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Yes, your cat can get herpes – here’s what you need to know

I saw many interesting things while working in the veterinary field. Pet parents’ reactions to a feline herpes diagnosis topped the cake. It is hard to hear that your beloved kitty has herpes, but let’s be clear here; feline herpes is a very different beast than the herpes your sex ed teacher warned you about.

What is feline herpesvirus?

Feline herpesvirus is an upper respiratory virus, not an STD. The most common type of feline herpes is feline viral rhinotracheitis. What this means for your kitty is much more straightforward. Your cat has the human equivalent of the flu.

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Symptoms of feline herpesvirus

If your cat catches the herp, here are a few things to look out for:

  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive salivation

If you notice any of these symptoms, call your vet and schedule an appointment ASAP. Herpes is rarely fatal in healthy adult cats but is very dangerous for kittens and older felines. As the virus progresses, eye ulcers, as well as conjunctivitis, sometimes occur. This is a serious symptom that requires a trip to the veterinarian. Ulcers can lead to an infection in the eye, resulting in loss of vision and even loss of the eye itself. Your cat looks cute in its pirate costume, but it doesn’t need an eye patch.

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How did my cat get herpes?

If your cat was diagnosed with herpes, relax. Your cat wasn’t naughty.

Feline herpes, like the flu, is spread by sneezing and saliva. The virus does not last very long in well-ventilated, sunny areas but can survive for days in dark, moist environments. Humans can also transmit the virus to other cats by direct contact. Since cats groom themselves with their tongues, petting a sick cat and then petting your own cat is the equivalent of sharing a drink with someone with the flu.

If you have more than one kitty, the odds are high that both cats have been exposed to the herpes virus. Talk with your vet about preventative care options for your healthy cat.

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Can my cat give me herpes?

Your cat absolutely cannot give you herpes. The virus is not transmissible from cat to human any more than a case of human herpes is transmissible to cats. While letting your cat lick your face is not necessarily hygienic, herpes is not one of the things you should worry about.

Treating feline herpesvirus

Your vet might prescribe several different courses of treatment depending on the severity of your kitty’s herpes. Antiviral drugs treat the outbreak and supplements like L-lysine help prevent further outbreaks. Sometimes secondary bacterial infections occur, which require further treatment and medication.

The most important thing you need to know about feline herpes is that your cat is not to blame. Herpes doesn’t change your relationship, and with proper health care and a little TLC, your kitty will recover and live a long and healthy life.

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