Natural Remedies for Your Sniffling Kitty. Best Herbs for Feline Upper Respiratory Infections


Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are common in cats, especially kittens and cats from shelters. The most common causes are viral infections like feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. Symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge, eye discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, and fever. While mild cases may resolve on their own, more severe cases require veterinary treatment with antibiotics or antivirals. Natural remedies like herbs may help reduce symptoms and support the immune system. Certain herbs have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties that can be beneficial. This article provides an overview of herbs that may help cats recover from URIs.


Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe upper respiratory infections in cats. The herb contains compounds like bisabolol and apigenin that reduce inflammation and irritation in the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract (1). This helps relieve congestion, coughing, and sneezing.

Chamomile also contains antispasmodic properties that relax smooth muscle tissue and open up constricted airways. Its soothing nature calms respiratory distress and eases breathing (2).

To prepare chamomile for cats, steep 1-2 teaspoons of dried flowers in 1 cup hot water for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and strain. Give cats 1-5 ml of the tea 2-3 times daily. Always monitor your cat closely when introducing new herbs and stop use if any adverse reaction occurs.

Chamomile is generally very safe but large amounts may cause vomiting. It’s best used short-term for acute infections in cats (3). Consult your veterinarian before using.



Echinacea is an herb that stimulates the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is commonly used to help cats with upper respiratory infections. According to VCA Hospitals, echinacea increases white blood cell and macrophage activity, helping the body fight off infection1.

The Pet Beastro states that echinacea’s anti-inflammatory properties make it helpful for nose and sinus issues in cats2. It can be given both internally and applied topically to the nose and throat area.

The typical dosage for cats is 1/4 tsp of the tincture 1-3 times per day when needed for respiratory issues. Echinacea can also be found in combination formulas with other immune-boosting herbs specifically for cats. It’s best to follow label instructions for the product you are using.


Astragalus is an herb that has powerful immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties that can be beneficial for cats with upper respiratory infections. According to research, astragalus has antimicrobial and antiviral effects that can help fight respiratory infections (1). It is often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been shown to stimulate the immune system by increasing interferon production and activating T-cells and natural killer cells (2).

Studies have found astragalus effective at reducing symptoms and shortening the duration of respiratory illnesses. One study gave astragalus to children with recurrent respiratory infections and found it reduced fevers and coughing (3). The anti-inflammatory effects of astragalus can also help soothe inflammation in the airways.

The typical dosage for cats is 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of powdered astragalus root per day. It can be mixed into food or made into a tea. Do not give astragalus for more than 1-2 weeks at a time. Monitor your cat closely when first using astragalus to watch for any side effects like diarrhea or upset stomach.


Licorice Root

Licorice root contains compounds like glycyrrhizin that have soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies show it can be beneficial for upper respiratory infections in cats by soothing sore throats and suppressing coughs. The anti-inflammatory effects may also help reduce swelling and irritation in the throat and airways.

For respiratory issues, licorice root is often given in doses of 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon per day for a medium size cat. It’s best to use organically grown dried root, boiled into a tea or decoction and then mixed with some broth or food to improve palatability. Speak with your veterinarian regarding the appropriate dosage for your cat.

Licorice root should not be given long-term due to potential side effects like fluid retention or high blood pressure at high doses. It’s considered safe for short-term use of around 1-2 weeks while your cat recovers from an upper respiratory infection under veterinary guidance on dosage and duration.

Slippery Elm

Slippery elm bark can help soothe irritated mucous membranes in a cat’s respiratory tract. It contains mucilage, a substance that becomes a slick gel when mixed with water. This mucilage coats and protects the mucous membranes, throat, stomach, and intestines (1).

Slippery elm also has anti-inflammatory effects that may help reduce respiratory inflammation. The bark contains antioxidants that help relieve inflammatory reactions (2).

For respiratory infections, slippery elm is commonly administered as a powder added to food or made into a broth. Typical dosages are 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight, given 2-3 times daily. It’s best to consult with a veterinarian on the proper dosage for your cat (3).

To make slippery elm broth, simmer 1-2 tablespoons of the powder in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. Let cool and administer the broth to the cat slowly with a syringe or dropper so they don’t inhale it. The powder can also be sprinkled onto wet food. Be sure to stir it into a gruel so it doesn’t irritate the throat (1).


Goldenseal contains the compound berberine, which has natural anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. According to Only Natural Pet (, this herb “supports immune function during times of stress and is commonly used to treat upper respiratory infections in cats and dogs.” As an antibiotic, goldenseal may help fight or prevent secondary bacterial infections associated with upper respiratory infections in cats.

The typical dosage of goldenseal is 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon per day for small cats, or 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon per day for larger cats, mixed into food. It’s best to consult with your veterinarian before giving any new supplements. Goldenseal should not be given long-term, but can be used for short courses of 5-7 days as needed for respiratory infections. Look for alcohol-free formulations, as the alcohol content can be hard on a cat’s stomach.

Other Supportive Care

In addition to herbal remedies, other supportive care strategies can help cats recover from upper respiratory infections. According to the VCA Hospitals article on Feline Upper Respiratory Infection, increasing fluid intake is crucial. Cats with respiratory infections often have decreased appetite but increased fluid needs. Providing canned food, broths, and extra water encourage drinking.

The PetMD article on Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats recommends steam therapy to help loosen mucus and clear airways. Place your cat in a steamy bathroom for 10-15 minutes at a time.

Ensuring adequate rest is also important, according to WebMD’s overview on Cat Upper Respiratory Infection Symptoms and Treatments. Sick cats need peace and quiet to conserve their energy for healing.

Finally, provide excellent nutritional support, as recommended in the WebMD article. Feed a high-quality diet and tempt your cat’s appetite with smelly, tasty foods like tuna, sardines, or boiled chicken. Maintaining calorie intake helps the body have resources to fight infection.

When to See the Vet

If your cat’s upper respiratory infection symptoms persist or worsen, it’s important to seek veterinary attention. Signs that warrant a trip to the vet include:

– Persistent fever – Fevers over 103°F that last more than 1-2 days may indicate a serious infection.

– No improvement after 5-7 days – Most upper respiratory infections improve within a week. If symptoms like nasal discharge, congestion, and eye inflammation persist, veterinary care is advised.

– Not eating or drinking – Loss of appetite and not drinking enough can lead to dehydration and malnutrition. Cats who stop eating due to respiratory distress need medical attention.

As recommended by VCA Animal Hospitals, it’s best to have your vet examine your cat if any of these concerning symptoms develop. Proper treatment from a veterinarian can help clear up stubborn upper respiratory infections in cats.


There are several herbal remedies that may help relieve upper respiratory infections in cats when used appropriately. Chamomile, echinacea, astragalus, licorice root, slippery elm, and goldenseal can help soothe inflammation, fight infection, reduce mucus, and support the immune system. It’s important to provide supportive care as well, like ensuring your cat stays hydrated and gets adequate rest.

While herbal remedies can help, it’s essential to monitor your cat closely and see the veterinarian if symptoms do not start to improve within a couple of days. Upper respiratory infections can worsen quickly in cats, so veterinary oversight is recommended. With appropriate at-home herbal therapy and care, plus veterinary attention if needed, many cats can recover well from upper respiratory infections.

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