Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Last night I was drying my cat with a towel after shenanigans in the rain and she sneezed!


  • Can cats/dogs/hamsters or other pets catch the cold?
  • How quickly do they recover?
share|improve this question
I know from my own practice that lab mice can catch a cold. The get infected, are less active and sneeze. It takes them a few days to clear this. That was the reason we where usually not going into our mouse facility when having a cold. – Chris Dec 18 '13 at 20:13
@Chris I guess that is quite revealing! Quite interesting actually, I suppose we can then catch it off them too? – hello_there_andy Dec 18 '13 at 20:14
I am not sure. Our immune systems share similarities, but they are not completely indentical - something very important to keep in mind when you want to to immunological experiments on model animals. Especially when it comes down to surface receptors of cells (important when a virus wants to enter a cell) there are slight modifications possible which can inhibit an infection. – Chris Dec 18 '13 at 20:46
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Yes they can. The viruses that cause a cold include rhinoviruses (up to 80%), coronaviruses and influenza (together accounting for much of the remaining 20%) and a small percentage of adenoviruses. When discussing cross species transfer, influenza is the most important to discuss as it is a fairly common cause of the "common cold".

Influenza A has humans, pigs, bird and horses as its host. Different influenza strains have different hosts. Influenza can recombine if two strains infect the same host (antigenic shift) and also mutate (antigenic drift). With a combination of these influenza can and has numerous times crossed the species barrier which has caused the major flu pandemics as well as swine and avian flu. It's this reservoir that makes these viruses so hard to eradicate. When we are the only host such as in polio virus, it is a lot easier. Pigs don't adhere to national flu guidelines.

Comparing recovery times, all mammals are roughly similar although due to our slightly more evolved immune system as well as social factors of knowing what to do when we are ill we recovery very slightly earlier.

share|improve this answer
The influenza virus doesn't cause a cold. It causes influenza. Colds are cause by completely different virus families (Rhino-, Entero-, Corona-, Mastadenoviridae to name only a few). The influenza belongs to the orthomyxoviruses. The other thing: Viruses do not cross necessarily species borders again, when they did this once. This ist mostly a matter of chances and contact and doesn't happen too often (luckily for us), since zoonotic viruses are usually pretty dangerous. – Chris Dec 20 '13 at 11:12
@Chris Influenza causes around/up to 20% of "common colds". I have updated my answer to reflect this. Also Rhinoviruses are part of the Enteroviridae family. Also the question was whether it is possible which it is, but I agree that it is fairly rare. Whether it is dangerous is another question, initially they often are as they are maladapted. As time goes on they are less dangerous which is something that is hypothesised may occur with HIV. – AndroidPenguin Dec 20 '13 at 15:39

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.