Upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) is common across feline populations. Feline coronavirus (FCoV) frequently circulates widely and has occasionally been noted to have a potential role in respiratory disease. The aim of this cross-sectional pilot study was to investigate common respiratory pathogens and FCoV in shelter cats.
Cats were enrolled at two animal shelters in New York state between November 2018 and March 2020 and considered either clinical for URTD or apparently healthy. Respiratory samples were submitted to the Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center for routine upper respiratory diagnostic testing. Additional qRT-PCR was performed on respiratory and fecal samples to investigate the presence of FCoV.
Five pathogens were identified in this population: Bordetella, feline calicivirus (FCV), M. felis, panleukopenia, and pneumovirus. FCV was the only pathogen associated with URTD signs. Pneumovirus was identified in two cats. FCoV was present in respiratory samples from one cat, who later developed gastrointestinal disease. Fecal shedding of FCoV was observed in 30% of URTD cases, compared to 11% of cats without URTD, but was not statistically significant.
Conclusions and relevance
Common respiratory pathogens were identified in cats with and without URTD. One cat tested positive for FCoV in a respiratory sample; FCoV shedding the feces was common, but not statistically significant, in cats with respiratory disease. Two cats were identified as shedding pneumovirus. The significance of pneumovirus to feline respiratory disease remains unknown and in further need of study.