Cat herpes, also known as FVR/feline viral rhinopneumonitis and FHV-1/feline herpesvirus type 1, is a highly contagious disease which affects domestic and wild cats. But don’t worry, it’s only contagious to cats themselves - so you won’t be catching feline herpes anytime soon!
Your kitty should receive routine vaccinations to prevent them from catching feline herpes. However, sometimes kittens and shelter cats slip the system and catch the disease. It’s also possible for vaccinated cats to get cat herpes, though in these cases, it probably won’t be as severe.
How do cats get feline herpes?
Cat herpes is highly contagious. It’s the same issue as the human flu or cold - it’s easily passed on through any form of contact with virus particles.
If an infected cat dribbles or sneezes on an object, bedding, grooming aid or furniture, the next cat who comes into contact with the object is likely to become infected.
It can also be passed on when a cat comes into brief contact with an infected kitty or when they share food bowls and litter trays.
Though cats of all ages could catch feline herpes, kittens, pregnant cats or those with a lowered immunity are at a much higher risk of catching the disease.
Symptoms of cat herpes
“Pink, irritated eyes, inflamed eyelids, and eye ulcers and lesions can be symptoms, as can sneezing, drooling, in addition to the standard somethings-wrong-with-kitty fare of appetite changes, clinginess, and depression,” explains Abbie Moore and David Meyer in The Total Cat Manual.
If your cat were to catch cat herpes, they may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden, constant sneezing
- Runny, sore eyes
- Pink eyelids and eye discharge (conjunctivitis)
- Water nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Loud breathing
- Spasm of the eyelid or closed eyes
However, Abbie points out that “Most cats who catch feline herpes will not show any symptoms except for when they first get it and during occasional outbreaks”.
Treatment of cat herpes
Cat herpes sounds terrifying - but the good news is, it’s a condition which is fairly easy to manage. Often, owners don’t even realise their cats have herpes because the symptoms, at times, are so minimal.
However, feline herpes isn’t curable. The treatment is for the symptoms only. As soon as you notice any symptoms of cat herpes, make sure you keep your pet away from any other cats to prevent the spread of the disease.
Then, head to the vet. They’ll be able to go through treatment options. To ward off a nasty outbreak, a course of antibiotics or nasal drops may be required.
Otherwise, your vet will suggest management techniques which can help your cat to get back on track to leading a long, happy and healthy lifestyle are highly effective, such as:
Keeping things clean
During an outbreak, make sure you keep your cat's eyes and nose free of discharge by giving these areas a gentle wipe with a damp cloth.
Moisture, moisture and more moisture
It may sound strange, but bringing your cat into the bathroom whilst you’re having a hot bath or shower can help to ease congestion. The steam from the bath will soothe the nasal passage, allowing your kitty to breathe easier.
Tempting them with food
Cats sometimes go off their food during a herpes outbreak. Your task is to tempt them with anything you can think off. Try canned tuna in water, meat-based baby food or anything else cat-appropriate which they won’t be able to resist.
Keep your eye on symptoms
If you notice severe redness to the eye or if your cat won’t eat a thing, get your cat back to the vet immediately. They might need another course of topical or oral antibiotics. Overall, with care from you and your vet and some simple management techniques, cats with feline herpes can continue to live happy, healthy lives.
Preventing cat herpes
As an owner, the best way you can prevent feline herpes is by ensuring your cat gets their vaccinations and boosters on time throughout their life. On top of this, keeping their immune system in check by treating any other conditions promptly will minimise the risk of becoming infected.
If you’ve chosen to adopt a cat from a shelter or have taken in a stray, make sure you get them checked over by a vet as soon as you can and ensure they’ve been vaccinated. If they’ve been on the streets for some time, they may have cat herpes, so keep your eye out for symptoms.
Now you know everything about cat herpes, you can look out for the symptoms and keep your cat happy and healthy even if they were to catch the disease!