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March 16, 2023 — Morris Animal Foundation has been funding studies to help vulnerable and underserved animal populations for more than 40 years. With the support of our generous donors, we've invested more than $9 million in nearly 200 studies that have direct and indirect health implications for cats and dogs in group housing situations, such as shelters and rescue organizations. From new cage designs to finding novel treatments for infectious diseases, the Foundation is committed to funding the best science to improve the health and well-being of underserved animals. Our goal is bold but simple - reduce the population of unwanted pets and improve the health and well-being of those animals waiting to find their forever families!

Tackling Infectious Disease

It's not surprising that infectious diseases are a big concern for shelter and rescue animal caretakers, since infections can spread quickly when many animals are housed together. Unfortunately, managing disease outbreaks can stretch already thin resources. Statistics show that euthanasia is more common in cats and dogs showing signs of disease, even when the disease is treatable.

The Foundation has funded studies concentrated on the diagnosis and treatment of many infectious diseases affecting vulnerable shelter and rescue animals. Our early work on identifying canine parvovirus is one example. A more recent example is the work we've funded studying canine influenza virus, a disease that threatened thousands of dogs and continues to be a major health concern.

For cats, upper respiratory infection is one of the most common, if not the most common, diseases that spread quickly in group housing situations. Not only does this group of viruses cause respiratory symptoms, but they often cause eye problems that can be especially problematic. Finding the best treatment to help cats recover faster from these infections has been daunting, but we haven't given up. Our researchers continue to seek the best and most cost-effective therapies to speed recovery and help cats find their forever homes.

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a potentially fatal viral infection that often strikes young cats. The Foundation has funded a significant body of research into this disease, some of which led to the first successful treatment. Many other studies are in progress that could significantly improve our odds of diagnosing, treating and possibly preventing this terrible disease.

Another disease that can affect cats in shelters and reduce adoptability is ringworm. This fungal infection can spread quickly in shelters and while relatively harmless, it can affect people, too. Foundation-funded researchers are studying how to improve diagnostic tests for this disease so cats can be diagnosed - and treated - quickly and effectively.

Pain Management

Managing pain in pets is a major concern for the Foundation and we've committed significant resources toward making life more comfortable for dogs and cats, including those in group housing.

When resources are slender, finding cost-effective pain control that works can be a challenge. One impactful study has changed the way many veterinarians, both in shelters and in private practice, approach optimizing pain medication during spay surgeries. The team continues to fine tune their protocol to make surgery safe and pain-free.

Cage Configuration

If you've been in a shelter or adoption center recently, you may have noticed a cage configuration that includes hiding spaces, connecting tunnels and more total square footage. Foundation-funded researchers were instrumental in designing and studying cage configurations that not only optimize well-being but improve health by minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.

Humane Population Control

Many dogs and cats that enter shelters or rescues are free-roaming community animals or animals that are the result of pet overpopulation. The Foundation has funded several studies over the years, looking at new ways to control reproduction as a means to decrease the number of animals left at shelters and rescue agencies. We recently funded two proposals focused on nonsurgical methods to control reproductive capacity in community cats. Although a solution has been elusive, we continued to be a leader in funding this innovative research.

How You Can Help

To stay up-to-date on the latest funded research on shelter medicine and many other animal health topics, be sure to subscribe to our emails. Or, make a gift now to give animals around the world the best chance at a healthier future.


Learn more about canine parvovirus

Learn more about canine influenza and other respiratory viruses:

Dog viral infections you need to know about

Highly contagious kennel cough often vexes dog owners

Influenza viruses in animals big and small

Learn more about feline infectious peritonitis:

Researchers work to develop oral vaccine for source of FIP

Researchers make breakthrough in fatal cat disease

Learn more about upper respiratory infections in cats:

Upper respiratory infections in cats

Amount of cage space and risk for upper respiratory disease

Changes in gut microbiome in cats with chronic rhinitis

Feline herpesvirus treatment could save shelter cats’ eyes and lives

Learn more about feline panleukopenia virus

Learn more about viruses affecting cats:

Feline viruses and COVID-19

Cats and Viruses 101

Learn more about ringworm in cats:

My pet has ringworm. What should I do?

Ringworm in cats

Learn more about shelter design, well-being, and health in shelter cats:

Shelter medicine and animal welfare

What cats want

Learn more about nonsurgical reproductive capacity control:

New projects funded looking at nonsurgical sterilization in cats

Overpopulation of free-roaming cats drives the hunt for better contraceptives

Learn more about pain control in dogs and cats:

Understanding pain in cats

Osteoarthritis in dogs and cats

Testing a new treatment for back pain in dogs

Study shows tramadol comes up short for osteoarthritis pain relief in dogs

Researchers test gene therapy as a new way to treat osteoarthritis in dogs

New thoughts on osteoarthritis in dogs and cats