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( Originally Published 1936 )
A CAT WITH A COLD IN THE head is just as uncomfortable as you are when you have the snuffles; and you have the solace of a handkerchief, while even the most intelligent cat can never be taught to blow its nose. Colds are sometimes called nasal catarrh, or coryza, or rhinitis, but by whatever name we call them they are just as annoying and dangerous. The beginning of a cold may be the first symptom of distemper, or influenza, or really serious catarrh, and for this reason, and also because colds are contagious among cats, you should, if you have more than one cat, isolate the infected animal at once.
Cats that are soft from a sedentary life, or logy from overeating, are more likely to contract colds than those that are sensibly fed and have plenty of exercise. Exposure, a draft, a run-down condition may bring on a cold. If you bathe your cat and do not dry it properly, it is apt to have an attack of the snuffles. Kittens are especially susceptible, and a tendency to colds is often found in youngsters purchased from pet shops or catteries where the animals are crowded together in quarters lacking air and sunshine.
A cat with a cold coming on is usually languid, and sneezes and shakes its head, trying to expel the mucus that clogs its nostrils. Examine the nose and you will find that it is warm and dry, sometimes with a thin discharge issuing from it. The eyes, too, are watery. Usually there is fever, but this you can determine only by using a thermometer, and as a cat's temperature is taken in the rectum it requires dexterity to do it. As I mentioned in Chapter II, there is a rectal thermometer for small animals, but an ordinary clinical thermometer can be used.
Often, with nursing, a cold clears up in a few days, and it is not necessary to call a veterinarian. Just keep the patient warm and quiet, away from drafty windows, and give it inhalations of medicated steam several times a day to clear out the head. I have heard cat-owners say that when they tried this the cat scratched and bit and upset the steam kettle, but I think this was the fault of the owners. Accustom your pet from the first to accept necessary ministrations, and if you are firm and gentle you will not have much trouble.
I used half a teaspoonful of Vick's VapoRub in a cupful of steaming water, but five or six drops of any volatile oil, such as eucalyptus, will do. I set my cat on a chair, draping a blanket over chair back and cat like a tent, and with one hand bent its head over the steam kettle, which I held with the other hand. But if your cat struggles it is best to use a chair with a perforated seat, and set the kettle under the chair.
A drop of oil of eucalyptus brushed on the fur of the forehead so that the patient will inhale the vapor is a good measure. If the mucus in the nose is obstinate, put two drops of argyrol (5 per cent solution) in each nostril twice a day. If your pet's afflicted nose is sore, rub on a little white vaseline to soothe it. When the throat is inflamed it may help to swab it with a 10 per cent solution of argyrol. Swabs are easily made by winding absorbent cotton securely around the end of an orange stick.
Medicines, I think, should be avoided in dealing with cats, except when prescribed by a competent veterinarian. But aspirin is simple and can do no harm; a quarter of a five-grain tablet three times a day for two days has been known to break up a cold. At any rate it soothes the headache that accompanies a cat's cold, just as it does yours. And be on your guard against constipation. At the first sign of it administer milk of magnesia in the morning and again at night for one day, repeating this treatment the following day in obstinate cases. The dose is from one-half to one teaspoonful of the liquid milk of magnesia, or one tablet for a small cat, two tablets for a large cat. Directions for administering medicine in its various forms will be found in the chapter on The Importance of Nursing.A common cold does not usually affect a cat's appetite, except in severe attacks, where there is general inappetence. Unless there is fever it is we11 to heed the old adage and feed the cold; but remember that right feeding is doubly important at such times. Sometimes a convalescing cat is debilitated, and then half a teaspoonful of cod-liver oil is a good builder, unless it disagrees with the patient, as it does with some cats. Some take oil nicely from a spoon; for others it must be mixed with the food or put in a capsule.
Superior folk who suppose that the human race has a monopoly on diseases are surprised to learn how many respiratory ailments cats can have. And often it is a cold that ushers one of them in. Laryngitis is not uncommon in cats, and they have sinus affections, which hurt them just as much as yours do you. They have acute bronchitis, and chronic bronchitis, and bronchopneumonia, and the more serious lobar pneumonia. They have pleurisy, they have influenza, and they have cat distemper, which is not quite like dog distemper but is bad in its own way. And many a neglected cat has wasted away from tuberculosis, just as poor human beings did in pathology's dark days.
Most of these diseases have their own danger flags. If you are informed you can pretty well guess, from the character of the cough, the changed breathing, or some other symptom, what it is. But do not experiment with treatment. Call the veterinary.