Can I Catch A Cold From My Cat?

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No, you can’t catch a cold from your cat and neither can your cat catch your cold. The reason is because the viruses that cause cat colds (flu) and human colds are “animal specific”. Each species of relevant cold-causing viruses only have the ability to invade the cells of a certain host and replicate within that cell. They can only replicate inside the living cells of animals.

They take over the cell and damage it. The virus particle makes a vast number of copies of itself which fills the entire cell. The cell bursts. The particles then make their way to the bloodstream and airways. It is this action/behavior that gives us the cold symptoms.

This means that cat and human colds are not “zoonotic” (an animal disease that can be transmitted to humans). Although almost all diseases caused by viruses only infect the host for which they are designed. Some cat diseases are zoonotic. Perhaps the best known are toxoplasmosis (a protozoan – single cell organism) and catch scratch fever (a bacteria) and the infamous, viral disease, rabies (a virus).

Viruses are about 1/100th the size of a bacterium. Both a virus and a bacterium are pathogens (microorganisms).

A “virus particle” is made of genetic material — DNA (a molecule – deoxyribonucleic acid) or RNA (a molecule – ribonucleic acid) enclosed in a protein coat. A molecule is: two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds. They are neutral electrically.

Two hundred different species of virus cause the human common cold. The most common are rhinoviruses, coronaviruses and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). As for the cat the main viruses that cause similar symptoms to ours are: feline herpes virus (FHR) and calicivirus (search results for this word on PoC).

The best disinfectant to kill cat viruses is bleach (Sodium hypochlorite).

There is some uncertainty about what I call “cat swine flue” (H1N1 Virus) which can be transmitted from human to cat. Is this the only flu-like disease that can be transmitted from human to cat?

“There are different strains of the H1N1 virus. Some strains of this virus are regularly found in people in certain areas and it does cause a small fraction of all flu-like illnesses and a small fraction of all seasonal flus.” (from this page on PoC)

But as for feline viruses infecting us – the answer is no.

4 thoughts on “Can I Catch A Cold From My Cat?”

  1. Great info and good to know we cannot transfer common cold or flu between us and our beloved cats. However, it’s another story for those who work closely with or own non human primates. The common cold and flu can be transmitted as well as TB. I had to be tested for TB prior to working at a primate sanctuary with many species of monkeys and the great apes gorilla, orangs, chimps and bonobos.

  2. Thanks.
    No, we can’t transmit any viruses like influenza, just as we can’t transmit HIV and FIV between ourselves and cats. I really can’t think of any virus that may be transferable between species, not even Ebola.


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