How Long Should You Quarantine Your Cat After URI Antibiotics?


Feline upper respiratory infections (URIs) are common in cats, especially young kittens and cats in shelters. The viruses and bacteria that cause URI are highly contagious and can spread quickly between cats. URI causes cold-like symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and eyes, fever, and lethargy. In most cases, URI resolves on its own within 1-2 weeks. However, antibiotics may be prescribed by a veterinarian to treat secondary bacterial infections and speed recovery. Commonly prescribed antibiotics include amoxicillin, doxycycline, and azithromycin. It’s important to complete the full antibiotic course as prescribed even if symptoms improve.

Typical Antibiotic Treatment

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed by veterinarians to treat bacterial upper respiratory infections (URIs) in cats. Some typical antibiotics used include:

  • Doxycycline – This broad-spectrum antibiotic is commonly recommended as a first choice treatment for cat URIs. Doxycycline is given orally at a dose of 5 mg/kg every 12 hours for 7-10 days (1).
  • Azithromycin – Another broad-spectrum antibiotic that can be used to treat feline URIs. It is given orally at a dose of 10 mg/kg on the first day then 5 mg/kg once daily for 5-7 days (2).
  • Amoxicillin/Clavulanic acid – This antibiotic combo is effective against some bacteria that have developed resistance to other antibiotics. The dose is 12.5-25 mg/kg twice daily (2).

The choice of antibiotic depends on the vet’s assessment of the likely causative bacteria based on clinical signs, testing, and response to treatment. Cats may need to try different antibiotics if the initial one doesn’t improve symptoms (3).




Importance of Completing Antibiotic Course

It’s very important to complete the full course of antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian, even if your cat’s symptoms seem to improve. Upper respiratory infections in cats are often caused by complex bacteria like Chlamydophila felis and Mycoplasma species that require a lengthy antibiotic regimen to fully eliminate (Lappin 2017). While your cat may appear better after just a few days on antibiotics, stopping the medication early could allow these stubborn bacteria to persist and lead to chronic infection or recurrence of more severe symptoms.

Antibiotics work by attacking and breaking down the cell walls of bacteria. When first starting an antibiotic course, the medication will go after the weaker, more susceptible bacteria first. The stronger, more resistant bacteria can linger and multiply if the full antibiotic course is not completed. This breeds progressively hardier bacteria that become even more difficult to eradicate (Lappin 2017).

So even though it may be tempting to cease antibiotics when your cat seems back to normal, it is crucial to continue administering the medication as prescribed to fully resolve the infection. Consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to the prescribed antibiotic regimen. With patient compliance of the full treatment course, most cats make a complete recovery from URI within 1-3 weeks (Austin Animal Services).

Monitoring Symptoms

It’s important to monitor your cat’s symptoms closely after starting antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection (URI). Signs to look for include:1

  • Decreased nasal discharge and sneezing
  • Less squinting or discharge from the eyes
  • Return of appetite and energy levels

You should see gradual improvement within the first few days on antibiotics. Most cats show significant improvement within a week. If symptoms persist or get worse, contact your veterinarian, as a change in medication may be needed.2

Cats with viral URIs may not improve quickly, even on antibiotics, since antibiotics only treat secondary bacterial infections. In these cases, be patient and continue supportive care as the cat’s immune system fights the underlying virus.3

Monitor symptoms at least twice daily and record your cat’s temperature, appetite, energy level, and other signs. This will help your veterinarian determine if treatment adjustments are needed.

Quarantine Period

It’s important to quarantine a cat with URI from other cats in the household to prevent spreading infection. The typical recommended quarantine period is 2-4 weeks after the cat has finished antibiotics and symptoms have fully resolved. According to the Feline Upper Respiratory Infection guidelines from Austin Animal Services, a 10-14 day isolation period is recommended after the cat’s symptoms have resolved [1]. The VCA Animal Hospitals also recommends isolating the sick cat for 10-14 days once symptoms have improved [2]. This extended quarantine period ensures the infection is fully cleared from the cat’s system before interaction with other household cats.

During quarantine, the sick cat should be separated from other cats and kept in a comfortable, stress-free environment. It’s ideal to designate a separate room or area of the home just for the quarantined cat. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly after interacting with the quarantined cat before touching other cats. Dedicate specific food bowls, litter boxes, and toys only for use by the sick cat during quarantine. All items the sick cat touches should be disinfected regularly. With proper isolation and hygiene, other cats in the household can avoid infection.


Proper sanitation is crucial for controlling the spread of feline upper respiratory infections (URI) in multi-cat households and shelters. The feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus that cause URI can survive for prolonged periods in the environment. Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting litter boxes, food bowls, bedding, and any other items the infected cat touches can help remove infectious particles and prevent transmission.

Shelter Medicine recommends cleaning litter boxes daily with soap and hot water to remove organic matter, followed by disinfection with a 1:32 dilution of bleach or accelerated hydrogen peroxide cleaner ( Food and water bowls should also be washed daily and dedicated to each individual cat. Replace plastic bowls frequently, as they can harbor bacteria despite washing. Bedding should be changed daily, washed in hot water with detergent, and allowed to dry completely between uses.

Proper hand hygiene after handling infected cats is also important. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after interacting with a sick cat. Having dedicated cleaning tools, litter scoops, food bowls, and bedding for infected cats can further limit spread. Maintaining excellent sanitation standards can significantly reduce URI transmission.

Supportive Care

While antibiotics target the infection, supportive care at home is crucial for helping cats with URI recover comfortably. This includes ensuring your cat is eating, keeping nasal passages clear, and providing nutritional support.

Appetite loss is common with URI, so warming food to enhance smells and hand-feeding smelly foods like tuna can encourage eating. Provide several small meals instead of large ones. Nutritional gels or recovery foods may help. Keep your cat hydrated by adding water to food or using canned foods.

Nasal congestion makes breathing difficult, causing mouth breathing and reduced appetite. Use a warm, wet cloth to gently wipe away discharge around nostrils and eyes. Place your cat in a steamy bathroom for breathing relief. Discuss saline nasal drops or gentle suctioning with your vet if congestion is severe.

Supplements like vitamin C, lysine, probiotics, or colostrum provide immune system support and may help shorten infection duration. Ask your vet for optimal dosing. Monitor weight and hydration status daily.

Make your cat comfortable by providing soft, warm bedding in peaceful, calm areas of your home. Limit stress and activity during illness. Litterbox cleanliness is also important.

With attentive at-home care, most cats recover well from URI. Monitor appetite and symptoms closely, reporting any concerns to your vet. Supportive care allows recovery while antibiotics fight the infection.

Follow-up Appointment

It is important to bring your cat for a follow-up vet appointment after completing the antibiotic course for an upper respiratory infection (URI). The vet will want to re-examine your cat to ensure the infection has fully resolved and is not persisting or worsening.

Some key reasons for a follow-up include:

  • Assessing if the URI symptoms (nasal discharge, sneezing, congestion etc.) have improved or resolved. The vet will determine if the infection has responded to the antibiotics or if additional treatment is needed.
  • Checking for any complications or secondary infections that may have developed.
  • Testing to see if the cat is still shedding viral agents and remaining infectious. Viral cultures or PCR testing may be recommended.
  • Determining if the cat has recovered fully or if continued isolation and quarantine are required.
  • Discussing any additional supportive care or medications to help resolve lingering symptoms.
  • Developing a plan to reduce risk and prevent reinfection in the future.

Following up is key to ensuring your cat makes a full recovery. It also provides an opportunity to review home care and sanitation practices to limit transmission to other pets. With a combination of antibiotics, supportive care, and vet monitoring, most cats recover well from URI.

Preventing Future Infections

There are several steps cat owners can take to help prevent upper respiratory infections in the future:

Get your cat vaccinated. Vaccines are available for some of the most common URIs like herpesvirus, calicivirus, and bordetella. Keeping your cat up to date on these vaccines can help reduce their risk of infection (

Reduce stress. Stress can weaken a cat’s immune system and make them more prone to URIs. Try to minimize stressful events like changes in household or introductions to new pets (

Keep your cat indoors. Outdoor cats are at higher risk of exposure from infected animals. Keeping your cat indoors reduces their contact with potential sources of infection.

Sanitize litter boxes and food bowls regularly. Feline URIs can spread through saliva and mucus so keeping items clean can prevent spread.

Avoid overcrowding. Overcrowded housing can facilitate transmission between cats. Give cats adequate space and resources.

Support immune health. Feed a nutritious diet, address any underlying illnesses, and minimize stressors to keep your cat’s immune system strong.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Some URI symptoms can quickly become life-threatening emergencies requiring immediate veterinary care. Watch for warning signs like severe breathing issues, which indicate your cat may be struggling to get enough oxygen. Symptoms that require an emergency vet visit include:

  • Labored breathing or panting
  • Nostrils flaring when breathing in
  • Blue-tinged gums or tongue
  • Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Difficulty breathing even when resting

According to PetMD, cats with severe breathing issues due to URI may need oxygen therapy and intravenous fluids. Immediate treatment can prevent complications like pneumonia. Another emergency warning sign is lethargy combined with decreased appetite or not eating at all for over 2 days, which suggests your cat may be dangerously dehydrated. Vomiting, diarrhea, or seizures also require prompt emergency vet care.

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