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Causes for rhinitis
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Respiratory problems: Rhinitis in cats, vaccination



Prevention of respiratory problems in your cattery is to vaccinate your cats with the proper vaccine

Sneezing, coughing, weeping eyes and other respiratory problems can be caused by several factors.
One factor which you can influence is to vaccinate your cats with the right vaccine. There are two kinds of vaccines against "rhinitis" existing:

  1. vaccines with modified live viruses
  2. vaccines with killed viruses

If your cats are vaccinated with a vaccine which is based on live viruses a mild form of rhinitis is induced into the cat where the virus is replicated to force the immune system of the cat to build enough antibodies against rhinitis.

  • If you had already several problems with sneezing in your cattery vaccines based on live viruses will increase your problems and you will not get rid of the rhinitis in your cattery.
  • Vaccines based on live virus is risky for the eyes. If there is a little ulcer in the cornea at the time of the vaccination the vaccine's virus can replicate in the ulcerated corneal epithelium and cause the formation of corneal sequestration (pigmented spot in the middle of the cornea).

Therefore it is always better to use a vaccine based on killed viruses where the virus cannot replicate in the cat. Especially with kitten in a cattery always vaccines based on killed viruses should be used, because after the age of one month - when the protection through maternal antibodies taken with the queen's milk decreases rapidly - the kitten are very susceptible to microbes even from live vaccines.

Vaccination schemes

The vaccination scheme between vaccines based on live viruses and vaccines based on killed viruses is different.
Vaccination with vaccines based on live viruses is done in the following time schedule:

vaccination based on live viruses

  • 1st time: two shots with an interval of 4 weeks
  • Every renewal: one shot - according to the date stated on the vaccine.

Vaccination with vaccines based on killed viruses is done in the following time schedule:

vaccination based on killed viruses

  • 1st time: three shots with following time intervals in between
    • between 1st shot and 2nd shot: 4 weeks
    • between 2nd shot and 3rd shot: 6 weeks
  • Renewal: 1 shot every 6 month for the first 3 years, and then at the date as stated on the vaccine.

Renewal is not necessary every year! Do not over-vaccinate your cats!
At least the EU - after many years! - has recognized that renewal vaccination is not necessary every year. See:
EU pet passport 803/2003.

The efficiency of vaccinating with killed viruses is shown in the following pictures.

Immune response to three doses of non-replicating antigen -
vaccine based on killed virus
immune response to vaccination based on killed viruses
Immune response to replicating antigen -
vaccine based on live virus
immune response to vaccination based on killed viruses


In multi-household and larger catteries it is quite common that kittens suffer from respiratory problems and do not develop properly. Very often the little babies are going to die early after birth.
You can avoid those problems when you take the following steps:

  • Immediately after mating vaccinate the queen with a vaccine based on killed viruses.
    As killed viruses do not induce any rhinitis, even not in a mild form, there are no problems during pregnancy. Your queen gets an extra boost and her immune system is strengthened, consequently the immune system of the foetus is strengthened, too.
    Note: Be aware that every vaccination with live viruses immediately before mating or during pregnancy will cause severe problems for the foetus, some might even die before born. Therefore make all other vaccinations (like against panleukopenia , against FIF and FelV or against FIP) right in time before you plan to mate your queen.
  • Immediately after giving birth give a second shot to your queen with a vaccine against respiratory diseases based on killed viruses.
    This second boost strengthens once more the immune system of your queen and the little babies will profit from it while the queen is lactating them, as they get the maternal antibodies through the milk of the queen.


Now you ask yourself which vaccines against respiratory problems are based on killed viruses. The products named her are only a selection, but shall be available at least in every country in Europe.

  • One vaccine comes from Fort Dodge: Fel-O-Vax PCT or Fel-O-Vax IV
  • Another vaccine comes from Rhône Merieux: Feliniffa HC
  • Or from Hoechst Roussel: Felidovac PRC.

Ask your vet or pharmacy to order those vaccines.

Be aware, that in many countries the vets have got a certain vaccination scheme from their nearest veterinarian university and very often use vaccines based on live viruses. Therefore before the vaccination of your cats ask your vet, which vaccines he uses and ask him to order one of the above mentioned vaccines or a similar one, which is based on killed viruses.

Symptoms of respiratory problems in cats

Note that the symptoms for respiratory problems vary in a wide range:

  • weeping eyes and/or sneezing - the milder form of respiratory problems, sneezing is first watery and later on mucopurulent (thick yellow to green)
  • conjunctivitis up to corneal ulcers, sometimes the eye lids are so swollen that the cat can't open its eyes
  • coughing
  • ulcers on the lips or the limbus, even on the palate, tongue or the anus ulcers can appear
  • breathing problems
  • bronchitis to lung infections (pneumonia) - the most severe expression of the respiratory problems.
  • Sometimes the temperature of the cat is elevated, but not necessarily, it is not unusual that the temperature is as normal as always.

Read about the several causes for rhinitis.

Tips and hints what to do with respiratory problems in cats

Always take care that the cats eat and drink enough, even you have to feed them by hand. This is extremely important for little kitten as the kitten mostly do not suck enough because of breathing problems and soon will loose weight and get dried out.

  • For adult cats and kitten which are already eating themselves take high quality dry food, soak it in water and put it into a mixer that you get a pap (not too thin !) - so the cats get also liquid. Administer this pap with an one-way injection tube (without needle).
    You may also cook chickens and rice and mix it with the dry food in the mixer.
  • For cat babies, which still suck at their mother's tits, use rearing milk which you can get in a good pet shop - quite good to use is KMR milk (you'll get it from your vet). Depending on the age of the kitten you will have to feed them every second or third hour, day and night.
    Always check the weight of the kitten, even they are ill they have to put on weight !

Even the cats or kitten do not want to eat, scream or show breathing problems you have to feed them and make sure that you do not overfeed them. Be patient as the feeding procedure will take time, but always bear in mind keeping digestion active and running is the source of energy for your cats !

If the symptoms for respiratory problems are weeping eyes you have to treat the eyes of your cat to fully cure the respiratory problem and make the life easier for the cat.

  • Do not use any medicine or cream based on a Cortisone or Steroids basis - even not for a shorter period.
  • Cortisone and steroids have the side effect that the cat will become immune against antibiotics and any treatment against rhinitis. Antibiotics, Doxycyclins, Tetracyclins, etc. will not work and you always will have problems, especially in the colder or wetter seasons of the year.
  • When using Cortisone or Steroids you always will have to face the problem that litter might suffer from respiratory problems.

If the symptoms for respiratory problems in cats are sneezing or coughing antibiotics like Baytrill or Tetra- and Doxycyclins must not be always administered.
Many breeders have made very good experiences with the homoeopathic drug "Viruvetsan" (based on Echinacea), produced by DHU Arzneimittel in Karlsruhe.

  • One shot per day - during a period of 7-10 days.
  • Then during a period of 2-4 weeks one shot every 2nd or 3 rd day, depending when sneezing or coughing stops.


  • Viruvetsan can also be administered to pregnant or lactating queens, it strengthens their immune system and may prevent the little babies from sneezing.
  • Viruvetsan can also be administered to the little cat babies if they are sneezing or have weeping eyes. In manyt cases it is not always necessary to administer antibiotics.
  • You must be patient when using this drug and consequently administer it during a longer period.
  • Be aware, that the drug includes alcohol, which might cause Fibrosarcomas, if the injection is directly administered on top of the neck.

You can also use Amoxicillin for animals. This you can get in two forms:

  • pills, which you can use for the more grown up cats. The pills are given every day.
  • suspension, which is injected. The injection is mostly given every 2nd day.


  • Amoxicillin can be administered to the little cat babies, also to the new born. It is used also for more severe cases, or in case that amnion fluid has come into the lungs of the new born kitten.
  • Amoxicillin can also be administered to pregnant or lactating queens. It may save the babies from getting severe rhinitis.
  • Take care to administer the correct dose, which is calculated according to the weight of the cat or kitten.

If the cat has ulcers on the eyes, the limbus or the anus give them a bath with mallow put into hand warm water, duration approximately 3-5 minutes. You must repeat the bath several times per day, 3-5 times day.

Additionally you can help your cat with inhalations:

  • Do not use any drugs - they are not necessary.
  • Use one soup spoon salt per 1 liter of really hot water.
    Together with salt the same drug as used for horses can be used, based on terpentine oil (to be put into the hot water).
  • Put the cat in the kennel and put in front of the kennel a larger bowl filled with the hot water with salt. Cover both the kennel and the bowl with hot water with a large towel, so that the steam does not vanish into the air.
  • Inhalation for little kitties should not be longer than 1 minute !
    Inhalation for larger or adult cats should not go beyond 2-3 minutes !
    If the inhalation period is too long, you will cause the cat to sneeze blood out of its nose.
  • Repeat inhalation at least 3 times per day - in severer cases up to 5 times per day.
    Inhalation should be done at least between 3-5 days.
  • After inhalation do not forget to wrap the cat with a towel so that the cat gets absolutely dry.

There are also existing apparatus for "wet" inhalation as used for humans, which mostly can be bought in pharmacies or shops selling medical stuff, but those are not cheap. Do not buy those inhalers where you have to put a mask over the face because the cat won't like it.
If you are lucky to buy such an inhaler wrap the cat completely into a towel so that only the head looks out from the towel.

If the symptoms for respiratory problems in cats are bronchitis or lung infection - the most severest form - treatment is very often done with antibiotics, tetra- or doxycyclins. The dose depends on the weight of the cat, your vet will do the right prescription.


  • It is very risky to administer tetra- or doxycyclins to little cat babies.
  • You should take into account, also to use here Amoxillin, especially when the queen is pregnant or lactating. Try to avoid those heavy tetra- and doxycyclins.
  • But you can support here your cat doing the same inhalations as described above.

Very important is fresh air.
If you can put the cat outside into the fresh air, it must be warm enough!, you can place the cat in a cage (not in a closed kennel) outside in the fresh air. Make also sure that the cat gets some sunshine, but use an umbrella so that the cat does not grill in the sunshine.
In wintertime you should open from time to time the window to let fresh air in.

Furthermore a good climate inside the house is important. Make sure that the air is not too dry, which is very often the case during the heating period. Put bowls with water on top of the heaters or use a humidifier.

Always contact your vet if you are not experienced enough.
Do not prescribe the dose of medicines or drugs by yourself if you are not experienced and never had to do with respiratory problems in your cat before.
But also ask your vet to explain everything to you so that you feel confident that your cat gets the best treatment.


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