Categories: Infection

My previous cat was euthanised after having feline herpesvirus. Do I need to clean the whole house before I get another cat?

Feline virus

I received a question from a visitor to my website which is published below.

I recently had to have my cat put down. She was a feral and she had the feline herpesvirus. Unfortunately, I was unable to administer any meds because she went crazy if anyone wanted to pick her up let alone put her in a crate or administer medication. I am looking at getting a kitten at some point in the future. Someone told me I had to have my entire house thoroughly cleaned — shampoo rugs and all furniture, wash all bedspreads etc. and wipe down all the hardwood furniture. I keep a very clean home so I am wondering if all that is necessary before inviting another cat into the home. Does the virus stay around that long if there are no other cats in the home?

I hope you can give me some information on this.

I thought the advice was extreme. Do you really have to clean the entire house thoroughly just because your previous cat suffered from the feline herpes virus and you are getting a new cat?

I guess we all know that feline viral respiratory diseases are very, very contagious. The disease can spread rapidly through a multi-cat home. It is the extremely contagious nature of this disease which dictates that strict precautions are taken.

However, and this is important, the feline herpesvirus probably only survives for 1 to 2 days in the environment. Therefore, strictly speaking, there is no need in this instance to clean the surfaces in the house because there is a sufficient time gap between the death of the cat with the disease and the adoption of a new cat.

However, there is one caveat at least in this instance. The other major viral group responsible for the majority of feline upper respiratory infections is the calicivirus group (FCV). FCV can potentially live for up to a month in the environment. Although it probably survives no more than 7 to 14 days.

If the timeframe between the previous cat and the new cat is less than a month then it is important to disinfect any bedding, bowls, cages or other items that the sick cat had come into contact with by washing them thoroughly with a dilute solution of bleach and water. Human clothing should also be cleaned which has come into contact with the ill cat.

Best Disinfectant for Feline Viruses

I am implying that it is possible for a veterinarian to misdiagnose the cause of the upper respiratory disease. It might have been caused by the calicivirus group rather than the feline herpes virus which means an extended time during which the virus lives in the environment.

Conclusion

My answer to the lady who asked the question quoted above is that, strictly speaking, you will not need to thoroughly clean the house as suggested. You should disinfect as mentioned above if the time between adopting the new cat and the euthanasia of the previous cat is very short and provided there are no other cats involved. You might wish to do this as a precaution in any event. This disease cannot be transmitted to or carried by people or dogs.

I welcome further input on this subject. I am not a veterinarian.

Sources: Myself, International Cat Care and Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.



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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

  • Feline herpes and calicivirus can occur at the same time so it is very important to do a preemptive cleaning as calicivirus can live much longer no surfaces than herpes can. In my experience and from experts I talked to during my shelter medicine course and in vet tech school, many people consider calicivirus to be VERY hardy in the environment so I would absolutely consider it an infection that can survive on objects for 30 days.

  • Better safe than sorry. If the cat was in a home situation why not put medication in the food ? Veterinarians that do TNR only need the cat in a crate in order to put them out and administer a long acting antibiotic which since this is a virus is only done for secondary infection. If she could euthanize the cat why not medicate it instead. The whole question confuses me.

      • As a rule when I was in charge of horses being boarded a stall was stripped, dug out and repacked and the walls washed and all buckets sterilized. This was done regardless of the health of the horse. It would be a good idea to do a reasonable cleaning of the house especially any food or water bowls. Washing and drying bedding in hot dryer or hanging in the direct sun. Since we clean our homes and sanitize for our own pets it makes sense to do so before bringing another cat into the house.

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