The most common cat disease is Rhinotracheitis, better known as Feline Herpes or Rhino.  This virus is particularly a problem in multiple cat situations such as feral colonies, animal shelters, multi-cat homes and over-crowded catteries.  Rhinotracheitis is an upper respiratory infection from Feline Herpes virus and infects the nose and throat of cats.

Symptoms of Rhinotracheitis include

  • Conjunctivitis
  • Corneal Ulceration
  • Coughing
  • Eye discharge
  • Fever
  • Fits of sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of pregnancy
  • Nasal Discharge
  • Watery or pus type of nasal discharge
feline herpes FHV-1
Picture from Catological

Rhinotracheitis-Herpes is easily protected against by simply administering a vaccine (link) call a three-way MLV.  However, if a female cat has or carries the virus, she will infect her young kittens.  This happens before they are old enough for vaccination protection.  Furthermore, if a queen contracts the virus while pregnant there is a good chance that she will lose the litter.

How Feline Herpes Spreads

One of the reasons that responsible breeders keep their litters separate from other cats and kittens until vaccination is so the kittens are not exposed to Rhinotracheitis/Herpes Virus.  Herpes Virus Transmits through direct contact.  Obviously grooming and sneezing can easily spread the disease.  Another source is dirty litter boxes used by multiple cats, poor sanitation practices, stress and active outbreaks spreading to other cats.


Your local veterinarian can normally tell if a cat is suffering from a Rhinotracheitis infection by the symptoms the cat is exhibiting.  However, for a definitive answer, the best possible way is to take a deep throat swab and send it for analysis at a PCR laboratory.

Treatment and Cure

While there is no treatment for cats that have the virus, the active state will last approximately three weeks.  FVR symptoms very often cause secondary infections in the eyes, nose and throat.  Antibiotics help with the secondary infections. That will help control further damage to the mucous membranes but will not lessen the virus itself.  FVR will run its full course.

Once the original  Rhinotracheitis infection does run its course, the cat will usually look normal or possibly have a watery looking eye or eyes.  The infection does not ever leave the body, it will lie dormant until any stressful event, such as shipping.

Some catteries and most kitten mills who do not PCR  test will have what is termed “kitty colds,” and get the kittens over the virus and once well, send the kitten off on a plane to their new owner.  When the kitten arrives it is sick, or shortly after it gets sick.  The breeder doesn’t understand because the kitten was perfectly healthy when their veterinarian gave it the health certificate.  This cat will infect any non-immunized cat or kitten it meets.

Therefore, we at Savannah Cat Association ask that you choose a breeder from our list of those who test their litters and who is happy to send you the results.


Feline herpes, as you can see, will always hide in an infected cat. The only way to stop it is to not have the virus, to begin with.  Clean litter boxes, a clean and uncrowded living environment, and keeping kittens and queens away from any other cats until immunized is the only way to keep FCV from harming your precious cats.

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