By Valentine the Black Persian Cat

Just the thought of a virus makes me want to dive under cover, doesn’t it you?  Did you know there is one called the herpes virus that we pussy cats can get?  No, not the burpies – the “herpes.”  It is true.  And in fact, I have it myself.  Yes, I really do.  I’ll tell you some interesting information about the herpes virus in general and will share bits from my own experience with having it, and hope to answer questions you might have along the way.

The Feline Herpes Virus is NO Fun!

What is the feline herpes virus?

Feline herpes, also referred to as FVR and FHV-1 in the vet community, is a virus that cats can contract, which can cause cold-like symptoms.  It can lead to upper respiratory infections, and especially in cats that have weakened immune systems.

How do Pussy Cats Contract the Virus & How is It Spread?

“The Most common way for the herpes virus to spread is through contact with
discharge from an infected cat’s eyes, nose or mouth.  Cats can catch this virus
by sharing litter boxes, food and water dishes with an infected cat, as well as
by mutual grooming.” – Pet MD

According to my vet, I call him Dr. Frick n’ Frack, at the McKenzie Animal Hospital, the virus can be transferred from an infected mother cat to her kittens (when they are still in her tummy), which means her kittens would be born with it.

And too, an infected kitten or infected adult cat with the virus can transmit it to another kitten or adult cat.

What are the Symptoms of the Virus?

Kitties can experience symptoms that are like those that human’s get with the common cold or flu.  These are ones I’ve experienced:

  • excessive sneezing
  • coughing (different from the cough that produces a hair ball)
  • weeping eyes
  • nose congestion
  • clear or colored (pale green or yellow) nose discharge
  • decreased or lack of appetite
  • decreased or lack of energy
  • decreased or lack of interest in regular activity
  • excessive swallowing
  • dermatitis

I Feel Under the Weather

I get several of the symptoms, noted above, in combination.  Mom says I also get “clingy” but then when it comes to bedtime I want to sleep alone, which tells her that I’m not feeling myself.

Additional symptoms of the feline herpes virus can include (EEK!): eye lesions; crusty lesions on face or paws from dermatitis; fever; eye ulcers; drooling; squinting; and even depression.

Unfortunately, many of the symptoms with the herpes virus are symptoms of other illnesses or conditions in cats.  That is why it is always best to take your cat into the vet if you see any changes in his or her normal behavior and routine, or if you suspect that he or she is uncomfortable or in distress.  Symptoms if left untreated can lead to infections or other serious health problems.

I Don’t Have Much Energy

So Why Is My Kitty Getting Symptoms Now When He Didn’t Before?

The virus can sit dormant in a kitty’s system for an indefinite period of time.  It is for that reason that cat owners don’t always know if their cat has the virus.  And if a cat is never tested for the virus it may go undetected until something triggers it.

Many kitties that have the virus are called “latent carriers”, which means that they may never experience symptoms or if they do the symptoms are mild and usually disappear quickly.  But these kitties can still transmit the virus to other kittens or cats during times of flair up.

That was the case for me.  I didn’t test positive for the virus until a couple of years ago, even though I had tested negative in prior years.  I was likely born with it or was exposed to it at some point in my past, possibly when I had stays at shelters.

What Triggers the Symptoms of the Virus?

A leading trigger of the virus can be stress from one or a combination of things that can include:

  • introduction of a new pet(s) or child(s) in the household
  • change of household (a relocation or move)
  • remodeling of room or rooms in the house
  • change of daily routine
  • seasonal allergies
  • allergic reaction to medicines, bite, or something else
  • exacerbation of other health issues
  • untypically loud noises & busy household activity

For me, it is the belief by my vet that that my seasonal allergies combined with an allergic dermatitis reaction I got from a flea bite, stressed my system enough to trigger the virus symptoms.  Mom suspects that a virus flair up on other occasions may have been triggered by a sensitivity to a particular flee preventative treatment, though the vet couldn’t confirm that.  I also have Polycystic Kidney disease and with that comes a weakened immune system.

So What Can you Do to Prevent Your Kitty from Getting the Virus?

For one thing, you can make sure your cat(s) always stays indoors, so it never comes into contact with kitty cats on the outside that could pass the virus on through a bite.  Even healthy indoor/outdoor cats are at risk of being exposed to the virus anytime they visit the outdoors where other cats are present.

It’s Best to Keep Kitties Inside

If you plan to adopt a kitten or cat from a breeder, make sure you ask if the mother and father cats have ever tested positive for the virus or if any of their offspring have.  This is so you know in advance before making a commitment.

There is a vaccine for cats.  And according to Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the herpes vaccine is considered a “core vaccine” – one of those vaccines that “every pet should get.” (  The vaccine is administered as a shot and it is good for a year. I know, I know, we kitties HATE HATE getting shots, let alone visits to the V-E-T or vet hospital, but it is for our own good.  And though the vaccine doesn’t prevent a cat from getting the virus the vaccine is supposed to reduce the severity of the disease.

What Type of Treatments are there for the Virus?

There is no cure for the virus at this time, but there are medicinal and herbal treatment options that can lessen the symptoms, help decrease the likelihood of flair ups, and help boost overall health.  These can include immune support tablets or supplements, Lysine, and antiviral medications.  Honey and even marshmallow root (in powder or liquid form) are more natural remedies.

As suggested by my vet, dabs of raw honey have helped calm the inflammation in my throat and lungs.  (I lick it off Mom’s finger and it’s nom nom tasty!) He has also recommended that Mom sit me in the bathroom to breath in the warm steam from a hot shower, which helps to break up the congestion in my nose and lungs.  On a few different occasions, when my symptoms got to be too much, my vet gave me a special injection which lasted for 30 days to calm things down.  I get a flair up of the virus about once or twice a year and have for the past two years now.

Is There a Way to Test for the Virus?

There is a PCR test that involves taking a swab of nose or eye discharge, or saliva; or taking a blood sample, which is sent to an offsite lab or to an in-house lab at a vet clinic.

Before I was given the test, my vet reviewed my health history file and gave me a thorough physical examination, noting any changes to my health as expressed by my humans.

Me at the V-E-T

Should You Adopt a Kitty That Has Tested Positive for the Virus?

You shouldn’t keep from adopting a kitten or mature cat, just because it has or is suspected to have the herpes virus.  But you need to be aware of of it and be willing to provide for any special care and treatments that kitty may need throughout his life in dealing with the virus.

To learn more specifics about the Herpes Virus and infections caused by the virus visit (

Purr-lease note:  I am not a veterinarian professional.  I am a pussy cat.  This post was written in my opinion.  It is important that you consult with your vet so that a care plan can be put together to meet the specific needs of your cat.

About the author

-Valentine the Persian Cat
From Noir Kitty Mews

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