Scientists at Colorado State University recently received a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study how habitat fragmentation influences transmission of diseases among bobcats, pumas, and domestic cats.
The principal investigator is Dr. Sue VandeWoude, associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She and her collaborators will study the three cat species in Colorado, Florida, and California. Bobcats and pumas share overlapping habitats in these states, are susceptible to many of the same diseases, and are at risk of infection with pathogens from domestic cats.
Many outdoor domestic cats roam urban edges with access to natural areas, potentially coming into contact with wild cats. Scientists will study the extent to which disease agents in puma and bobcat populations also are present in domestic cats. Some of these diseases, such as toxoplasmosis and bartonellosis, are zoonotic.
Dr. VandeWoude's laboratory focuses on feline immunodeficiency virus. Bobcats, pumas, and domestic cats each have their own FIV strain. Scientists will study how the strains are similar across species and locations. Preliminary research has shown that large wild cats share FIV strains in some habitats of California and Florida.