9 Lives From Helmetta

On 11/13/14 at approximately 9am, the NJSPCA raided the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter after months of reports from volunteers and employees. Suspected abuse to many of the animals inside this new, large facility that served 21 towns.

Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter

On 11/13/14 at approximately 10pm, one veterinarian and a few vet techs were allowed into the shelter to clean and feed the animals. From their reports, it appeared that food and even water had not been given to the animals for some time. Cats were FRANTIC for food. On top of that, there was no food to be found in the shelter. An emergency plea was sent out to local rescue groups and animal advocates to please bring food to the shelter. At 3am, the vet and techs were ushered out of the facility – but not before every animal was fed and their cage cleaned.

Cat at Helmetta Shelter

The NJSPCA along with the Dept. of Health took over on the morning of 11/15/14 and they have made sure the animals were cared for during this political and emotional battle for the shelter.

On 11/23/14 we were approved to pull animals from the shelter and our appointment was set for the morning of 11/14/14. We had no idea what we really would see but we assembled our carriers and we were there ready to save.

We were supposed to take 7 cats but our director “accidentally” picked 9 … no turning back now! Good thing we know better and had extra carriers in the cars.

Meet the 9 Lives From Helmetta!
Dot, Bette, Owen, Katniss, Primrose, Peeta, Gale, Finnick and Cinna!

9Lives_KCZDEveryone is doing well in their foster homes – already FeLV/FIV tested and vaccinated.

Owen is an amazingly lovable cat, chirping and purring for his foster mom. Fortunately for Owen, he was rescued by Karma Cat Zen Dog from the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter in Helmetta, NJ where he had been since July. He spent those five months with no medical care or even an examination until the NJSPCA took control of the shelter.

As you can see from the video, we knew something was wrong with Owen. Our veterinarian determined he has Grade IV luxating patellas (his kneecaps are on backwards!) which makes life very difficult for poor Owen.

The good news??? It’s easily fixable! With your help, that is….every dollar counts and Owen will be an even happier guy when his mobility is improved and he can find his forever home!

Please donate – every $1 helps! https://www.youcaring.com/knees4owen

Best Gifts for Animal Lovers 2014

In 2013, we created our list of gifts for animals lovers. By popular demand, here’s our list for 2014!

Google “gifts for pets” and you get about 14 million hits. “Gifts for pet lovers” returns about 3 million hits. A little better, but still a daunting search when you’re looking for the perfect gift for that special pet or animal lover in your life. To make it a little easier, we’ve scoured our favorite magazines, websites, and stores to help you pick out the perfect present. There’s a little bit of everything on this list – and a lot more items on our Pinterest boards HERE and HERE!

Don’t forget to shop via AmazonSmile, iGive or GoodShop and choose Karma Cat + Zen Dog as your charity of choice!

1. For the Canine Tech Lover: iFetch


iFetch throws a ball a variable distance when it is placed in the funnel by the dog or person. Pick up this gadget HERE.

2. For the Canine Tech Lover: PetSafe Auto Trainer


The AutoTrainer teaches your dog not to bark by rewarding quiet time. The collar detects when your dog is barking using patented dual-detection technology, so only your dog’s barks are recorded by the collar. When your dog isn’t barking, he gets rewarded with treats or kibble from the food dispenser. Purchase HERE.

3. Interactive Play for the Felines


Most felines prefer low tech toys such as the Kong Glide N Seek which uses magnets to entice the kitties – get yours HERE.

4. Cat-Nap Time


A new take on the feline favorite cardboard box is the Cat Above Snooze Pal hammock – get this adorableness HERE.

5. Pet Food, Treats, and Supplies via Chewy.com
Deliver pet necessities straight to a friend’s door! Pssst – if it’s your first order, they’ll donate $20 to us. :) Visit HERE.

6. Reading List: Underwater Puppies


7. Reading List: I Could Pee on This


8. Reading List: Cat Vs Human


9. Let’s Get Catty in the Kitchen


Oh, the cuteness of these cat measuring cups! Purchase HERE.

10. Tea for One in Super Cat Style


Black cat tea for one, please! Order HERE.

11. It’s Not a Party Without This Cat-Shaped Cheese Board


Complete with fish shaped spreader! Purchase HERE.

12. Speaking of Kitchens: Let’s Eat!


For those pups who gobble their kibble, there’s the Slo Bowl


For the discerning feline, there’s this gorgeous yellow cat bowl by Always Mod







13. Da Bird Cat Toy – repeat from the 2013 list, but SO WORTHY!
Da Bird is a high quality, durable, interactive toy that cats just LOVE. If you have not witnessed first hand a cat’s reaction to Da Bird, then you have no idea what you are in for! A single bob of Da Bird is completely irresistible to cats. Set on a swivel, its feathers look, sound, and feel like real bird wings. Its the most fun you’ll have with your feline friends! Check out the item HERE.

14. “I Am Complete” Swarovski Crystal Paw Ring


Check out the rings HERE.

15. KCZD Swag – You know you want some (more)!!
From clothing to home goods to tech accessories, CafePress offers a wide-range of products personalized with the logo of yours truly! Give your friends, family, or fellow volunteers, a gift that shows your (or their) dedication towards Karma Cat + Zen Dog. :) Purchase HERE.

16. Got a “Bad” Dog? Lumps of Coal!

Dogs only since we know there is no such thing as a bad cat! Giggle. Purchase HERE.

17. Carry Cat Cuteness With You at all Times


iPhone and iTouch cases – order one HERE.

18. Stuffed Animal Replica


Send a picture of your dog and this company will make you a stuffed one … and a portion of the sales are donated to help shelter animals. Get your stuffed animal HERE.

19. JustGive.org Donation
If purchasing gifts isn’t your thing, you can always donate to a cause in the name of the receiver to give a gift that keeps giving. FYI: Karma Cat + Zen Dog is listed on JustGive.org HERE. :)

20. Adopt an Animal!

CoverPhoto_Holidays2014The winter holidays are a popular time for people to buy dogs and cats at pet stores; supporting puppy mills, unethical stores, and inhumane practices, while leaving many other adorable, nursed back to health pets without owners. If you are planning to add a new furry friend to the family, please adopt, don’t shop. We have animals of all sizes and ages looking for a second chance at a forever home.

Visit PetFinder and Adopt-a-Pet, for more information on adoptables. We also post foster updates, fun pictures, and more on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We invite you to drop by during Adoption Hours, every Saturday and Sunday 11am-3:30pm at the North Brunswick PetSmart, to meet a potential new family member.

Happy Shopping!

National Cat Day 2014

Adopt a cat … or a few! Today we celebrate ALL cats and all our cat-loving friends. Here are some cute cat pictures because, well, cats! :)

Vince Neil

Vince Neil looking adorably pensive

Tommy Lee

Tommy Lee trying to figure out where Theodore is hiding!


Theodore is quite the dapper flirt!


PhilR – just chillin’


LynnNR knows she is royalty and well deserving of this royal purple blankie!


Excuse me, is this how a tie is supposed to look? ~JackieR


Skelter knows that black cats rule!


Helter wearing her fairy wings at the Rabbits Den Tattoo event!


I’ll share my toy, if you share your dinner. ~Simon

With so many adorable kitties available for adoption, you can’t go wrong! Contact us to make an appointment or visit us during regular adoption hours at the North Brunswick PetSmart every Sat. & Sun. (11am – 330pm). You can even apply to adopt online!

Can’t adopt? Volunteer or Donate!


Calico Quinn likes to preside over the activities at CatQuarters:

QuinnWe call it the CatQuarters as the space will serve as an office … and will be cats helping with all our tasks! We have lots of space for storage, cats, a computer … and 12 ft ceilings … our new space is pretty darn awesome.

If you’ve thought about volunteering, NOW is the perfect time to join us. Apply here: http://karmacatzendog.org/volunteer/

You can also help with a sponsorship and/or a contribution to “stock our shelves”. Best place to donate: http://karmacatzendog.org/support/donate/


Mice Bucket Challenge Recap

Cats + the Internet = Endless Hours of Entertainment

Here’s a recap of our #MiceBucketChallenge

Did you miss the challenge? You can still donate! Help a kitten – we have 20 that will be spayed/neutered in the next few weeks!


It all started with the very adoptable Molly at our North Brunswick, NJ PetSmart Adoption Center:

Chrissy & Janet – adoptable kittens:
Karma Cat Alumni: Spitfire

Cutie-pie Arnold (adoptable kitten!):

Karma Cat Alumna: Kandy!

Adoptable Kittens: Simon & Theodore

Adoptable Kitten: Saucy

The original Karma Cat: Karma!

Adoptable Grace sorta accepts the #MiceBucketChallenge – with a little help from her doggie friend Tino (who donated $10!!)

Volunteer Rebecca’s Lona:

Adoptable Cheese Puff: “Um, human, what are you doing??”

Soon to be Adoptable Tessa:

Karma Cat Alumni Winnie & Captain Jack:

Karma Cat Alumna: Keiki

A Penny for Your Thoughts, Linda

Some people think that working with an animal rescue means being covered in adorable kittens & puppies all day long. In reality, it isn’t always catnip and puppy breath. There is a lot of work that goes into maintaining Karma Cat + Zen Dog and our high standards of care and compassion. There is also a lot of money required.

In 2013, we spent $4,623 per month, that’s $152 per day, feeding and caring for our rescued animals. We start with good food for all ages; we believe that quality food leads to healthy lives. From our many bottle babies who need formula and baby cat wet food, to our several seniors who need filler-free quality kibble, everyone is given a chance to dine on healthy chow. All animals are spayed/neutered prior to adoption and vaccinated appropriately for their age. All cats are tested for FeLV/FIV.

We don’t shy away from rescuing a kitty because of possible long term health problems. Our covergirl, Kandy-pants, is FeLV/FIV positive. We took care of her until a wonderful adopter opened their home to her. Nicholas, Alvaro, Nicole, Natalie & Pedro all came to us as very sick kittens who probably would have been euthanized, but our wonderful volunteers worked with our vets to take care of them. All five are now in their own forever homes, happy and healthy. We currently have three cats, five kittens and one dog who need special care and the funding that goes with that care.

In order to support our efforts to save as many homeless animals as we can, we raise money in a variety of ways. We have at least one big event each year: our spring party, Paws for Celebration is our most successful fundraiser. We also have several ongoing fundraisers. Pura Vida donates $1 for every “Original” Karma Cat bracelet purchased and $2 for every “Platinum” Karma Cat bracelet, and Amazon Smile and iGive.com donate a percentage of your online shopping bills, and our latest endeavor is the walking app Walk for a Dog where we receive about a quarter for every mile logged while out on a walk. These are small fundraisers, but for us, every penny counts and we are thankful for each and every one donated by our fabulous supporters.

Pura Vida Stack

Now, you may be wondering what all this money talk has to do with a volunteer spotlight. Well, the woman responsible for our fundraising efforts is Linda Tamburro, and she puts every ounce of her heart into raising money for our rescued animals. Here is a peak behind the money at Linda Tamburro, Development Director.

(I) How and when did you start working with KCZD?

I responded to an ad for a Fundraising Coordinator on volunteermatch.com. I wanted to be involved with animal rescue but I didn’t think that I had the stomach to see them in distress, so I chose fundraising. Once I met Christie I knew that I wanted to do more so I also became a volunteer to help with the Kitties at PetSmart :)

(I) What is your favorite part of working for KCZD?

Too many to mention. The people definitely. The kitties definitely and how I feel when a kitty is adopted and goes home. It is a feeling that is very, very hard to top.

(I) Do you have a favorite KCZD story?

Jessica Rabbit (now Soot). Sweet little thing has Spina Bifida was adopted by a family in BOSTON who has a daughter with Spina Bifida. They learned about Soot on Facebook thanks to another group’s post. They started a Facebook page to raise awareness and even wrote a book! Special needs kitties are difficult to adopt. Black kitties are difficult to adopt. This kitty was a black, special needs kitty that someone came all the way from Boston to bring home. It just makes me cry with joy whenever I think about it.

(I) What is one thing few if any other volunteers know about you?

I was very afraid of cats when I was in elementary school. A cat scratched me (I tried to pick it up when she didn’t want to be) and it resulted in a trip to the hospital for a tetanus shot. Eventually I got over it.  😉

(I) Do you have a favorite famous cat? (animated, internet, book character, etc)

I love Soot! I think my favorite is Justin, Fire Survivor. He is so awesome and adorable and sweet considering the horrific way he was treated. I love his story!

(I) What are your duties with KCZD?

Kitty care at PetSmart which involves cleaning out their cages, the litter, replacing food and water and of course lots of play and snuggle time. I love it if they can all come out to play together :)

I also try to raise money through events such as Give Back Night’s at restaurants, flea markets and fairs, Casino Night, Paws for Celebration and other methods. It is hard but very rewarding. I am also one of the newest Board Members :)

Claudine (adopter), Linda T and Rebecca S

Claudine (adopter), Linda T and Rebecca S

(I) Do you have a favorite cat breed or color?

GINGERS. Love ’em. Can’t get enough of them.

(I) What is your day job?

I work as a consultant for a financial services company that provides retirement plans for mainly nonprofit organizations. I straddle the line of IT and Business. My role is to determine system changes, document them and work with the business team, development team and quality assurance team to ensure that the changes work as designed and are rolled out on time and within budget.

(I) What do you consider to be your guilty pleasure?

Cake. All kinds. I love it.

(I) Do you have any pets of your own?

Three cats adopted together – not litter mates. All were approximately 6 months old when I took them home.

Linda Cats

Roo – Brown tabby. She was named Miracle because she was born the day that her mother was going to be spayed. Her mother was so malnourished that they didn’t know that she was even pregnant. Roo was her only baby. She is very small but very feisty with the two boys. She likes to get up on her hind legs to play, like a kangaroo, so I named her Roo.

Jack – Ginger. Do you really want me to tell the Jack-ass story?? He was adopted as “Powder” when he was 6 months old. Within a few minutes of being in my house, he ran all the way to the back of the laundry room where got himself lodged behind a pipe. I had to climb over the washing machine to get him. He was thus dubbed “Jackass”. Jack for short :) Jack is absolutely my favorite because he is the most trouble and loudest of the clan.

Misha – Grey tabby. Thin and sleek – sweet as can be. He was the most timid and took the longest to get comfortable. Now he rubs up against everyone and LOVES attention!

(I) If you could meet a famous animal activist who would you meet and what would you talk about?

Jackson Galaxy – cat behavior and understanding what it means when they do…

(I) If you could teach your cat a trick, what would you want him/her to learn?

Using the toilet rather than the litter box!

(I) If you plan any kind of fundraiser (with no limitations) what would you want to plan for KCZD?

Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi concert :)

(I) Would you want to be able to talk to your cats? What would you want to ask or talk about?

Definitely. I think they would explain life to ME rather than me talking to them. I think that I would be in the listening end of the conversations!


Well, said Linda – well said. :)

We hope you enjoyed the second installment in our series introducing our volunteers to you. If you have any other specific questions you’d like answered, or if you have a specific volunteer you would like to see highlighted, please let us know! You can contact me at Rebecca@karmacatzendog.org

~Rebecca :)

Courtney’s Ordeal

Meet Courtney.


When found, she was homeless and pregnant. VERY pregnant. Within 5 days of being placed in a foster home, she gave birth to four kittens. Courtney is estimated to only be 10 months old: A BABY HAVING BABIES!

But then she got ill and was rushed to the veterinarian with her kittens. The diagnosis: mastitis in one of her mammary glands. The treatment: antibiotic injection and monitoring.

The next day, she stopped feeding her kittens and an open wound was noticed on her stomach. Back to the veterinarian. The diagnosis: “infection of unknown bacteria”. The treatment: no more feeding her babies, two more antibiotics and twice daily cleaning & bandage removal.

(slightly graphic/gross images below) …

Courtney's Wound Day 1

Courtney’s Wound: Day 1

Courtney: wrapped up after treatment

Courtney: wrapped up after treatment

One week later: Courtney is healing remarkably well. A trip to the veterinarian was made to make sure we weren’t missing anything. While wound debridement and suturing could be done, the veterinarian was very pleased with her progress and suggested we just stay the course.

Courtney Wound: Day 7

Courtney Wound: Day 7


Courtney Wound: Day 10

Courtney Wound: Day 10

Doing well in her foster home while she waits to be spayed.

But here’s the sad part about this story: ALL of this could have been avoided if she was spayed BEFORE she was 5 months old.

  • No kittens to worry about
  • No infection to treat
  • No delay in finding a forever home for this sweet cat
  • No extraordinary veterinary bills to pay

A few facts about spaying/neutering your pets:

  1. A female cat or dog will live a longer, healthier life.
    Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and mammary cancer.
  2. Neutering provides health benefits for a male cat or dog, too!
    Prevent “oops” litters and neutering a male cat or dog can prevent testicular cancer, if done before six months of age.
  3. No more heat cycles.
    Female cats usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. In an effort to advertise for mates, they’ll yowl and urinate more frequently – sometimes all over the house! Female dogs can go into heat two to four times a year – advertising for mates and producing a bloody discharge.
  4. A male dog won’t want to roam away from home.
    An unneutered dog will go to great lengths to to find a mate – including digging under or climbing a fence. And forget about an unneutered cat: he’s outta here and will fight other suitors to get to a female cat.
  5. A neutered male will be much better behaved.
    In others words: NO MORE SPRAYING URINE and a male cat’s urine won’t have that awful, awful, awful smell.
  6. Spaying or neutering will not make your pet fat.
    This is a fallacy. What makes your pet fat? Lack of exercise and too much food.
  7. It IS cost-effective.
    Compare the spay/neuter surgery cost with: caring for litters and litters of offspring, treating injuries from fighting animals, and the potential cost of treating uterine and testicular problems. There are lots of low-cost spay/neuter clinics … for those of you near us, here’s a list: http://karmacatzendog.org/resources/
  8. Spaying and neutering your pet is good for the community.
    Trust us, your neighbors don’t want your unfixed animals in their yards nor do they want to hear the mating cries coming from your house/yard. Go the extra step and spay/neuter the community (homeless/feral) cats!
  9. Your pet doesn’t need to have a litter for your children to learn about the miracle of birth.
    Hello!! You can find all kinds of educational material on the internet to teach your children about the miracle of birth.
  10. Spaying and neutering helps reduce the killing.
    3 to 4 million animals are killed in US shelters every single year. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

PS. Courtney’s kittens are doing very well in their foster home. Their bottle feeder reports that at least one is using a litter box already AND they are starting to show interest in wet food. Lily, Haley, Cameron & Manny will be ready for adoption in several weeks.

UPDATE 7/31/14: Courtney has been adopted!!

The Little Girl Who Meowed

Karma Cat + Zen Dog Rescue Society started four years ago when our Executive Director, Christie Arlotta, helped a neighbor Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) 19 feral cats in their backyards. She and her sister attended a workshop at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah titled “How to Start & Run Your Own Animal Sanctuary.” Click the image to read Michelle’s blog about the trip.

Angel Canyon

Image by Michelle Arlotta Photography

Soon after the trip, Karma Cat + Zen Dog Rescue Society (often referred to by volunteers and friends as KCZD or just Karma Cat) was created.

We are an eclectic bunch of volunteers. We have fosters, socializers, adoption counselors, adoption center cleaners, and TNR volunteers. We have many volunteers who wear more than one hat and fill more than one of these roles.

We are:

  • Men
  • Women
  • Young
  • Not-as-young
  • Single
  • Married
  • Some of us have full time day jobs; Others are students or are retired
  • Some of us have lots of tattoos; Others don’t (but might get one at our next Tattoo Fundraiser!)
  • Cat people
  • Dog people

While our differences make us unique, the one thing every volunteer has in common is passion. We are all passionate about saving animals and making their lives as happy and healthy as possible. Since we are such a diverse group it is not unusual for us to not know all the other volunteers, especially those who don’t fill the same roll as us; the cleaners don’t always know the fosters, etc. We may not have met every one of our fellow volunteers, but we know we have at least one thing in common: KCZD.

Over the next few months we are going to interview and profile some of our volunteers. Some of the questions will be the same, others may vary to shine a light on each person’s individuality. Let’s get to know the heart of Karma Cat, those folks who are dedicated to making the lives of animals better one day, one animal, and one Forever Home at a time.

I hope you enjoy the series of interviews! ~Rebecca, Volunteer Co-Director

The Little Girl Who Meowed

We will begin our profile series with our one and only, incredibly dedicated Executive Director, Christie Arlotta. Christie is an environmental engineer by day and self-proclaimed cat wrangler the rest of the time.

Interviewer (I): When and how did you come to start working with KCZD?

Christie Arlotta (CA): At the end of 2009, I discovered my neighbor was feeding 19 ferals in his backyard … which was connected to our backyard. After helping him get them all fixed – and taking the resulting kittens (18!) for adoption – Karma Cat + Zen Dog was officially formed. A rescue organization was something that my sister Michelle and I talked about for years … something we would do “someday”. We even attended a “How to Start Your Own Animal Sanctuary” week-long course at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah.

[The story and pictures are in our first blog entry: http://karmacatzendog.org/2010/12/2010-the-year-it-all-began/ ]

(I):   What is your favorite part of working for KCZD?

(CA): The amazing people I have met. Seriously. All of our volunteers are so talented and devoted – it’s awe-inspiring. Their generosity is endless.

(I): Do you have a favorite Karma Cat story?cropped-Kandy_ReachingHeader.jpg

(CA): Kandy. A story about never giving up and how every animal deserves to live. Her 1st blog entry is here: Kandy’s Fight 

And her adoption blog entry is here: KandyCat


(I): Any limitations (such as funding) aside, what would be your dream for KCZD?

(CA): Our own facility on our own land … a “cat house” with all the rooms dedicated to the kitties (with very few cages) … and a “dog house” with all the rooms rigged out for the doggies – complete with access to outdoor runs, a playground and an agility course. Anyone have an extra million bucks they need to off-load?

(I): Do you have any animals of your own at home that aren’t fosters?

(CA): You betcha!

  • MacDougal – border collie/pit/Rottweiler/mix mutt – approximately 16 years old. Rescued by my husband many years ago.
  • Beau – brown tabby boy – approximately 17 years old. A bottle baby that my husband rescued.
  • Karma – calico – approximately 5 years old. The first Karma Cat!!
  • Emmett – orange tabby – approximately 4 years old. Another Karma Cat.
  • Spitfire – grey tabby – approximately 3 years old. My baby cat … I just couldn’t give him up after nursing him through a major leg surgery.
  • Keiki – black & white – approximately 2 years old. John’s baby cat … and MacDougal’s little friend.


(I): Do you have a favorite famous cat? (animated, internet, book character, etc.)

(CA): This was harder to answer than I thought it would be! I’ll have to go with Hello Kitty! I still have the adorable purse I purchased while on a trip to Hawai’i many years ago.

(I): So, you’re an engineer. Engineers are typically more of the left-brained, logical type.  Would you describe yourself as strictly logical or do you have a secret artsy side?

(CA): Logical. I like things in straight lines and orderly … though you would never know that looking at my messy, messy desk.

(I): If you could have any superpower without any adverse side effects, what would you want?

(CA): Super speed (I might actually complete my to-do list one day!) or Animal Empathic Communication (what the heck IS my cat thinking???)

(I): What do you consider to be your guilty pleasure?

(CA): A long list of TV shows! Supernatural, Vampire Diaries, The 100, Reign, Bones, Castle, Dallas, going back to the old school Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel series. I get enough “real life” all day. Oh, and Matthew McConaughey … I’m a happily married woman but that Matt is my boyfriend! 😉

Christie & John - wedding day!

Christie & John – wedding day!

(I): How did you pick our KCZD color scheme?

(CA): Ah, I actually didn’t … a graphic design studio donated their time and expertise to create our logo. The design team provided these notes with their first draft:

“Spiral pattern comprising animals used to convey a zen (structured) and karmic (flow of energy) tone and the suggested color usage plays upon cool, tranquil colors which are of equal weights to suggest balance.”

(I): Do you have a favorite breed or color of cat? What about dogs?

Christie & Spitfire (with his black lips)

Christie & Spitfire (with his black lips)


(CA): Cats: black lips on a non-black cat are my favorite. Dogs: not necessarily a breed, just a size … I like the medium-build doggies

(I): What is one thing about you that few, if any, of the other volunteers know about you?

(CA): When I was a little girl, I used to pretend I was a cat.To the extent that my only form of communication during these times (supposedly) was meowing at my mother.

Such fun insights into our Executive Director! It seems it was meant to be that Christie would start an animal rescue organization!

We hope you enjoyed the first in our series introducing our volunteers to you. If you have any other specific questions you’d like answered, or if you have a specific volunteer you would like to see highlighted, please let us know! You can contact me at Rebecca@karmacatzendog.org

~Rebecca :)

Living with Herpes

Wait, what? Yup, you read that title correctly: LIVING WITH HERPES. Feline Herpes, that is.


Sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, + congestion … kitty got a cold? Maybe, but if the symptoms are persistent and/or reoccurring – it could be feline herpes, also known as feline viral rhinopneumonitis (FVR), rhinotracheitis virus and/or feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1). Feline herpes is one of the most common causes of upper respiratory infections in cats. And MANY (most???) cats are exposed to this virus at some point in their lives.

 The laundry list of symptoms:

  • Sneezing “attacks”
  • Discharge from the nose and eyes
  • Congestion
  • Squinting
  • Conjunctivitis or pink eye (inflammation of the eyelid)
  • Lesions in and around the eyes
  • Eye ulcers
  • Appetite loss
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy

The worse part? Kitties weakened by the virus may also develop secondary infections.

The herpes virus grows in nose, eyes, sinus, throat, mouth, and tonsils of a cat. This can cause inflammation and fever. Infections in the nasal discharge affect the sense of smell, causing the appetite to fade. Loss of appetite is scary in all cats, it is especially concerning in kittens where anorexia and dehydration can be life-threatening.

How do cats contract herpes?

The most common way for the virus to spread is through contact with discharge from an infected cat’s eyes, mouth or nose. Common activities like sharing litter boxes, food and water dishes with an infected cat can lead to the spread of the virus. An infected pregnant cat might pass the virus on to kittens in utero. Because the virus is highly contagious, it is common in catteries, shelters and multi-cat households.

Some cats who become infected with feline herpes are latent carriers. Even though they will never display symptoms, they can still pass the virus on to other cats. Stress can cause these carriers to “shed” the virus, exhibiting mild symptoms, which clear up on their own after a few days.

So, what does this mean for you?

Aside from giving your herpes kitty some extra attention, good food and the occasional course of anti-biotics … you will:

  • use lots of tissues to wipe up her boogers,
  • clean your windows way more than a “normal” person will,
  • not get freaked out when your cat sneezes a big one on your book, hand, shirt or face,
  • you will buy L-lysine in bulk, and
  • probably give her a cute nick-name like “sniffer cat” 😉

And now for some of the more technical/medical questions

Which cats are more susceptible to the herpes virus?

Cats of all sizes, ages, and breeds are susceptible to feline herpes. However, cats in crowded or stressful conditions or with weak immune systems often develop more severe symptoms, as can kittens, Persians, and other flat-face breeds.

Can humans, dogs, or other animals contract herpes from a cat?

No. Humans, dogs, and other animals are not at risk for catching feline herpes.  Likewise, cats cannot catch the strains of herpes that humans carry.

How is feline herpes diagnosed?

Diagnosis can be challenging, and is often based on a combination of symptoms, health history and lab tests. If symptoms of feline herpes are noticed/suspected, a veterinarian should be consulted. The same symptoms may point to calcivirus, which causes upper respiratory disease as well.

The veterinarian cant take a blood sample for testing with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. However, the test can be negative even if the cat is infected, so further testing may be needed.

My cat has the feline herpes – what can I do?

Once infected, the majority of cats do not get rid of the virus. However, symptoms can be treated. Veterinarians may prescribe oral antibiotics or antiviral medications to help ease symptoms, and drops or creams may be used for conjunctivitis or other eye irritations. With medication, good nutrition, supplements, and tender loving care, most cats can make a successful recovery.

Conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers are treated with topical antibiotics for secondary bacterial infection. L-lysine has been recommended anecdotally to suppress viral replication.A more recent study supports the use of L-lysine for treatment of ocular signs of FHV-1 infection.

Any cat developing an upper respiratory infection should be under veterinary supervision. A brief exam by a veterinarian will help to determine if your cat requires medication, has a fever,or is dehydrated. If a cat is just sneezing, but is otherwise acting normally, no treatment will likely be needed. However, if a cat begins to show nasal discharge, loss or appetite or other symptoms, there is evidence of a secondary bacterial infection and cause for starting antibiotics.

Please do not administer any medication to your cat unless you’ve discussed it with your veterinarian.

How can I reduce flare-ups?

Reduce stress! The virus reactivates with stress so a low-stress environment is helpful in reducing flare-ups. Your cat can be put under stress by any sudden change in his (or your) daily routine, by a sudden change in environment (new house, new roommate, new kids!) or even loud noises.

How Can I Help My Infected Cat Feel Better?

  • Frequently clean his eyes (discharge may dry, creating a hard, uncomfortable crust).
  • A humidifier in the cat’s environment or time in a steamy bathroom can help the congestion.
  • Create a calm, restful home for your cat.
  • Make sure your cat is regularly eating and drinking water. Some cats may require supportive feeding.

Getting rid of the Virus:

Most household disinfectants will inactivate FHV-1. The virus can survive up to 18 hours in a damp environment, but less in a dry environment and only shortly as an aerosol.