Module 5: The Case of the Snotty Cats

Feline URI

The shelter vet reviewed this document on feline respiratory infections in shelters to refresh her knowledge about feline herpesvirus in order to make a plan for decreasing feline URI.




Feline URI Takeaways

  • 90% of feline upper respiratory infections (URI) is caused by feline herpesvirus (FHV) and feline calicivirus (FCV), with FHV being the most common
  • The FHV incubation period is <1 week
  • FHV shedding in ocular, nasal, and oral secretions persists for 1 to 3 weeks
  • FHV establishes a life-long carrier state by latent infection of the trigeminal ganglia in the face
  • Stress reactivates FHV replication leading to recurrent URI
  • Stressed adult cats start shedding FHV within the first week of shelter stay and are the usual source of infection for kittens housed in the same areas
  • Feline URI due to FHV is strongly associated with stress from poor housing conditions and long lengths of stay in the shelter. The most effective strategy to reduce occurrence is elimination of environmental stress and employment of sound population management practices that shorten length of stay to placement in a home


Test Your Knowledge

Select the best answer to the questions in the Feline URI Quiz below.


The shelter vet reviewed the ASV Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters and implemented these changes in the shelter:

  • Conduct daily medical rounds to promptly identify new cases of feline URI
  • Move URI cats to an isolation room for treatment
  • Follow the new Feline URI Protocol for treating URI cats in the isolation room, including wearing PPE
  • Clean cat cages with a disinfectant that kills feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, and panleukopenia virus.
  • Vaccinate all cats immediately on intake with a modified live FVRCP (herpesvirus, calicivirus, panleukopenia virus) vaccine

Unfortunately, these changes did not reduce the incidence of URI in the shelter cats. The shelter vet begins to wonder…WHAT AM I MISSING?


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