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Our Research

Science has the power to change the world

As the global leader in supporting scientific research that advances veterinary medicine, Morris Animal Foundation has invested more than $100 million toward more than 2,400 studies to improve the health and well-being of dogs, cats, horses, llamas/alpacas and wildlife.

At any given time, Morris Animal Foundation is managing more than 200 active studies. Each year, we also fund about 30 veterinary student scholar projects. Search our health study database by species or area of study to learn more about research that will make a true difference in the lives of animals—today and tomorrow.

To sponsor a study, please contact a member of our sponsorship team for the most up-to-date status on our research projects at or call 800.243.2345. 

Search Results

Comparing Cat Breeds to Identify Genetic Reasons for Bone Disease

Scottish Fold and American Curl cat breeds are easily identified by their unusual ears, which are an inherited trait. Although Scottish Folds have forward-folding ears, American Curls have ears that curl toward the center of the back of the skull. In American Curls, only the ear cartilage is malformed, whereas Scottish Folds can suffer from bone malformations and crippling arthritis that greatly affects their long-term quality of life. Based on existing pedigree analyses, two independent gene mutations appear responsible for the folded ear. it is possible that both mutations have occurred in the same gene or in genes belonging to the same signaling pathway. researchers will genotype cats from both breeds and identify the genes and chromosomal regions responsible for the folded-ear traits. The outcome of this study is of particular importance in understanding cartilage physiology, and it could provide new information regarding the much broader problem of osteoarthritis in these cats.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Bianca Haase, University of Sydney, Australia


Study ID: D12FE-021

Determining the Effectiveness of Stem Cell Therapy in Cats

Mesnechymal stem cells (MSCs) show promise for treating a variety of chronic inflammtory diseases in cats. This study identifies the in vitro and in vivo effects of feline MSC treatment on the immune system and evaluates the safety and effectiveness of its use in cats with idiopathic cystitis or inflammation.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Maciej Parys, Michigan State University, Fellowship Training


Study ID: D13FE-405

Evaluating Genetic Suppression of Oral Cancer Cells

Feline oral squamous cell carcinoma is a common cancer that responds poorly to treatment. A key mechanism in cats contributes to the invasive and malignant nature of this disease. This study identifies the gene that controls this mechanism and evaluates whether suppressing the gene in cancer cells could help treat the disease in cats.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Donald Andrew Yool, University of Edinburgh, Scotland


Study ID: D13FE-007

Generating a High-Density Genetic Map of the Feline Genome

Genome maps provide outstanding tools for scientists to study genetic disease. The cat genome was sequenced for the first time in 2007. Very recently a high-resolution sequence of the cat genome was completed using next-generation sequencing technology; however, 18 percent of the cat genome remains unrepresented in the map. These missing pieces will result in mapping ambiguities or inaccuracies in future mapping efforts. In this study, researchers will work to generate a high-density genetic map of the cat genome using a gene chip containing single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The SNPs, genetic footprints found in DNA, function as genetic markers that will help scientists identify genetic predispositions to such diseases as diabetes, cancer, arthritis, kidney disease, infectious diseases and others. If successful, the accurate map could become a valuable resource for all future gene discoveries in domestic cats and a powerful veterinary model for gene discovery of hundreds of hereditary, infectious and chronic complex diseases.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephen J. O’Brien, National Cancer Institute


Study ID: D12FE-501

Identifying Genes of Susceptibility for Feline Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases that affects middle-aged and older cats, and it is very similar to type 2 diabetes in humans. Some breeds of cat, like the Burmese, seem to have an increased risk of developing diabetes, which suggests an underlying genetic predisposition. As in the human population, the number of cats suffering from diabetes has progressively increased in recent years. Several risk factors have been identified that might predispose cats to developing diabetes, including being overweight and lack of exercise. Recent studies in humans have revealed that in addition to these external risk factors, there is an underlying genetic basis for disease susceptibility. Researchers will use a higher-powered test to identify more genes that contribute to genetic susceptibility to feline diabetes. The investigators will use SNP chips – a type of DNA chip that contains single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), genetic footprints found in DNA, to identify the location of disease causing mutations. Better understanding of the genetic factors that contribute to disease susceptibility could help prevent and treat diabetes, not only in cats, but potentially also in humans with type 2 diabetes.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Yaiza Forcada, University of London, United Kingdom


Study ID: D12FE-512

Identifying Genes that Cause Feline Breed Characteristics

Pedigree breeding and the creation of specific breeds of any type of animal have some inevitable genetic risks, such as increasing the chance of inherited diseases and compromising genetic diversity. This is evident in a few types of cat breeds. Manx, which are bred to not have a tail, can experience lameness, incontinence and fecal impaction, and the Scottish Fold cat breed has a mutation that may cause mild to severe bone dystrophy. These two breeds are not among the most popular of cat breeds, but some other breeds, such as Persians and other short-faced cats, that are bred to have specific traits, are among the most popular cat breeds. The short face is a highly desired trait as it gives the cats big round faces and big eyes, but it also likely causes significantly more health problems than the ear fold and tailless mutations combined. The secondary health effects of the extreme shortening of the facial bones leads to constant tearing, nasal discharge, eye problems and chewing problems. Researchers will study the major genes that cause short face characteristics in domestic cat breeds using SNP chips, a new genetic tool that could help better determine the genes involved. SNP chips are a type of DNA chip that contain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), genetic footprints found in DNA, to identify the locations of disease causing mutations. The data from this research could help researchers develop genetic tests to monitor mutations linked to health conditions in certain breeds so that breeders can produce healthier cats.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Leslie A. Lyons, University of California–Davis


Study ID: D12FE-506

Identifying the Genetic Mutation for Heart Disease in Maine Coon Cats

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common cardiac disease in cats. Affected cats develop heart problems when they are about 2 to 4 years old. HCM may eventually be fatal months to years after initial symptoms are seen; however, the age of onset and the clinical course of this disease are highly variable. Most likely there are several different genetic mutations that cause HCM in cats. Researchers will study HCM in Maine Coon cats. There are already two genetic tests for HCM in Maine Coons but these tests are fairly ineffective in predicting disease. Researchers will perform a genome-wide association study to identify new genetic risk factors for HCM in Maine Coons, using SNP chips, a type of DNA chip that contains single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or genetic footprints, to identify disease causing mutations in DNA. They will compare the genomes of 72 affected and 72 non-affected cats to identify consistent genetic differences between the two groups that will indicate the particular genome region where the mutation is located and thus facilitate its identification. Once a causative mutation for HCM is identified, a genetic test could be developed. This study has potential to reduce or even eliminate HCM from the Maine Coon population by a targeted breeding program.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Gerhard Wess, University of Munich


Study ID: D12FE-503

Improving the Feline Genome Assembly

Researchers will improve the quality of the feline genome assembly, an important tool for studying genetic causes and risks associated with diseases in cats.

Principal Investigator: William J. Murphy, PhD, Texas A&M University


Study ID: D16FE-011

Improving the Feline Genome Assembly

Recently, domestic cat genome maps and sequencing resources have been effectively used to map and identify more than a dozen genes that influence feline disease and coat color. Many of these studies have led to genetic tests, but large fractions of the genome are misassembled and disagree with previous maps. Resolving the location and structure of duplications is critical, as a growing body of literature suggests that these structurally unstable regions hold information about a large number of diseases. Researchers will work to improve the feline genome sequence assembly using approaches made possible with recent technologies. A new ultra- high-resolution radiation hybrid map will be created using a new-generation sequencing-based genotyping method that has the potential to map millions of sequences across the genome. The results of this study will significantly improve the quality of the feline genome assembly and enhance the tools scientists use to study genetic diseases in cats.

Principal Investigator: Dr. William J. Murphy, Texas A&M University


Study ID: D12FE-019

Searching for Genes Responsible for Feline Obesity

Obesity and obesity-associated diseases are growing health threats to cats. A recent study determined that 19.0 percent of cats are overweight and 7.8 percent are obese. Multiple diseases, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus and dermatosis, are associated with excess body weight and may result in a lower quality of life and potentially an early death. Previous investigations revealed significant differences between lean and overweight cats. In lean cats, an average body fat content of 8.0 percent was observed, whereas overweight cats had an average body fat content of 25.6 percent. Researchers from the University of Sydney hypothesize that a single major gene may be responsible for a large fraction of the observed variation in body composition. This study will use SNP chips--a new genetic tool that could help better determine the genes involved.  SNP chips are a type of DNA chip that contain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), genetic footprints found in DNA, to locate the genes potentially responsible for increased body weight. Identification of a causative mutation would allow genetic testing to facilitate the breeding of healthier cats. A better understanding of the control of body mass may also highlight better management options, such as diet.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Bianca Haase, University of Sydney, Australia


Study ID: D12FE-513

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