Exotic Shorthair and Feline Herpes Virus

by Jean
(Eureka, Nevada)

I have a 2 year old Exotic cat. She was purchased for shows and breeding. She developed Feline Herpes (or it occurred) when she was eight months old, near the time I brought her home. I kenneled my cat in a special-made room near the male. She came from a room full of other females.

I treated her for her feline herpes for nine months with a viral medication that left her cloudy. My cat became pregnant last February and lost her kittens in April. I had her spayed in April 2011. She has now become a pet. The problem is two fold.

I have let my cat roam free in my house. I have a 9 year old feral that does not like any other cat, and I was hoping they would get along, but they fight.

My exotic female has had three breakouts since April. She also uses the floor instead of her cat litter box. I am convinced that she is so unhappy and stressed with everything around her, that she can not settle in.

My friend and breeder has expressed that I should have her put down. I don't want to do this. I am willing to place her, for free, in a good home. Yet I am worried that if I do, she will continue to have breakouts and problems and not use her box in her new home. Also, I am told that she can infect other cats that are close to her, although, so far, my other two cats have not had this issue.

I need your expertise to make a decision to place my cat in another home. I believe in my heart that she needs to be placed in a home with no other pets and with someone that can make her the center of attention.

Please, Dr. Neely, find time to give me the correct options. I am happy to hear about your female cat living for more than 20 years with the same condition. This gives me hope for my girl.

Thank you so much for your time.
Jean Fierro

Dear Jean,

You are absolutely right that it is an outrageous suggestion that your cat should be euthanized for having feline herpes virus. Doing so is close to never necessary.

It sounds like you understand the situation very well. Feline herpes lives in the cat’s body forever, and flare-ups tend to occur under times of stress. Sadly, it certainly sounds as though your cat is very stressed. This high-stress environment could also be contributing to her cat litter box problems.

In addition to the female cat you mentioned, I currently have a cat that has feline herpes virus that is 14 years old and going very strong. He also lives with other cats and I have no qualms with having him live around other cats, and never would, because nearly every cat is a carrier for herpes virus. Most cats have the feline herpes virus and simply never show symptoms, and in the few that do, the flare-ups they experience do not necessarily cause flare-ups in other cats.

It seems to me that you have a couple of options to choose from moving forward. You can work on the relationship between your cats, and can do so by following some of the tips on my page regarding Fighting Cats, in the hopes of creating a more peaceful environment for your stressed feline. Otherwise, your next option would be to try to find your kitty a new home, hopefully in a less stressful environment.

If you find the right person for your cat and explain to them that it is quite likely the herpes virus will be less likely to flare-up if she is in their stress-free home, and possibly not living with other cats. But, even if your cat’s feline herpes does flare-up, even in her new environment, treatment is generally not a big deal. Generally, herpes flare-ups can be controlled with occasional antibiotics or eye drops for conjunctivitis, and it does not affect a cat’s life span.

I cannot say for certain whether the best thing to do is find your cat a new home, but I always recommend following your heart. If you choose to do so, just be honest with the new potential owners about both the feline herpes virus and the litter box problems. The right person will be happy to take her in, regardless of these issues, and you can even offer to work together on resolving them should they arise in her new home.

All the best,
Dr. Neely

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