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Help! 5 month old kitten "crying" !
hotkatt posted:
I have a 5 month old male turkish angora kitten that seems to have these "tears" coming out of the corner of his eyes near his nose. It happens a few times a day and it doesn't seem to bother him. It started a couple of weeks ago when his mom got out (she was in heat and ran out the back door but she is back home now). I thought that maybe it was because he missed his mom as he was the only one that survived out of a litter of kittens. They played together a few times a day. But it's still going on. Is this normal for a turkish angora or any cat?
srstephanie responded:
Hi hotkatt,

Cats don't "cry" out of sadness in the way humans do by producing tears. I'm not a vet and my first recommendation is always to have a vet check it. The vet may want to rule out other causes such as a tear duct blockage or other problem.

But the description of tears sounds like a classic description of one of the most common upper respiratory viruses in cats, called Feline Herpesvirus-1. If the eye discharge is thick and yellow or green, then there may be either a primary or secondary bacterial infection. But "tears" suggest a clear discharge that is most common with Herpes, though it could be another common virus (Calici).

Herpes is extremely common in cats and many simply call it "Cat flu" or a "cold". But it is a virus that, once infected, cats have for life ... but in most cats with good immune systems, Herpes becomes latent (dormant) and hides so that there are no symptoms. Some cats then have future Herpes "episodes", most frequently after periods of stress.

That sounds like it may fit your situation. Kittens are easily infected with Herpes (their mother could have and shed it, even though she has no symptoms). Since he has had some stress lately with the loss of littermates and his Mom being gone for a while, that stress could have brought on a Herpes episode.

The severity of Herpes depends on the cat's immune system and ability to keep Herpes under control (i.e. make it latent so that there are no symptoms ... it is similar to humans that get cold sores after times of stress). Also, are your cats vaccinated (using a Modified Live vaccine, either injected or intranasal) for Herpes/Calici which is one of the "Core" vaccines? It is important that your kittens receive a final kitten-series vaccination at or after 16 weeks of age. The Herpes vaccination will NOT prevent a kitten/cat from becoming infected by Herpes/Calici, nor will it prevent all symptoms. But the vaccine will make the symptoms more mild and help shorten the duration of the episodes. The "watery eyes" is a mild sign of Herpes, so it sounds like you may have had them (mother and kitten) vaccinated.

In many cats, Herpes symptoms do not last long (a few hours to a few days) and the cat's immune system can get it under control without help. For others, it can become more serious and chronic. For those cats, the first treatment usually given is the addition of an amino acid called L-lysine to the food once or twice a day. Lysine will not cure Herpes (nothing will) but it helps slow the replication so that the immune system can get it under control. Cats that have chronic episodes of Herpes are often given Lysine for life, while others just get it during flare-ups.

In more difficult Herpes cases where Lysine isn't sufficient to control it, there are now a couple good antiviral medications that are safe in cats. The one that most of the veterinary experts are recommending now is called Famciclovir which they find to be effective and safe in cats. There is also a topical (eye drop) antiviral called Cidofovir, that can be used but I don't think it is commercially available and your vet needs to get it from an ophthalmologist. Again, those medications will not "cure" Herpes, but will help get it under control. You may see flare-ups in the future after times of stress.

I'm just assuming the problem is Herpes from your description since it is so common in cats. But you need to have a vet check if your kitten continues to have watery eyes.

If you are not a trained, pedigree breeder of Turkish Angoras, I would encourage you to spay your mother cat (and spay/neuter all cats). There are so many cats looking for homes that there is no need to have more litters. Also, spaying your female will lower her risk for mammary cancer later in life and make her less likely to want to get outside.

Good luck,

Stephanie in Montreal
Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
Tearing can be normal in some cats but also could be a sign of an upper respiratory disease. A clear or sometimes reddish discharge is usually normal, while a yellowish or greenish discharge usually isn't. When there's a problem, there are usually other signs such as squinting or pawing at the eyes, lethargy, sneezing, etc. If this is a sudden change, it's best to have your veterinarian take a look at him.

Incidentally, if your female cat was in heat when she got out, there's a good chance she's pregnant. You should discuss with your veterinarian as well.

Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
The Cat Doctor
Board Certified in Feline Practice


William Draper, DVM, better known as "Dr. Will," is a well-known small animal practitioner in the Atlanta, GA area. He grew up in Inglewood,...More

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