How Do Cats Get Cold Sores?

Cold sores around your kitty's eyes and mouth indicate a virus at work.
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An open sore on your kitty's eye or in her mouth is what you think it is: a cold sore. While you're wondering how cats get cold sores, call her doctor. You should always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your cat, especially for open wounds.

What Causes the Sores

The virus that causes cats to get cold sores is the feline herpes virus. It doesn't just open a sore on your cat's eye or in her mouth. It causes your cat to develop upper respiratory infections and usually attacks when her immune system is taxed, such as during times of stress.

How It Spreads

Don't worry, you can't contract feline herpes, but other cats can. Usually a cat will get feline herpes if she comes in contact with fluid from the eyes, nose or mouth of an infected cat. Grooming, sharing litter boxes or food and water dishes can provide the opportunity for the virus to spread, and unborn kittens can get feline herpes from their mother. Some cats who carry the virus and spread it don't show symptoms, though. Known as "latent carriers," these cats are just as infectious as cats who display signs of the virus.

Additional Symptoms

Cold sores are just one sign of the feline herpes virus. If your cat has feline herpes, when stressed she'll have symptoms similar to those of a cold. She'll sneeze frequently and have discharge from her nose and eyes. She'll be congested, won't feel like eating and lack energy. Your kitty may even have a fever and seem depressed. If she becomes too weak from the virus, other infections and health troubles can develop because of her compromised immune system.


There is no cure for feline herpes and there is no medication for it, either. The symptoms can be treated to alleviate your kitty's discomfort when she's having a flare-up, and if she develops an infection as a result of her weakened state your vet will prescribe antibiotics for her. Overall you just have to treat a flare-up a lot like a cold. Frequently wipe her eyes and nose to keep them clear of discharge, and run a humidifier in the house or take your kitty into the bathroom while you shower so she can breathe the hot, humid air. If your cat's nose is stuffy she probably won't feel like eating because she can't smell her food, but you can make it appetizing by heating it in the microwave or drizzling it with the water from a can of tuna.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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