!


    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Anna,

      I am so glad you find this information helpful! I genuinely believe in these products as I use them every day on my own kitties who are my kids. I really wanted to share this with other pet owners as it can save so much pain and suffering for the pets, and stress and money for owners!

      Please let me know what you think and if you have any other topics you would like to see covered here.


  5. Blame

    I know this medicine is meant for cats, but it feels very natural so I wonder if this would work for hamsters and birds also. I used to have some parakeets, and hamsters. They all died. It was pretty sad and there was nothing I can do about it. Immunity and liver support seems to have a lot of natural herbs so I most likely don’t have to worry too much about side effects. Cats are cool but I might get a hamster or parakeet in the future so do you think it will work?

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello and thank you for your question. I don’t know much about parakeets and hamsters. I had a hamster as a kid many years ago but I can’t say I am an expert! I don’t know of any reason why the supplement would not work though. The ingredients come from plants so it would seem those are foods they could access in the wild.

      However, there could by idiosyncrasies in the species that I am not aware of. I would suggest you research each species and the specific ingredients to see if you can find any mention of them. You could also ask a vet if those ingredients would be ok. They will probably say yes even if they don’t know anything about the supplement.

      Logically, it seems Immunity and Liver Support would work though!

      Please let me know if you use it. I would be very interested to hear how it goes.


  6. Clare

    I found your site because I’ve been looking for information to do with my cat sneezing. She gets slightly watery eyes and sneezes a bit. I also noticed that she’s snoring more than usual.

    After taking her to the vet, who said there is nothing wrong, apparently this is normal at the change of season. Here in New Zealand we have gone from summer into winter and the colder temperatures and rain can affect certain cats.

    That said, I’ve been looking for a natural supplement to help her during the changing seasons, and I’m thinking of trying the PetAlive Immunity along with the lysine. Since the lysine is for humans, what dose would you recommend for a 6kg cat – as a kind of “maintenance” dose?

    Do you ever suggest supplementing with Taurine, since cats can’t synthesize it themselves?

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Clare,

      I just found this article that may be of interest to you.

      It states that while Lysine is often recommended by vets, it turns out that it doesn’t work very well in real life. This would support my own observations that the Lysine just isn’t doing much. I kept using it since the vet recommended it but the PetAlive Immunity and Liver Support works MUCH better. I would recommend you use Immunity and Liver Support at a higher dose when your cat is sick and maybe a lower dose for maintenance. I wouldn’t want to recommend something that doesn’t work!

      The good thing about the Lysine (if it did work) is that it is cheap to buy a big bottle. It probably would not hurt to try it if you want, but based on my experience and this newer research I would definitely recommend the Pet Alive supplement instead. It works well for our cats.

      The article states that a higher dose of Lysine may be necessary but when tested it did not appear to help. I may not be giving my cats a high enough dose but there is no point giving them more and more of an ineffective treatment. I use 2 500 Mg capsules and break them into the batch of wet food I mix for all three cats for 3 meals (1.5 days worth). So each cat is only getting about 111 Mg per meal or 222 Mg per day of Lysine.

      I may write a new post addressing the discrepancy in Lysine effectiveness now!

      Thanks, let me know if you try either of these and how it works out for your kitty!


  7. Chelsea Chan

    I love your site a lot! I can find a lot of information about cats! I especially like the post on weight loss. I have never known that there is weight-losing food for cats. Although it seems to me that there is no one-formula-fits-all-cats for losing weight, it’s still informative enough to find something to try out on my obese cat! Thank you!

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Chelsea,

      I am so glad you find the site useful and informative. It is great to finally find some high quality foods for our cats. The two boys seem to maintain a healthy weight with this food alone. Our girl still needs a diet even with the grain-free food.

      Every pet owner needs to try different foods and see what works for their pet. I think these foods provide good nutrition and very high quality ingredients however, so they are great ones to try.

      Thank you very much for your comments!


  8. Alejandra

    Hi Jessica, how nice is to find a site about cats, I have on my wish list to get a cat, so your site will help me out a lot.
    Thanks for sharing so great information

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Alejandra,

      Thank you for stopping by even though you don’t have a cat yet! I am learning so much even though I have had cats all my life. There are always things we can improve and ways to make our pets happier and healthier and save us time and money in the process.

      I hope to add a lot more content so please feel free to come back anytime.


  9. Rachel

    I know of this when I picked up a stray cat off the streets 5 years ago. He’s happily living in my house now. We brought him to the vet last time, but that vet is not around now and the other vets around are simply x.x let’s not get into the details.

    I’m really glad that I chanced upon this post because our second cat, a female that we adopted from the shelter also has this problem. I admit that I wasn’t responsible enough to remember what were the things that the vet gave our first cat 5 years ago. I’ll definitely try out the things that you suggested!

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for the comment.Yes, it is so sad to me that so many rescued cats have upper respiratory infections and we just don’t know what to do about it! I highly recommend the Immunity and Liver Support supplement. I have stopped using the Lysine altogether and may take it off my post. It was recommended by the vet but it just doesn’t do much.

      Very rarely, they will still have symptoms even with the supplement. We recently had to use apple cider vinegar on one of the kids when she was holder her ear straight out to the side and scratching it. Get apple cider vinegar with the “mother” in it (the cloudy stuff at the bottom). Mix it 50/50 with water and put it on the back of the kitty’s neck on the skin. I also put it around their ears and face and paws. They will lick it off but that probably helps make it work! It is an anti-bacterial and anti-viral.We rarely have to use it now since they get the Liver and Immunity Support every day but occasionally they need both. I have not had to go back to the vet for this since they started on the supplement!

      I have not been adding new content lately as I am finishing up my last graduate course. I will be back at it as soon as I can!

      I am so glad you found this info useful for your rescued kitty!

      Please check back in and tell us if your kitty gets better.


  10. Kat

    Hi, I just adopted 2 cats from the shelter and had 1 cat already who didn’t seem to have any respiratory issues, my 2 rescues were treated in the shelter for it, and it’s been lingering on, and I’m not sure if my other cat has caught it, should I take all three of them to the vet, or do u think the supplement u recommended would do the trick? Thank you for all your information! !

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Kat,

      Upper Respiratory disease usually spreads through all the cats in the home. So yes, it would not be surprising at all if it spread to your 1st cat. It is also impossible to eliminate completely. The treatments only get rid of the symptoms for awhile but it can reappear later as it is a virus the cats still have in their system. Anytime they are stressed or sick it can come back. It can also come back at random (or at least it seems at random!). If they are really sick with eyes totally gooped up, they are drooling or if it is starting to affect their appetite etc. then they should probably go to the vet. Sometimes you can call and talk to the vet if they have already been seen and the vet can advise you over the phone for free. They may send a refill to the pharmacy for you or you can go to the vet’s office and pick it up without actually seeing the vet (saving a lot of money).

      If the cats have already been seen and are otherwise healthy and you are confident it is the same upper respiratory problem you could use the supplement. I would just hate to advise anyone against going to the vet in case there is something else going on! Personally, I don’t take my cats to the vet for upper respiratory anymore as I use the supplement. Honestly, the prescription medications did not work very well anyway! The cats hate the eye drops and ointments anyway so it adds to their stress.

      Occasionally the supplement may not be enough, but that is very rare for my three cats. When that happens I use a 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar (the murky brown kind with the solids in the bottom) mixed with water. I rub it into the cat’s fur all around the head and neck (don’t get it directly in the eyes or put it down into the ears). Apple cider vinegar is an antibiotic and anti-viral. I don’t know if it works by absorbing into the skin (as I have read) or being ingested when they lick it to bath. They won’t like the smell so they will start licking immediately to get it off. It sounds weird but it really does work! Between the supplement which prevents most all the flare-ups and the vinegar that helps treat one, my cats have not needed any prescription medication for several years now! Use the vinegar twice a day and in a few days it should get better. Keep it up until they are healthy again.

      I would still get the supplement however, as you don’t want to vinegar all 3 of your cats twice a day! For us at least, the symptoms ALWAYS came back before we used the supplement. I have heard from vets and rescue groups that shelter cats often end up being susceptible for life. Better to have the supplement in their food to prevent it!

      I hope this helps! I got so tired of constantly giving my three cats medication that didn’t work very well, so I was incredibly relieved to find this supplement.
      Let me know how it goes,


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