Do Cat Infections Go Away Without Antibiotics

Types of Infections in Cats

Cats can get various types of infections, some of the most common include:

Upper Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections, also known as URI, affect a cat’s upper airways and sinuses. Common causes include viral infections like feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. Symptoms usually include sneezing, nasal discharge, watery eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite, and fever (1).

Skin Infections

Skin infections in cats can be caused by bacteria, yeast, or parasites. Common examples include ringworm, yeast infections, flea allergy dermatitis, mange, and hot spots. Symptoms involve skin irritation, itching, redness, hair loss, and scabs or sores (2).

Ear Infections

Ear infections, or otitis, often involve a bacterial or yeast overgrowth in a cat’s ears. Signs include head shaking, scratching at the ears, odor, redness, discharge, and crusty buildup. Untreated infections can lead to pain, hearing loss, and balance issues (3).

Urinary Tract Infections

Bacteria like E. coli are a common cause of urinary tract infections or cystitis in cats. It can lead to straining, blood in the urine, excessive licking of the genital area, and frequent trips to the litter box. If left untreated, it can progress to a dangerous kidney infection (4).

Gastrointestinal Infections

Viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections in a cat’s digestive tract often cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, and dehydration. Common examples are panleukopenia virus, salmonella, campylobacter, giardia, and roundworms (5).




Causes of Infections in Cats

Some of the most common causes of infections in cats include:


Bacterial infections are very common in cats. Some examples include pyoderma (skin infections), urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and gastrointestinal infections. Common bacteria that can cause infections in cats include Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella ( Bacterial infections can occur when bacteria enter the body through an opening or wound.


Viral infections are also very prevalent in cats. Examples include upper respiratory infections, panleukopenia, feline leukemia virus, and feline immunodeficiency virus. Viruses can be transmitted through direct contact with infected cats or contact with contaminated objects and environments (


Fungal infections like ringworm are common skin infections in cats. They develop after exposure to infected soils, environments, or other animals. Yeast infections may also develop, often secondary to an underlying health condition.


Parasitic infections are also prevalent in cats. Examples include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, giardia, coccidia, and more. Cats can pick up parasitic infections through contact with infected feces or consumption of infected rodents or fleas.

Symptoms of Infection in Cats

Cats with infections can exhibit a variety of symptoms. Some common signs of infection in cats include:

Discharge from eyes/nose – Infections in the eyes, nose or upper respiratory tract can lead to discharge or mucus from the eyes and nose. This discharge may be clear, yellow, green or bloody. Significant discharge often indicates infection.

Sneezing, coughing – Respiratory infections often cause sneezing, coughing and wheezing as the lungs and airways become irritated. Sneezing viruses like feline herpesvirus are common causes.

Itching, hair loss – Skin and ear infections can make cats extremely itchy, resulting in overgrooming, scabs and hair loss. Ringworm fungal infections also create itchy patches.

Head shaking, ear odor – Otitis and ear mite infections frequently lead to head shaking and a foul odor from the ears. Redness or discharge may also be visible.

Increased urination, blood in urine – Bladder infections or crystals can cause increased frequency of urination. Blood in the urine indicates irritation or infection in the urinary tract.

Vomiting, diarrhea – Gastrointestinal infections cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Intestinal parasites, viruses, bacteria or fungi are often the cause.

If a cat is displaying any signs of illness, it’s important to see the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Left untreated, infections can worsen and spread to other areas of the body.

When Antibiotics Are Needed

Antibiotics for cats are often prescribed when there is a confirmed or suspected bacterial infection. According to Purina, antibiotics are generally needed in the following situations:

– Certain bacterial infections, such as a urinary tract infection or upper respiratory infection caused by bacteria like Chlamydia felis, cannot be cleared up without antibiotics.

– If the infection is widespread and causing systemic signs like fever, lethargy, and reduced appetite, antibiotics are required to treat the underlying infection.

– Cats with a weak or compromised immune system may not be able to fight off an infection on their own, requiring antibiotic treatment.

– If the infection is not improving with supportive care like fluids, a veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotics.

When Infections Resolve Without Antibiotics

Many viral infections, such as feline herpesvirus and calicivirus which cause upper respiratory infections, often resolve without antibiotics, according to VCA Animal Hospitals ( Since antibiotics have no effect on viruses, these infections need to run their course. Supportive care like fluids, rest, and nutrition help the cat’s immune system fight off the virus.

Similarly, mild localized bacterial infections, like small abscesses or wounds, may heal without antibiotics, especially if caught and treated early. According to the Austin Animal Center, minor infections can resolve with cleaning and topical treatment (

Cats who are otherwise healthy and have strong immune systems are also more likely to recover from minor infections without antibiotics. Good nutrition, low stress levels, and lack of other illness helps cats’ bodies fight bacteria and viruses effectively.

Supportive Care for Infections

Supportive care is essential for cats with infections. The primary goals of supportive care include:

  • Rest – Ensuring the cat gets plenty of rest and relaxation can help them conserve energy to fight the infection.
  • Nutritional support – Cats with infections often have reduced appetites, so tempting them with smelly canned foods, broths, or hand feeding may be necessary. Getting adequate nutrition provides energy and supports immune function.
  • Cleaning discharges – Gently wiping away any nasal, eye, or other discharges helps keep the cat comfortable. Using a warm, damp cloth moistened with saline can help loosen dried discharge.
  • Topical treatments – Applying soothing, healing topical treatments can provide relief. Examples include saline drops for the eyes and nose, and antibacterial or antifungal ointments if applicable.
  • Pain medication if needed – Some infections cause body aches or headaches. Veterinarian-prescribed pain medication can help relieve discomfort.

Implementing supportive care strategies provides comfort while the cat’s immune system works to fight off the infection. Consult a veterinarian to develop an appropriate supportive care plan.

Home Remedies

There are some natural home remedies that can help relieve symptoms and promote healing for mild cat infections:

Increase water intake – Encouraging your cat to drink more water can help flush bacteria from the body and keep your cat hydrated. Consider adding some low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth to their water to entice them to drink more.

Steam inhalation – For upper respiratory infections, you can run a hot shower and sit with your cat in the steamy bathroom for 10-15 minutes to help loosen mucus and make breathing easier. Be careful not to overheat your cat.

Clean with saline – Use a gentle saline solution to clean infected eyes, wounds or abscesses. This helps remove debris and soothe irritation without harsh chemicals. Use a cotton ball and dab gently.

Apply warm compresses – Placing a clean, warm, damp washcloth over infected areas can help draw out infection and provide comfort. Do this 2-3 times a day for 5-10 minutes.

Make sure to monitor your cat closely even with home treatment. Seek veterinary care if symptoms persist or worsen. Many infections do require prescription medication.

When to See the Vet

While many mild cat infections can resolve on their own, it’s important to get your cat veterinary care for severe symptoms or if the infection is not improving after 3-5 days. Some situations that warrant a trip to the vet include:

Severe symptoms likeabnormal litter box behavior, repeated vomiting, or inability to urinate. These signs indicate your cat needs emergency care.

The infection is not clearing up after 3-5 days of home treatment. Persistent symptoms suggest antibiotics may be needed.

A known bacterial infection like a skin abscess or respiratory infection. Bacteria do not resolve without antibiotic treatment prescribed by a vet.

Weak or elderly cats are more vulnerable to infections becoming severe. It’s safer to have a vet evaluate them sooner rather than later.

Seeking prompt veterinary care gives your cat the best chance of recovering quickly from an infection.


There are several ways to help prevent infections in cats:

  • Vaccines – Getting your cat routinely vaccinated is crucial to preventing many viral and bacterial illnesses. Core vaccines include FVRCP for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia and rabies. Other non-core vaccines may be recommended based on lifestyle and risk.
  • Parasite control – Using monthly heartworm, intestinal parasite and flea/tick prevention helps stop parasitic infections that can compromise the immune system.
  • Reduce exposure to contagions – Keep your cat indoors to reduce the risk of exposure to infectious diseases from other animals. Also avoid contact with stray/unvaccinated cats.
  • Reduce stress – Chronic stress can suppress the immune system, so provide a predictable routine, enrichment, and minimize changes to their environment.

Discuss preventative care with your veterinarian to develop the best infection prevention plan for your cat.


The prognosis for infections in cats can vary depending on the type and severity of infection. With appropriate treatment and care, many mild to moderate infections can resolve within 1-2 weeks (1). However, some infections may recur if the underlying cause is not addressed. For example, urinary tract infections may return if predisposing factors like bladder stones are still present.

In general, the prognosis for common bacterial and parasitic infections is good with timely veterinary care and proper treatment such as antibiotics or deworming medication. More serious infections like feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) remain incurable, but cats can live for months or years with good supportive care (2, 3). Close monitoring by a veterinarian is recommended if these viruses are suspected.

Overall, the prognosis for most feline infections is positive when appropriate veterinary treatment, diagnostics, medications, and supportive care at home are provided. However, illnesses allowed to progress untreated could lead to life-threatening complications and a grave prognosis.

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