Mar 9, 2009

Feral Cat Photo of the Day: Suspicious Cat

This isn't a great photo but I've had a hard time getting a picture of this kitty, which I've named Suspicious Cat. He's a young Tom, and scared of his own shadow.
cat photo feral Suspicious Cat

I had to snap fast and a tenth of a second later he had disappeared.

Suspicious Cat seems to be getting enough to eat. It appears that there may be something wrong with his eyes; probably feline herpes, which is very common in the feral cat colony. He seems to be getting along despite his infirmities.

Some vets with whom I have dealings have a policy regarding feral cats: If one is brought in and it tests positive for certain diseases, they euthanize it (a strange word, it means good death ...yeah, like that's a good thing). Anyway, so I always worry about taking in guys like this when he isn't suffering as far as I can tell.


  1. I just brought a feral kitten to the vet and they told me it had herpes and the only thing they could really suggest was to euthanize it.
    The vet said that the kitten will not let you hold it and definetly not let you medicate it and that the kitten needs medication. They also said letting it go will only infect other feral cat colonies. We have 5 cats that we take care of.
    I am pregnant and have 2 cats and 2 dogs of my own. There is no way I could treat this poor kitten myself so I had to let them euthanize the kitten. Although I cried alot about it.

  2. I understand ..this is a tough one. Feline Herpes can be awful or mild, in part because there are multiple forms of the virus and a cat can have several at once. If the kitten was extremely sick then there was little else you could do.

    HOWEVER, your veterinarian may have unnecessarily frightened you because he/she failed to tell you that humans CANNOT be infected by feline herpes.

    It may not have made a difference, but I want all readers to know - for future reference - that Feline Herpes is NOTHING (absolutely NOTHING) like human herpes and people can't get it.

    I've worked with dozens and dozens of sick cats, almost all of them with feline herpes. About 70 percent of the cat population in America has had Feline Herpes at one time or another (some sources cited below)... And again; HUMANS CANNOT BE INFECTED BY FELINE HERPES.

    Dogs can't be infected, either. So you need not have worried about these things.

    Feline Herpes (sometimes called Cat Flu) is a respiratory disease with some cold-like or flu-like symptoms. In cats lacking immunity, the symptoms persist for life and in some cases can be quite severe. But 90 percent of cats get over it the same way we all get over the common cold.

    I support you in making a tough decision - and I totally sympathize that you did the best thing based on what your vet told you. I just don't think your vet gave you enough information. Instead, your vet scared you.

    Just for that alone I'd seriously consider finding another vet.

    So ...that said, I'm sad for your loss. Please read the ASPCA faq on Feline Herpes:

    ..and then hopefully you can find a less callous veterinarian.

    Additional infection rate information:

  3. I feel really bad now that I let her euthanize the kitten. I honestly didn't think I would be able to help this kitten because it would not let anyone hold it and I though with that alone how could I do anything for this poor kitten.I didn't want to let a sick kitten go and possibly never see it again. I also worried for the 5 other feral cats that I take care of. My 5 ferals didn't want anything to do with this kitten. I thank you for giving me more information. I am no longer worried about myself or my dogs. But could my 2 indoor cats get it? Animals seem to show up on my door, I think they know that I will take care of them.
    In the future, would it be ok to let a kitten or cat with herpes stay with my other ferals?
    4 out of the 5 cats are spayed/neutered and have their rabies and distemper vaccines. 1 of the ferals we have not been able to trap. It's a male cat and he has no vaccines. Thanks again for your information and your time.

  4. The short answer about your cats is "yes" - they *could* catch this disease, although there is a vaccination for feline herpes; your cats may not have had this vaccination. This varies from vet to vet but the ASPCA definitely recommends that your cats get vaccinated for the two herpes-type viruses FHV-1 and Calicivirus.

    In many areas, the core vaccines consist of a single combined FVRCP vaccine shot which protects against FVR (FHV-1 - feline herpes), FCV (calicivirus) and FPV. You can find out what shots your kitties have had from your vet.

    If they were never vaccinated for FHV, there is a good chance that your cats might have already had this disease, anyway. So they have natura built-up immunity.

    Remember that feline herpes isn't really anything like human herpes; most cats who get it will appear to have a "cold" with lots of sneezing and runny eyes. Then after a two or three weeks they get better. Only cats that lack natural immunity stay sick.

    The second question about kittens with other ferals is more complicated: Your spayed/neutered ferals may warn-off a new kitten. They may hiss and swat. But they wouldn't really hurt it.

    There IS a problem with un-neutered toms, however; tomcats are known to attack and kill kittens that aren't there own. I'm not sure how they know which kittens are their offspring, but they do.

    In the past, I've found bloody, kitten corpses in a hay loft, clearly a victim of a tom and not predation. I haven't seen this for a couple of years but I know it happens. Toms are more likely to kill foreign male kittens.

    On the other hand, toms like the late Willem deKooning ( ) are good to all babies - so it varies. You would need a clearer idea of how your tom behaves around kittens before taking any chances.

    For more info on vaccinations see:


Comments are welcome! I always answer questions if I can.