Do you have a question about your cat for our veterinarian experts? Questions may be sent to

Our veterinarian experts regret that they cannot answer all individual questions. We will post a selection on this page.

NOTE: Please consult your veterinarian if you believe your cat is ill or in need of medical care. This forum is for general information only and should not be considered a substitute for professional veterinary care.

If my new kitten was vaccinated, why is he sneezing and eyes watering?

Q: Recently I was able to fulfill my longtime dream of having a Tonkinese cat. Within a week of his arrival, he developed sneezing and a watery eye discharge, which my veterinarian called a "URI" - translated meaning "upper respiratory infection." I am so disappointed, because I trusted the breeder I got him from. He was supposed to have had vaccinations when I got him at 4 months of age. What caused this, and what can be done about it? Should I return him to the breeder?

- Karen
Omaha, Nebraska

A: Dear Karen,

Cats are susceptible to many respiratory diseases just as humans are. The respiratory diseases we vaccinate against are Feline Rhinotracheitis (also called Feline Herpes) and Feline Calicivirus. Some people vaccinate against Chlamydia also. Kittens go through a series of vaccinations as kittens, and then they receive booster vaccinations as adults. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends finishing up the primary series of vaccinations at 4 months of age.

Unfortunately the available vaccines do not provide good protection against these respiratory diseases in either kittens or adults, but they should prevent more serious disease from infection. The best immunity against respiratory diseases seems to be from vaccines given intranasally (dropped into the nostrils). Vaccines against respiratory disease in all species do not produce long term protection, and these may need to be repeated more often than other vaccines.

Cats infected with herpes virus carry it for life, and it has been estimated that 90% of the cat population in America has been infected. It can become more of an issue in a multi-cat situation such as a cattery or shelter where it is easily spread among any group of cats housed together indoors. Just as in people, the virus hides at nerve endings between bouts of disease and re-emerges during periods of stress to cause disease.

More significant than sneezing is the effect this virus can have on the corneas of a cat. It is the primary cause of ulcers of the cornea ranging from non-visible to full penetration through the cornea causing leakage of fluid from the globe itself. Some cats can also form a brown appearing plaque on the cornea called a sequestrum that can prevent the corneal tissue from repairing itself. Anytime a cat squints an eye and has a clear discharge, herpes should be suspected. L-lysine prevents herpes virus from reproducing, and some veterinarians recommend giving it to cats that have persistent problems from this virus.

Calicivirus is another respiratory virus in cats that has taken on even more significance. The prominent feature of this virus is its ability to cause ulcerations on the tongue, gingivitis, and dental caries called Feline Resorptive Lesions. Gingivitis without dental tartar is likely secondary to Calicivirus. Cats may also become chronically infected with this virus. Within a social group of cats, some may have gingivitis, some may have more severe mouth lesions which can prevent eating, and some may have sneezing.

In the past some veterinarians have treated this with full mouth extractions, some have used anti-inflammatory drugs, and some have relied on antibiotics against secondary bacteria. A newer approach by some veterinarians is immune therapy using the intranasal vaccine to product cellular immunity in the mouth to combat the infection. It has been estimated that over ¼ of all cats suffer from Feline Resorptive Lesions.

Of lesser clinical significance is Feline Chlamydia. This disease is associated with conjunctivitis, often quite severe, with a cloudy eye discharge. Kittens seem most susceptible. This disease can be treated with antibiotics and a carrier state is not known to exist. Affected kittens usually show only mild illness and continue playing and eating.

Karen, it is likely that the stress of adapting to a new home, new people, and a new routine may have been enough to trigger an active case of herpes in your new kitten. With good nursing care by you, he should recover with no complications. This does not signal a life time of respiratory problems now that he is living in a household with no other cats and with a routine life style. So enjoy your new kitten.

Donna Stewart, DVM

Can my cat eat a vegetarian diet?

Q: For health and ethical reasons, I have been a vegan for the last 10 years. I would like feed my 6 year old tuxedo cat Murphy a vegetarian diet too. Should I have any special concerns?

-- Amy

A: Yes, you should be concerned. Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores and can experience severe medical problems on low protein, high carbohydrate diets. Their metabolism is geared toward a meat-based diet, and they derive energy from protein. When cats are fed diets low in protein, they can become obese and develop diabetes. Vegetarian diets are deficient in feline essential nutrients, and a low taurine diet will cause blindness and the fatal heart disease dilated cardiomyopathy. It is best to select high meat diets for cats and canned food generally contains more meat than dry formulas. Look for canned food at least 10% in protein and dry food at least 40% in protein.

Donna Stewart DVM

Are over-the-counter flea products effective?

Q: The flea drops sold by my veterinarian are so expensive. Can't I just use the ones in the grocery store that are cheaper? Is there really any difference?

-- Kathy

A: Yes, there is a great difference. The topical flea products sold by your veterinarian are safe and effective. So far fleas do not seem to be developing resistance to them, and cats tolerate them very well. The cheaper types of spot-on treatments are often related to pyrethrins. This chemical is good for a rapid kill of fleas, but it has no residual effect. Even if applied monthly, they are not working effectively for the entire month. In some instances, there have been reports of issues requiring veterinary assistance after use. It is always best to discuss flea treatment with your veterinarian before undertaking a flea control program of your own.

Donna Stewart DVM


Contact Us


Share with your followers.

For Kids ... About Cats

The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.
This program is supported by
The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.


Cat Care | You and Your Cat | Cats in Need | Cat Breeds | Catnip Center | Boutique | About Us

CFA | Privacy Policy

©CatsCenterstage 2010-2016
This program is supported by The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.