This Side of Purradise
by Iris Bass
Imagine how life would be if you had a head cold that seems to leave but then keeps coming back. Uncomfortable sometimes, for sure—but not really disabling, right?
That’s what life is like for cats that have feline viral rhinopneumonitis (FVR), commonly called feline herpes. Forget everything you may know about the kind of human herpes you might catch from an infected date. The kitty variety involves the upper respiratory tract, with such symptoms as sneezing, runny eyes, nasal congestion, fever, lethargy, and sometimes drooling. Except for that last bit, sounds a lot like your last head cold, doesn’t it?
There are a couple of other differences, though. One is that, although cats with FVR can feel and appear healthy between bouts, stress can bring on cold symptoms. These flare-ups can be handled by vet-prescribed antibiotics or antiviral meds and—just as for people—drinking fluids and using a vaporizer or nebulizer to add moisture to the air.
Another difference is that you can’t catch FVP unless you are a cat. Kitty herpes cannot be transmitted to humans or dogs—only to other cats that do not already have the virus.
And this brings me to two FVR-positive kitties that, when I visited Purradise on June 22, were happily ensconced together in several linked condos in a room well away from the shelter’s other residents. Longhaired nine-month-old Copperfield, a black-and-white tuxedo with a “bandit”-style black mask outlining his expressive eyes, was adorable and knew it, rolling about and flirting with any human who drew near. But that did not prevent his also following about and rubbing against three-year-old all-black shorthaired Tootsie—who padded over more sedately to greet me—to show off their close feline bond.
Purradise staffer Cathy told me that Tootsie, who previously had been a great mom to a litter of kittens, had then taken a hankering to young Copperfield—who wouldn’t?!—and mothered him as if her own. Because Copperfield already had the virus in his system, there was no danger in letting them share living quarters even when Tootsie was feeling a touch under the weather, as she was the day I was there, nebulizer a-puff nearby. As I have five FVR-negative cats at home, it was not a good idea for me to hold Tootsie when she was in an infectious state, but when she is feeling more herself, Cathy told me, she is the perfect lap cat—including snuggling in your arms like a baby.
A family had already expressed interest in adopting Copperfield (accepting his herpes as part of the package), which makes it all the more imperative that his foster mom find the right home, too, to reduce the emotional effects of their separation: a calm, steady household with, adds WebMD’s ASPCA-sourced advisory page, “clean bedding and access to natural light and hiding places,” all of which will help her feel secure and keep her stress level low. In the long run, peace and quiet, attention to any sign of a flare-up, and physical affection are key to keeping Tootsie’s come-and-go sniffles at bay…while remembering to say the occasional “Bless you!” in heartfelt appreciation of her loving presence when she does emit the rare, kitty-size sneeze.
This series follows the special human-feline bond at Purradise, the Berkshire Humane Society Cat Adoption Center at 301 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, MA 01230 (413-717-4244), berkshirehumane.org. Open Wed., Fri., & Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Thurs. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; and Sun. noon–4 p.m.
Iris Bass, coauthor of the Cat Lover’s Daily Companion, shares her Lee home with five shelter cats.
167 West Park Street
Lee, MA 01238