I also live on a farm with a number of barn cats who earn their keep by keeping the rodent population in check. Also like you, I had a perfectly healthy "pride" of cats until a stray showed up in the early fall. Although he showed no signs, within a couple of months many of my cats were displaying the symptoms your cats have. The good news is that as long as they eat and drink they will get through this, the bad news is that it may turn out to be what my cats got, feline herpes virus, which like humans, once you have it you always have it. My vet explained that most cats once they get over the initial illness will be fine, generally, with periodic flare-ups, so you manage the symptoms. But, they will always be carriers so any new cat introduced will become infected and if you give any away they will spread it to their new home. I don't know if some cats have a resistance to it or what, but, some of my cats have never shown any symptoms. The most important thing I have learned through my experience is to really watch how congested they are, if a cat can't smell what it is supposed to eat it won't eat. I also made a cozy spot for my cats underneath a workbench that I have in the barn. I closed it in on three sides and hung a heat lamp for them so their systems only have to fight the illness not also use energy to keep them warm on a cold prairie winter. I no longer give kittens away and am going through the process of spaying/neutering all of my barn cats. I put money aside and do one cat at a time otherwise the vet bill would be astronomical. Some people think I am crazy to spend that kind of money on barn cats especially since we live by a busy road and have a large population of predators around but I look at it this way, if I don't I will have a population explosion of cats and no way to find them new homes because I won't pass an illness on to someone else. So, good luck, if you have any questions or comments for me just post them here and I will watch for it.
Aw, poor kitties. I don’t know where you’d obtain antibiotics without consulting with a vet. When URI gets bad, some vets even take x-rays, look for pneumonia etc. I would only give a prescribed amount of antibiotics. So, I would not recommend that, in the event that you do find antibiotics, give it to them randomly. Just keep cleaning their little noses to make it easier for them to breathe. Provide warm places and clean the area where they roam as frequently as you can. I am always spraying disinfectants in the house, opening windows and doors, and keeping the house clean to try to minimize the effects. But yours are barn kitties. It’s a different case. I know about the vet. Having so many cats will result in you spending a fortune treating them etc. Remember the hot water for those who cannot breathe very well. Just remember that your cats will not pass their disease on to you. So putting one or two in a small place with water vapor would be a good idea. Wipe their faces and clean their eyes with a wet towel to get rid of all that discharge, and let’s hope for the best.
Keep us posted.
Thank you for the information, I think it probably is URI of some type.
There is no way I coud afford to take them all to the vet it would cost me a fortune. I have noticed a couple of other cats that are not mine in the barn too. I suspect they are strays looking for a place to escape this really cold weather. I am not sure were to obtain antibiotics without a vet though. At least I know they can still eat and I give them warm water which they readily lap up.
I agree with Savas. Sanitary conditions can cause/worsen/lessen a cat’s URI. When the are is filthy or not very clean, the possibilities of the infection getting worse are high. Also, the number of animals in one area can certainly cause any condition to form or spread very easily. Since URI is highly contagious, it only makes sense that all your cats are sick.
According to the symptoms you describe, the cats need antibiotics. When there is heavy discharge, the best treatment is antibiotics, like Clavamox would be one. It could be they have feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus. Feline chlamydia, a bacterial infection, can also result in upper respiratory tract infections. I am going through that with my own cats, sneezing being the only symptom. Clavamox works well at killing the bacteria that causes this type of URI. You don’t even have to take them to the vet unless of course you want to or there are cats dying or unable to eat, drink etc.. If you get enough clavamox, and with a dropper give it to them twice a day. There are other antibiotics out there. Some work well in one cat but it may not be beneficial to the other.
Keep cleaning them like you’ve been doing. Good job. Provide sufficient fluids to prevent dehydration. I have heard saline spray for congested cats work, as well as shutting them up in a bathroom with the hot water going to break loose some of that gunk.
Take good care of them. Please come back with updates. It’d be good to keep them warm in a cozy place but….
If it isn't a mass outbreak of respitory infection (or one of the illnesses that cause respitory infections) then it could be a mold issue in the barn.
Unfortunately, it IS a barn. So it depends on what you've got stored in thier. Hay, animal feces, etc... all of these have potential molds in them that can cause sneezing and runny eyes. Even the wood can mold if old and subject to moisture over time.
So you'll have to assess the situation carefully to see if this is an issue.
Barn cats are a classic theme in social culture (and disney films!!). I'm glad to see you're doing your part to provide our country with "cultural flavor". :-)