Morris Animal Foundation Funds New Studies That Target Critical Illnesses Threatening Cats

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DENVER, Nov. 14, 2017 — Studies of three deadly infections in cats are among the research projects awarded more than $400,000 in grants from Morris Animal Foundation, the organization announced today. The studies will help veterinary scientists advance the health of cats, particularly those in shelter environments where infectious diseases take a greater toll.

“Cats are one of the most beloved pets in the United States, with an estimated 85 million gracing our homes and our lives,” said Dr. John Reddington, Morris Animal Foundation President and CEO. “Their owners want to do everything they can to care for their feline companions, and that includes the very best veterinary care. And that's where Morris Animal Foundation comes in. The studies we fund address critical health issues that cats are facing, saving lives and giving our feline friends longer, healthier lives.”

Through this year's grants, the Foundation is supporting five researchers and one fellow at five universities including Colorado State University, Michigan State University, and the University of Sydney, Australia. The Foundation's Small Animal Scientific Advisory Board reviewed all submitted grant applications and selected, based on scientific merit and impact, the studies with the greatest potential to save lives, preserve health and advance veterinary care. Feline studies funded for 2017 are:

Investigating the Re-emergence of a Fatal Gastrointestinal Disease in Shelter Cats
In the last 10 to 15 years, feline panleukopenia has re-emerged as a major cause of death in shelter-housed cats. Researchers will determine if multiple parvovirus strains or other viruses are contributing to the re-emergence of panleukopenia, also called feline distemper, a severe and often fatal gastrointestinal infection in cats. Awarded to University of Sydney, Australia.

Developing New Diagnostic and Prognostic Tests for Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Feline infectious peritonitis is perhaps the most devastating infectious disease of cats. Definitive diagnosis of FIP prior to death remains a significant challenge, frustrating owners and veterinarians alike. Researchers will explore novel ways to diagnose and predict the likelihood of a cat to develop feline infectious peritonitis, a highly fatal viral disease with no known cure. Awarded to Colorado State University.

Combating Feline Herpesvirus-related Upper Respiratory Infections
Feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1) causes approximately 50 percent of diagnosed viral upper respiratory tract infections in cats. FHV-1 spreads rapidly in multi-cat environments, making it a significant problem in shelters, where infection often leads to euthanasia of infected animals. Researchers will identify genes responsible for the lack of immune defenses associated with feline herpesvirus, a major cause of upper respiratory infections in cats, with the aim of developing a more effective vaccine. Awarded to Michigan State University.

Understanding Why Cats Respond Differently to a Common Heart Medication
Studies indicate that between 6 percent and 17 percent of cats with cardiac diseases will develop potentially life-threatening blood clots. The drug clopidogrel is frequently prescribed for cats with heart disease to help prevent and treat blood clot formation. However, individual cats may process clopidogrel differently, resulting in variations in drug efficacy. Researchers will determine if genetic mutations are directly linked to how well or how poorly a cat with heart disease responds to the drug. Awarded to University of California, Davis.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Commonly Prescribed Drug for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
Chronic kidney disease is a common health condition in cats and an estimated 50 percent of elderly cats are diagnosed with the disease. Researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of omeprazole, a gastric acid suppressant commonly prescribed to treat gastrointestinal symptoms in cats with chronic kidney disease. This project consists of two grants, one of which is a fellowship, awarded to the University of Tennessee.

About Morris Animal Foundation
Established in 1948, Morris Animal Foundation is dedicated to improving and protecting the health of animals through scientific innovation, education and inspiration. Our investment in research has yielded lifesaving vaccines, new treatments for critical diseases, superior screening tests and advanced diagnostic tools. We respond to emerging animal health threats that endanger entire species, and make new discoveries in basic animal biology to support applied research. With every study we fund – more than 2,600 to date – we strive to advance the science of veterinary medicine, honoring the founding principles of Dr. Mark L. Morris Sr. to benefit animals worldwide. Learn more at

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Brad Bennett

Brad Bennett

Brad grew up in a small town in northern Iowa. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife one month later. They were then blessed with two baby boys within the first four years of marriage. Having babies gave their family a desire to return to the old paths – to nourish their family with traditional, homegrown foods; rid their home of toxic chemicals and petroleum products; and give their boys a chance to know a simple, sustainable way of life. They are currently building a homestead from scratch on two little acres in central Texas. There’s a lot to be done to become somewhat self-sufficient, but they are debt-free and get to spend their days living this simple, good life together with their five young children.
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