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Stressful Shelter Housing Conditions Elicit Higher URI in Felines, Study Finds
Posted: Friday, Dec. 18, 2009

Stressful shelter housing conditions increase the likelihood of feline upper respiratory infection (URI), according to new research funded by Morris Animal Foundation’s Happy Healthy Cat Campaign. This infection, similar to the common cold in humans, is cited among the top reasons for euthanasia of cats in shelters.

The Morris Animal Foundation points out that although the studies focus on shelters, the findings are relevant to all pets that spend time in veterinary clinics, catteries or kennels.

The research is being led by Kate Hurley, DVM, the director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California, Davis. Specifically, Dr. Hurley is assessing disease incidence, cage layout and sanitation methods to determine how shelter housing affects stress and stress-related illnesses.

Her research shows that prevalence of feline URI varies across the country, with anywhere from 5 percent to 60 percent of shelter cats getting sick. Environmental risk factors explain some of the variation, and so far, shelters with the lowest URI rates seem to be those with high-quality housing for cats, according to the Morris Animal Foundation.

This project is one of three Helping Shelters Help Cats studies funded through the foundation’s Happy Healthy Cat Campaign. In another study, researchers from the United States, Canada and Australia are working to develop effective behavioral interventions to minimize the spread of URI. A third study, at Ohio State University, will create a training program for shelter personnel.

In related news, an anonymous donor will match every dollar (up to $500,000) donated to Helping Shelter Cats. Based on this pledge, the foundation sent out a request for proposals for shelter-based research projects investigating feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). <HOME>

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