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DENVER/February 16, 2023 – Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers studying cats suffering from chronic upper respiratory infections were surprised to find significant differences in the nasal and gut microbiomes between ill cats and their healthy housemates. Their findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“What jumped out to me was that certain families of gut bacteria were found in the healthy cats but not sick cats,” said Dr. Brianna Beechler, Assistant Professor of Research at Oregon State University and one of the study’s authors. “I think one of the most intriguing potential outcomes from this study is whether the gut microbiome could be a place for intervention in cats with nasal infections."

Feline upper respiratory tract disease is a complex syndrome that affects thousands of cats each year, particularly those in group housing situations like shelters and rescue organizations. Unfortunately, the disease is a leading cause of euthanasia in these vulnerable populations. Finding an effective treatment would benefit untold numbers of kittens and cats.

“Our study number is small, and we don't know exactly how the changes in the nasal and gut microbiomes influence disease progression or if they result from clinical signs”, said Dr. Holly Arnold, the paper's lead author and postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University.  ”However, we believe our work provides a baseline for further clinically relevant studies, such as determining if administration of oral probiotics may be an effective strategy in reducing clinical signs among shelter animals. This study is a first step toward providing alternative methods to managing this disease."

About Morris Animal Foundation

Morris Animal Foundation’s mission is to bridge science and resources to advance the health of animals. Founded in 1948 and headquartered in Denver, it is one of the largest nonprofit animal health research organizations in the world, funding more than $149 million in nearly 3,000 critical studies across a broad range of species. Learn more at

Media Contact: Kelly Diehl, DVM, MS