Feral Cat’s Eye Discharge Suggest Viral Disease

A Risky Disease with Long Term Issues


I have a feral cat and cannot cage him to get him to a vet. Otherwise he jumps in my lap and is most lovable. He has an eye drainage. I have been using a damp cloth to clear the gunk. Is there any medication that would help?


Dr. Nichol:

You’re doing the right thing to eliminate his eye discharge; it’s teeming with organisms. That little guy may have a viral disease, like many feral cats, or there could be foreign material like a foxtail awn next to his eye. He needs to see the doctor so he can get an accurate diagnosis and the correct treatment.


Your boy’s eye discharge suggests viral infection. Many infected cats also have sneezing, nasal discharge, and oral ulcers that make it hard for them to eat. Youngsters, in particular, can spike a fever, drool, and have their nostrils and eyelids stuck closed with dried pus. This is serious business; if your cat becomes dehydrated or stops eating he may not make it.


Viral upper respiratory infections are the most common contagious diseases in cats. About 85% are caused by either feline herpes virus (FHV-1) or calicivirus. Bacterial opportunists can overwhelm these cats, leading to pneumonia. The antibiotic azithromycin is essential in many cases. Unfortunately most become chronic carriers after they get well. Vaccination is important but there is no guarantee against persistent virus living in a household.


To help protect your kitty you can give him the amino acid supplement l-lysine (available as Enisyl from your veterinarian). Don’t use human antiviral drugs; they’re not effective against feline herpes virus and they’re quite toxic to cats.


Somehow, you need to get this little guy to the doctor. Mist Feliway (calming pheromone) inside a top loading cat carrier and move it a little closer to his food bowl with each meal. When you’re ready to load him into the car you can have an accomplice slowly cover him with a blanket and gently deposit him into the carrier. Take it slow; we don’t want him in a huff when he shows up. May the force be with you.