Sneezing & Eye Discharge in Shelter Kittens

Symptoms can Worsen. A Veterinarian can Guide the Best Treatment


I recently adopted a 2 month old kitten from a shelter and the kitten has been sneezing, coughing, had watery eyes and now my older cat has the same symptoms. Should I take them to the vet?  I was told to make sure they are eating and drinking and if they stop to take them to the vet.  I don’t want my older cat to get any sicker.

Dr. Nichol:

Most adoption facilities do their best at disease prevention but respiratory infections are common in shelter kittens. Fortunately most get well on their own after a few weeks. But I wouldn’t wait for things to deteriorate; severe discharge from the eyes or nose, oral ulcers, and failure to eat indicate advanced disease.


These are complex infections. Many involve viral agents along with organisms like chlamydia, mycoplasma, and bacteria. Your veterinarian needs to examine both of your cats to determine if antibiotics or eye medication would be useful. Treatments vary and there are risks. Eye medications containing corticosteroids can cause problems; oral doxycycline helps many sick cats feel better but it can damage immature teeth.


Be careful where you get medical advice. The animal shelter staff tries to help but your cats need a real doctor to guide their recovery.