Categories: Infection

My Neighbors’ Cat Gave My Cat Herpes Virus. Should They Pay My Veterinary Bills?

I’ll explain why I believe the answer is no. There is a letter on the internet saying ‘my neighbors’ cat gave my cat herpes virus. Should they pay my veterinary bills?’. Herpes virus is one of two main viruses that cause the common cold in cats. It can be serious and cause secondary infections and pink eye (conjunctivitis) which in turn can even cause an eye to be lost. You see lots of blind feral kittens because of it.


The cat owner says that her neighbors’ cat is a free roamer and comes into her backyard. He sprays everywhere and has transmitted feline herpesvirus to her cat.

Can she claim for vet’s fees? Although I see the fairness in asking for compensation in paying the vet’s fees I also see real hurdles in proving the claim.

Why The Claim Is Tricky

Firstly you have prove that the neighbors’ cat transmitted the virus to your cat. That might be tricky even though herpesvirus is highly contagious. You’ll have get expert evidence supporting the argument that the same virus affected both cats and that it was transmitted from one to the other. It is rarely transmitted by airborne droplets. You say your cat runs away from the intruder cat. This would help prevent transmission.

If they have the same disease it might have been transmitted by direct contact or drinking from the same bowl. If that is the case you could have mitigated the possibility of your cat catching the infection by keeping him/her in or away from the intruder cat and not drinking from the same bowl. What I mean is there could be an element of contributory negligence.

If you could prove your case there would probably be a reduction in the amount of the claim because of a failure to prevent the infection in your cat.

We don’t know how far your cat roams. It seems she is confined to the backyard. But another problem is that there is normally no absolute legal obligation to stop a cat ‘trespassing‘ on a neighbor’s property. So your neighbor’s cat has done no wrong in coming into your yard. Therefore your cat and vicariously the cat’s owner has done no wrong when their cat transmits the herpes virus to your cat. There may also be a defense. If your neighbor was unaware that their cat was infected with the herpes virus it would make it is impossible to blame them for letting their cat roam under these circumstances and infecting other cats.

So you’ll have to prove that your neighbor was aware that their cat was infected with herpes virus. The point is that it would be a troublesome case and unlikely to succeed. You would incur costs which might not be recoverable. The costs might well outweigh the value of the claim.

In response to the question: my neighbors’ cat gave my cat herpes virus. Should they pay my veterinary bills?, I’d say no.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • This would be the same as trying to sue a coworker for giving your a cold or the flu.

  • I agree, if you decide to allow your cat outside this is another risk you are taking with your cat's life. I do not see how it could be definitively proved unless you had video of a fight with this particular cat or these specific cats sharing a water bowl as mentioned. Even if you could prove it, it was probably not against any ordinances that the cat had to be vaccinated for this virus before being allowed outside. The biggest loser are the sick animals and other cats they will infect going forward if not treated and allowed to keep going outside.

  • IMO since she allows her cat outside if I'm reading this correctly my answer would be NO.

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