rhinotracheitis is caused by a virus called feline herpesvirus-1.
It is an alphaherpes virus, which means it is part of a subfamily of
the genus Varicellovirus. Feline herpesvirus shares a lot of
similarities with canine herpesvirus-1 but they should be considered as
separate entities. Like all herpesviruses, this virus contains a
double-stranded DNA genome and it is covered by an envelope.
Having an envelope makes a herpesvirus susceptible to inactivation by
drying or by disinfectants such as soap. Therefore, feline
herpesvirus-1 relies on close contact to be transmitted from one cat to
another as it is also unstable as an aerosol. A key feature
of this virus is that once it is contracted, it will always be present
in the host either as a detectable infection or as a latent infection,
where the virus takes up residence in the trigeminal ganglia (part of a
cranial nerve found in the face), only producing clinical signs when