Five animal shelters in the United Kingdom participated in a year-long longitudinal study to identify risk factors for the time to diagnosis of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) in cats. Data from a total of 1434 cats were collected and reviewed. Most of the cats admitted were domestic shorthairs that were either strays or from private homes. Seventy-four cats were diagnosed with URTI during this period. Neutered cats and purebreds were found to be at greater risk for infection. Shelters with more cats with URTI also had more cats with the condition on presentation. Shelters using isolation facilities that removed suspect cats or those known to be infected at the time of admission decreased the risk for infection. Most cats that developed infection did so within 30 days of admission. The hazard decreased after the cats had been in the shelter for 50 days.

That neutered cats were at increased risk for infection was an unexpected finding of this study: The authors hypothesized that intact animals are more likely to be strays and thus more likely to have been previously exposed to URTIs. The finding that most cats acquired infections within the first month is not surprising and emphasizes the need for routine vaccination at the time of admission. Although there were differences in organization of the various animal shelters, identification and isolation of animals known or suspected to be infected at the time of admission greatly decreased the occurrence.

Risk factors for time to diagnosis of feline upper respiratory tract disease in UK animal adoption shelters. Edwards DS, Coyne K, Dawson S, et al. PREV VET MED doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2008.05.005, 2008.