Upper Respiratory Infection (Chlamydia) in Cats

PetMD Editorial
Jul 17, 2008
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Chlamydiosis in Cats

Chlamydiosis refers to a bacteria based chronic respiratory infection, caused by the Chlamydia psittaci bacterium. Cats that have developed this infection will often exhibit traditional signs of an upper respiratory infection, such as watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. With treatment, the prognosis is positive.

Symptoms and Types

Chlamydiosis infection affects the respiratory system, the eyes, the gastrointestinal system and the reproduction systems of animals. Cats experience standard upper respiratory tract symptoms, including: 

  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Discharge from eyes
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Fever
  • Pneumonia, if left untreated


While there is a higher prevalence of this infection in kittens, this condition is present in all ages and breeds. Cats that are kept in crowded quarters with other animals, as in a kennel, are at an increased risk of infection. Added to the risk is the ease with which this bacteria travels. Transmission can take place even without direct contact with an infected animal, as the molecules from a cough or sneeze can travel across a room, a human caretaker can carry the bacteria and spread it by touch, or the cat may come into contact with a contaminated object, such as in a bedding or feeding area.


Your veterinarians will take a sample of the eye discharge, also referred to as a conjunctival scraping or swabbing, in order to have a culture of the fluid done to determine what the source of the illness is. If it is believed that pneumonia is present, an X-ray of your cat's lungs will be performed to check for the presence of fluid.

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