We got our cat as a kitten; she's now 12. When we got her, she had a bad upper respiratory virus. She was so congested at one point, we had to hold her upside-down to get the mucus to drain out of her so she could breathe. She survived the virus, but ever since then she's had a bad problem with congestion. I think the infection left scarring that blocked her tear duct on one side.

Her life is a constant cycle of: 1) Increasing "sinusy" congestion with runny eye and weak, nonproductive sneezing that doesn't clear anything. 2) Heavier congestion where we can see mucus in the nostril and she struggles hard to clear the blockage. 3) Eventual sneezing out of a very thick and greenish (sometimes hard, sometimes bloody) mucus plug. 4) About one day of amazing energy and playfulness; before back to 1) Increasing congestion. Amazingly, this cat has developed some kind of muscle control over her upper lip, whereby she can pull it up to block the unaffected nostril and increase her sneeze pressure to expel the plug.

Vets over the years have said there's nothing that can be done for her. The only thing that gives her any relief at stages 1 and 2 is if I rub a little Vicks onto my finger and hold it about 6 inches from her nose. She seems to like that.

Is there any new treatment for this problem? We hate to see her suffer this way, day after day.

  • It seems she is getting pretty old. If the vets say there's nothing to do, I feel it'll probably be best to free her of her suffering. If there were any treatment that could be done, the professionals would be the first to tell you. At this point in her life, I doubt you're gonna see any amazing recovery (12 is 70 in cat years). I'm very sorry to hear about her suffering; I tear up just thinking of this possibly happening to one of my cats /:
    – Dioxin
    Nov 5, 2014 at 20:37
  • (Continuation of previous comment. Was too long for 1 comment): A humidifier in the room might help break up the mucus; although, I'm not sure if cats handle mucus the same way that humans do (possible suffication due to not being able to eject the mucus), so I'd talk to a professional before hand
    – Dioxin
    Nov 5, 2014 at 20:37
  • You have described my kitten who is seven months to a tee! I can't imagine her enduring this for 12 years. We have tried antibiotics and anti fungal and about to trial steroids. If this doesn't work we are looking at euthanasia, we can't see her suffer anymore and cannot take anymore green snot on everything.!
    – user7803
    Aug 12, 2016 at 7:08

4 Answers 4


The symptoms that you describe seem to describe feline herpes (also known as FHV-1). The ASPCA lists symptoms of a feline herpes infection as

  • Sneezing “attacks”
  • Discharge from the nose and eyes
  • Conjunctivitis or pink eye (inflammation of the eyelid)
  • Lesions in and around the eyes
  • Eye ulcers
  • Congestion
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Squinting
  • Lethargy

While most cats can suppress the infection once their immune system learns it, a few cats are never able to fully rid themselves of the symptoms of feline herpes. One of my four has daily sneezing and nasal discharge from it. Otherwise he's fine and lives a normal life, we just sometimes wipe his nose (and our walls).

Even though I'm not a vet, feline herpes is extremely common in rescued cats, so it's a reasonable suspicion. Your vet probably sees this problem daily and didn't take the time to explain it. I don't have a particularly good feeling about a veterinarian that doesn't realize as common as it is to THEM, it's new to YOU.

I also check with my vet regularly (once a year or so) to see if there are any new treatments for feline herpes, so that's another thing you can do. There are a few treatments that are being researched, but there is not any evidence that they work yet.

Investigational Treatments

Probiotics. There isn't any evidence either way that this works, but it doesn't hurt and can be helpful if there are also gastrointestinal issues.

L-Lysine. Again, the evidence at this point is conflicting but it is made into treats and palatable pastes so you can try it without any harm to your cat.

Managing Symptoms

Most of the current treatments focus on managing symptoms.

My vet recommends saline nasal drops (example, commonly marketed for children/babies). Any drops you use should NOT contain any medications without the advice of your veterinarian.

You can keep your cat in a steamy area (like the bathroom while you take a shower, or a large carrier near a humidifier) to help break up the mucous.

If your cat develops a secondary infection, antibiotics can be helpful (talk to your vet).

Keeping your cat hydrated is important (the mucous will be thinner and easier to deal with). Consider switching to wet food if you feed dry.

Additionally, make sure that you monitor your cat's food intake. If your cat cannot smell her food, she may not want to eat it. You can heat wet food for a few seconds in the microwave or add smelly tuna juice to it to increase palatability. If she doesn't eat for a few days she can become seriously ill.

Sidenote: Corneal Ulceration

One of the most damaging affects from feline herpes is the development of eye ulcers. Cornell University gives the symptoms of a eye ulcer:

The clinical signs of corneal ulceration include inflammation of the tissue surrounding the cornea; seepage of discharge from the eye; clouding of the cornea; and apparent hypersensitivity to bright light. An affected cat may squint, rub its eyes, and behave as if it is having vision problems.

If you notice these signs in the future, you should take your cat back to the vet to be evaluated for an ulcer. While most ulcers will heal on their own, they can cause severe discomfort and in rare cases can permanently affect the cat's vision.

  • Hi - thanks for the information. My cat is not having most of those symptoms (no fever, depression, eye problems other than clear discharge, or lesions) so I'm not sure she has feline herpes. We have put her on antibiotics a couple of times when her eye discharge started looking greenish. Again thanks to everyone who responded.
    – redpenner
    May 14, 2015 at 5:18
  • @redpenner your cat doesn't have to have every symptom to have feline herpes (in fact most don't). My cat only has nasal congestion and sneezing.
    – Zaralynda
    May 14, 2015 at 13:17

None of my animals have had that problem, so the following ideas are based on my experience as a human with chronic nasal congestion.

Shut her in the bathroom with you when you take a shower. Make it a nice, hot, steamy shower. This should help loosen some of the mucus.

Get her to drink extra water. Pet stores sell water fountains designed for pets to drink from; cats tend to drink more when the water is fresh/running/aerated.

Since the Vicks seems to help, try putting a little on a (low-wattage) bulb in a table lamp. It should slowly release the vapour. Also, there are plug-in vapourisers for this purpose.

They make nasal aspirators for babies -- ask your vet if it would be safe to try one on your cat.

If it gets to the point where your cat's quality of life is threatened, you could ask your vet again if there's anything that would be worth trying, if only to give her another six months or a year. There might be a medication that your vet is reluctant to try because there are long-term risks associated with it (e.g. kidney disease), but at some point the short-term benefits may outweigh the long-term risks. There are so many different medications for humans with this problem; I'm surprised there isn't something available for cats.

See if different foods affect how much mucus she produces. Maybe a different food will help.


My older cat (a year older than yours) had an infection not long ago, and my vet suggested to instill a watered down injectable antibiotic (Lincomycin in our case, but it's individual) into her nose. I'm almost sure it can't be used long-term, but it should be fine if it's used in courses. Try talking to your vet about it? It can't be just mechanical blockage, otherwise there shouldn't be any pus (which makes the mucus green).


There are some very interesting anecdotal stories and testimonies here regarding Apple Cider Vinegar being effective for such conditions for cats with feline respiratory issues (Lysine is also mentioned).

Quote regarding Organic ACV (with the mother):

After purchasing a 32oz. bottle of OACV at my local grocery store, I came home and made a batch of OACV/Water ratio of about 1/4 cup OACV to 1cup purified drinking water from our home water system. I'm sure any normal faucet water would work fine but wasn't sure at that point if I was going to try adding some to their drinking water- turns out I didn't need to do that after all. I soaked cotton balls in the solution and applied to each cat on back of their necks down thru shoulder blades and to all 4 of their paw pads, especially the fronts because they will lick them throughout their day when cleaning themselves and Wallahh!! OACV ingested by default! Most of them didn't respond with licking their paws right away as I had hoped but made sure they all had a pretty good soaking to their neckline and also their front paws topsides as well as paw pads. Make sure it gets in between their toes/claws as well so the solution gets in there real good causing them to lick due to feeling wet and uncomfortable perhaps. I did this just 2 times in 24 hr period and once the following day and what a remarkable difference. ...

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