Feline Herpes

Feline Herpes: Does Your Cat Have It?


Feline herpes, a condition known also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis, is without a doubt the most common cause of respiratory infection in cats. If you’re a first-time cat owner, then you may not be aware of how easy it is for felines to contract respiratory illnesses. Your cat is at an even greater risk of contracting such an illness if he or she hangs around with other cats, spends time outdoors, or experiences moderate to high levels of stress at home. If you spend a lot of time around your cat, then you’re probably going to be the first to notice when your furry friend isn’t feeling well. Keep reading to learn about feline herpes, including symptoms, contraction methods, treatment options, and how you can prevent the contraction/spread of this illness.




The symptoms of feline herpes are very typical of what you might expect to see with any other kind of cold or flu virus. To start, you may notice that your cat seems to be sneezing with some regularity. The sneezing will soon be accompanied by clear or yellow-tinted discharge of the nose, if that isn’t already the case. If your cat will allow you, hold him or her for a moment and carefully inspect the eyes of your cat. Do they seem to be weeping a clear discharge? In the early stages of this illness it may seem like your cat simply has a mild case of watery eyes, but you will soon tell by the build-up of discharge under the corners of your cat’s eyes that this is more than eye-watering. It is not uncommon for feline herpes to cause full-blown conjunctivitis, which can be identified by crusting of the eyelids which can cause the eye(s) to seal shut. Lesions or open sores, called ulcers, may also develop on the eyelids and around the eyes. This is common with feline herpes. Your cat might also run a fever and experience light drooling from the mouth.


If you are in-tune with your cat’s typical behavior, then you will also notice changes in your cat that may not be altogether obvious. For instance, your pet may seem easily fatigued and lose interest in the things he or she used to like, such as playing with other pets or a favorite toy. Depression, loss of appetite, and lethargy are very common symptoms of feline herpes. If your cat simply doesn’t seem to behave normally and you can confirm the presence of additional physical symptoms, then there is a good chance that your cat is suffering from viral rhinotracheitis. You may want to speak to your veterinarian about getting your cat checked out.


How it is Contracted


If you’re pretty sure that your cat is suffering from this illness, then one of the first questions in your mind is likely to be: How did my cat get herpes? You have to understand that herpes is very contagious—as much among cats as the herpes simplex virus is for us humans. All your cat needs to do is come into direct contact with the virus, which is easy enough if he or she spends time outside where they may encounter other cats with the virus. If your cat has ever spent time in a kennel or a shelter—even if it was years ago—then the herpes flare-up could be from that. More than 80 percent of cats that have contracted herpes in the past will keep the dormant virus in their systems for the rest of their lives. Stress, such as the addition of a new pet or moving to a new house, can lower the immune system just enough that the herpes virus can become prominent again, which results in a flare-up of symptoms affecting the respiratory area. Any situation that causes your cat’s immune system to suffer a serious blow can result in a relapse of symptoms.


Treatment Options


As with humans, felines that have contracted the herpes virus must simply ride out the symptoms until the virus has run its course. Although your veterinarian may decide to administer antibiotics as a precaution, this is not a cure for the actual herpes infection. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections; however your cat may benefit from such a treatment as a preventative measure against bacteria that may infect your cat while the immune system is preoccupied.


The best course of action that you can take is to follow your vet’s advice on making your cat comfortable and treating the symptoms throughout the illness. Use a warm rag to remove residue from your cat’s eyes and nose as necessary, as this will not only make your cat feel a bit more normal but will also help to prevent bacteria from making its way into your cat’s eyes or nose. Encourage your cat to eat and drink every day; the nutrients will keep your cat’s body energized for the fight against the infection.


Preventing the Spread of Feline Herpes


If your cat has feline herpes then it is important to keep this pet away from other felines in the household. Do not let your cat share food, water, or a litter box with other cats in the family and try to keep them from grooming and sleeping with one another whenever possible. If your cat is usually allowed outdoor access then you definitely want to restrict him/her from going outside until your cat is completely symptom-free.