The Animalista cat nasal condition home treatment

Cat Nasal Congestion Home Treatment Explained

By: Samantha Devine, DVM
If your cat has nasal discharge, there are methods for cat nasal congestion home treatment that can help them feel more comfortable and breathe easier.

If your cat is suddenly feeling under the weather, it can be hard to know how to treat them. One of the most common things cat owners face is the dreaded cat cold. If your cat is feeling stuffy, there are some cat nasal congestion home treatment options that you can give them to help them feel more comfortable. If your kitty’s symptoms worsen or don’t improve, always remember to take them to see a veterinarian.

The Animalista cat with a big yawn

Causes of Cat Nasal Congestion

Cats can develop nasal congestion for a variety of reasons. The most common type of “cat cold” is caused by viral infections, typically feline herpevirus and feline calicivirus. Your cat can also develop other infections, and it is not uncommon for bacterial infections to develop on top of viral infections, often causing thick, mucoid discharge from the eyes or nose.

Your cat can also develop nasal congestion due to allergies. Depending on where you live, allergies may be very common in pets and people. Itchy, watery eyes and nasal discharge are common symptoms of allergies. You might even hear your kitty sneeze.

Stress may also cause your cat to be immunocompromised and at risk for developing nasal congestion or a “kitty cold.” Cats are particularly sensitive to change. So something that seems simple, such as having friends or family visit, can cause them to become sick. Routine procedures, such as spaying or neutering, or boarding your cat while you travel have also been associated with cats developing upper respiratory infections.

Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

Signs that your cat may have an upper respiratory infection include signs similar to a person with a cold. You might see

  • Nasal discharge, either clear or mucoid
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Eye discharge
  • Wheezing
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Running a fever

It is very easy for cats with nasal congestion to become dehydrated and weak because they tend to be guided by their nose on what is safe to eat and drink. If they can’t smell it, they are not likely to eat it.

The Animalista Cat nasal condition treatment
Photo by Scott Longerbeam on Unsplash

Cat Nasal Congestion Home Treatment

If you are noticing that your cat is having congestion, there are some cat nasal treatments that you can safely practice at home to help provide your kitty with some relief. Opening the airways is a great way to help them, and you can do that in a few different ways.

While  your cat likely doesn’t enjoy the shower, putting them in the bathroom while you take a shower can help your kitty, much like breathing in the steam from a shower can help your airways when you have a cold. As little as 5 to 10 minutes can be beneficial. Just have them sit in the bathroom while you take your shower. This tends to be  low-stress way for many cats to have their nasal passages opened a little while they fight off a viral or bacterial infection.

If you can get your cat to sit near a humidifier or vaporizer, that’s another way to get them breathing in warm, moist air, which can help open their nasal congestion. Veterinarians recommend spending roughly 30 minutes per day for a few days for maximal benefits. If getting your cat to hold still near a humidifier is too stressful, consider trying the shower route, which may be more effective at steaming up the room.

If your cat is feeling chilled, they may seek a heated area for comfort. A cat bed that is designed with this in mind is recommended over using a heating pad. It’s very easy for pets to get burned by heating pads without careful temperature regulation. Meanwhile, cat beds are generally designed to prevent them from getting too warm, and your cat may enjoy the snuggled feeling they have while they fight the sniffles. If a heated cat bed isn’t an option, you can heat blankets in the dryer or fill bottles with hot water and wrap them in blankets to safely warm your pet.

Nasal Spray or Not?

Some people advocate nasal spray to help as a cat nasal congestion home treatment. You can often use a bulb syringe to gently clean out your cat’s nostrils, but as with anything, don’t stress your cat out trying that, which could make them sicker or cause them to scratch or bite you.

You can also use a pet nasal spray or infant nasal spray to help moisten their airways. Many cats will tolerate that if you are gentle and not forceful. Keep in mind that you don’t want to flush copious amounts of water, which may stress them out. Using a nasal spray can help clear some of the congestion, allowing them to breathe easier.

Supplements and Over the Counter Treatments for Cats

Many veterinarians advocate lysine for dealing with a cat with an upper respiratory infection. While it may not kick a “kitty cold” to the curb, it can lessen the effects of certain viral infections. Lysine is an essential amino acid, which your cat’s body can use to build certain proteins that are used in a variety of body processes. Lysine also helps inhibit the replication of feline herpesvirus. This is especially important because many cats have herpes lying dormant within their system, where it can easily cause respiratory infections if they get stressed out or immunocompromised.

When giving lysine, there are a few different formulations, including powders, pills, and gel formulas. Powdered lysine is typically easy to mix into your cat’s food if it is unflavored. Gel is likewise easy to give because you can put a dollop on your cat’s paw, and most will lick it off. Pilling your cat may be difficult to do, and it could also stress them out, so consider other options. A standard dosage of lysine is 500 mg given twice daily.

There are a variety of homeopathic options for helping boost your cat’s immune system, and each may have varying levels of effectiveness. Consider discussing them with your veterinarian to help select the best option for your cat.

Some people, including veterinarians, advocate giving cats vitamin C or apple cider vinegar for their immune boosting properties. Vitamin C is not an essential vitamin for cats: they make their own, unlike people. Along the same times, apple cider vinegar is pungent, and many cats won’t consume it readily.

Grooming When Your Cat Is Sick

While you are waiting for the cat nasal congestion home treatments to take effect, you might have to help groom your kitty. While cats are typically fastidious groomers, they often spend less time on the activity when they are not feeling well.

When your cat has ocular or nasal discharge, you should wipe their face with a clean, damp cloth. If they let you, gently massage their face, which can help break up some of the mucus in their nasal passageways, which may help them breathe a little easier.

Brushing them may help them feel better, and it will also help get rid of loose hairs that may matt down in their fur, causing a nightmare to get rid of later. Also make sure that their sanitary area is kept clean, particularly in long-haired cats.

The Animalista Kitten close up
Photo by Zoritsa Valova on Unsplash

Making Sure Your Cat Eats and Drinks Enough

When cats are congested, they lose their ability to smell, so many cats will stop eating. If your cat normally eats dry food, try switching it up with a bit of canned food. Some canned foods, such as Hill’s a/d, available with a prescription from your veterinarian. They are highly pungent, which helps encourage cats to eat.

You can also try chicken or turkey baby food as a special treat to get your cat to eat. You just need to read the label carefully and ensure that the baby food does not have any onions in it, which are toxic to pets. To encourage your cat to eat canned food or baby food, you can heat it up slightly to bring out the natural odors in the different foods.

You should also be monitoring your cat’s water bowl. Keep in mind that giving them canned food may naturally cause them to drink a little less. They should still be eliminating in the litter box, so be sure to clean it well.

If your cat lets you look in their mouth, you can get an estimate on their hydration status. Your kitty’s gums should be a nice pink color and feel wet and slippery, just like your gums. If the gums feel tacky or dry, your cat is likely dehydrated. You don’t want to force water on your cat, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia, so you should consult with a veterinarian.


If your cat is starting to show signs of a stuffy nose, consider these cat nasal congestion home treatment options. Monitor your cat carefully and schedule a visit with your veterinarian. If they are not feeling better within a couple of days or show other signs, such as lethargy or dehydration. Remember to minimize your cat’s stress level if you implement any of these treatment options, as they could get sicker.


By: Samantha Devine, DVM

Contributing Professional

The Animalista professional contributors are comprised of licensed Veterinarians and certified Veterinary Technicians who have been vetted by our team and have either authored or reviewed this content for accuracy. 

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