Tagged: “Cat Adoptions”

Feline Herpes Shouldn’t Stop Adoption!

Feline Herpes Shouldn’t Stop Adoption!

By Mickey Zeldes  January 23, 2015

Vincent and Vanille are two very sweet, although a tad shy, teenagers that have spent most of their lives growing up in our shelter. They were rescued as tiny kittens from a field and sent into a foster home to be tamed down. That was last May. Because of recurring upper respiratory colds, they have been in and out of our sick bay. They probably have herpes (hard to definitively diagnose), which is very manageable with good care and would most likely improve quickly once they were out of the stressful shelter environment. But it’s amazing how many people balk when they hear the word herpes.

Herpes is a virus. People get herpes as well as other animals (feline herpes is not contagious to humans). Being a virus, there’s not really a medicine to cure it. Vaccines, however, can prevent it. Most healthy animals fight off viruses, but if someone is immune compromised or young, and has an immature immune system (like most orphaned kittens) or is under a great deal of stress (like being in a shelter – hello!) their body may not be as able to fight it off. The symptoms often show up primarily in the eyes – they get squinty, red and runny, and they sometimes have other cold symptoms; like sneezing, lethargy, congestion and lack of appetite.

Very young kittens that have a severe case of herpes can have their eyes permanently affected, but for most adult cats it’s just uncomfortable. Viruses are contagious (to other similar animals – feline herpes is contagious to other cats) but only when there is a full-blown outbreak. It can go into remission until the animal is sick with something else and the immune system is down again or until another stress comes into their lives (moving homes, for example).

From personal experience I can tell you that living with a herpes cat is really not a big deal (granted this is a study of just one subject). I have two dogs, four adult cats and foster dozens of kittens through my house each year, so my home is anything but tranquil. One of my cats has herpes and periodically will get symptoms of the runny eyes. None of my other cats or kittens have shown evidence of infection, so it seems that general standards of cleanliness is enough to contain the spread.

Although there is no “cure” for herpes, the most helpful thing I’ve found is giving her a daily dose of Lysine, an amino acid that promotes the immune system. Most pet stores sell it (herpes is very common), and it comes both as a powder you can sprinkle on the food or a tasty gel you can have them just lick up. My cat prefers the gel, and we just squirt it in her mouth from a syringe as a treat. It keeps her outbreaks to a minimum and shortens the duration.

Because cats with herpes are considered immune compromised and sensitive to stress, it is recommended they live indoors. Other than that and making sure they have high quality food and lots of love, they are no different than any other pet cat. We know that Vincent and Vanille would thrive once out of the shelter and even come more out of their shell once in a home of their own. They are hoping to be adopted together as they’ve never been apart since the day we found them in the field. Surely, someone out there is willing to open their hearts to this sweet pair of kittens? Is that you?