Upper respiratory tract infection is a leading cause of illness and euthanasia for cats in animal shelters. Therefore, the Morris Animal Foundation is funding research on modifications in shelter conditions to reduce the spread of upper respiratory tract infection and other diseases in cats.
Morris is funding a study on housing of shelter cats by Dr. Kate F. Hurley, director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Hurley is comparing two cage types for their effects on shelter cats' stress, prevalence of upper respiratory tract disease, and subsequent likelihood of adoption.
According to research by Dr. Hurley, the prevalence of upper respiratory tract infection in shelter cats varies across the country—affecting 5 percent to 60 percent of shelter cats. So far, the shelters that provide high-quality housing for cats appear to have the lowest infection rates.
Dr. Hurley's study of cage types is one of three projects receiving funds through the Helping Shelters Help Cats program under Morris' Happy Healthy Cat Campaign.
The foundation is funding a team from the United States, Canada, and Australia that seeks to develop behavioral interventions to decrease stress in shelter cats and thereby increase the cats' mucosal immune response—the first line of defense against upper respiratory tract infection.
A study at The Ohio State University will determine whether changes in cage environment reduce stress in shelter cats and will create a training program to help shelter personnel become experts in observing and working with cats to reduce the cats' stress.