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Science Newsletter

 In This Issue

FIP Cured?The Role of Cat Litter in Managing and Preventing FIPAre You a Cat Whisperer? Take the Quiz on Cat Facial ExpressionsThe “Munchkin” Gene Has Been Mapped! Dwarfism in CatsTreating Human Cat Allergies with a Specialized Feline DietFor Blocked Male Cats, How Effective is Penile Surgery?


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FIP Cured?

By Anthony Hutcherson

“My cat was diagnosed with FIP, her belly was swelling, she stopped eating and I was told to prepare for euthanasia. Today, she is 100% normal and completely healthy more than 20 months after treatment”. Those words came from Luna the Savannah’s owner Debra Roberts, as she held back tears while complimenting the rosettes on the Bengal traveling with me to the conference.

WINN Feline Foundation and The Bria Fund provided in excess of $570,000 to support the work of Neils Pederson, DVM PhD and other scientific research that ultimately utilized GS-441524 and GC376 to treat FIP in clinical trials. The clinical trial included 26 cats, diagnosed with wet or dry FIP, treated with these chemical entities administered by Dr. Pederson. Nearly two years post treatment, 24 cats continue to thrive. A 25th feline participant survived FIP but passed away from unrelated congenital heart disease after the trial.

UC Davis College of Veterinary Medicine and WINN Feline Foundation hosted an invested and highly diverse group of nearly one hundred in person on the campus of the university Nov. 16-17, 2019 matched by online participants. Experts and enthusiasts from three continents spent two days together, focused on this previously considered fatal disease. On the first day, global specialists in pathology, immunology, clinical medicine and feline genetics gathered in round table discussions sharing the latest advances in diagnostics, veterinary drug development, treatment and management of FIP. Day 2 was spent presenting the “nitty gritty” for veterinarians, breeders, rescuers, shelter staff and owners: what to do when a cat is diagnosed with FIP, genetic contributions to disease progression, and strategies for reducing FIP in shelters and multi-cat environments.

TICA (Disclosure: this author is a Director on the Board of TICA & WINN), our partner Dr. Elsey’s, CFA, KindredBio, Anivive, Royal Canin and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association were sponsors of the event.

Important Highlights:

  • The two drugs used to treat FIP are not available in the US, because of a patent held by a human pharmaceutical company. The medications (administered as daily injections for twelve weeks) are only produced in China;
  • Treatment costs between $2,000-$4,000 per cat. If you have a cat diagnosed with FIP, contact the Bria Fund and/or FIP Warriors group on Facebook;
  • There are no examples of offspring from treated cats to determine increased/decreased susceptibility to FIP.
  • There are no known examples of breeding cats to evaluate overall or reproductive health post treatment.
  • A Chinese company present at the symposium is currently seeking FDA approval for an over the counter version of the medication as a powder to mix with food, potentially available as soon as early 2020;
  • Stay informed by subscribing to WINN Feline Foundation’s newsletter and visiting catvets.org (the website of the American Association of Feline Practioners).

Veterinarians should consult the peer reviewed published article by Neils Pederson, DVM PhD et. al on the subject.


Click here for more information about the research study.

Thank you to Cat Lovers, Veterinary Science & Investment Dispatch from the UC Davis College of Veterinary Medicine and WINN Feline Foundation FIP Symposium “Purrsuing FIP & Winning” for providing background for this article.

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The Role of Cat Litter in Managing and Preventing FIP

By Anthony Hutcherson

Many factors are known to contribute to overall cat health, including the chances of a cat developing FIP: stress, nutrition, and population density among them. WINN Feline Foundation President Drew Weigner, DVM noted, “A treatment for FIP is the incredible result of a lot of work, sacrifice and financial investment by many people. It would be a miracle to prevent the disease in the first place”. Dr. Weigner sadly recounted the development of FIP in cats who were vaccinated for the disease 40 years ago emphasizing the need for vaccine.

A unique highlight of the recent UC Davis College of Veterinary Medicine and WINN Feline Foundation FIP Symposium, “Purrsuing FIP & Winning, was a short video presented by Diane Addie, DVM PhD of Glasgow University illustrating the results of her published research on the inhibition of the transmission of corona virus from one cat to another by cat litter! Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract was revealed as the best commercial cat litter at this task.

View Dr. Addie's video here

It was noted during the conference that other animal species are infected by types of coronavirus. For example, a 2007 study published in the journal of Virology noted that Asian Leopard Cats, Prionailurus bengalensis, can harbor a previously unknown coronavirus species distinct from domestic cats. However, the domestic cat is one of the very few species where benign coronavirus mutates into a fatal infectious disease.

High quality protein rich nutrition, low population densities in any given area, and generally lower stress environments were noted as reducing the prevalence of FIP diagnosis in shelters and homes of breeders. A genetic component for predisposition to virus acquisition or resistance to FIP may exist, but further research is needed. No research has been conducted to determine if genetic factors can be cultivated or preserved to prevent FIP. Please consider collaboration with researchers to help identify why some cats in the same environment are able to remain perfectly healthy while closer relatives succumb to the disease. In particular, if you have cats that have produced FIP diagnosed offspring but remain healthy themselves, they may be of significant research value.

Click here to read. Dr. Addie’s published, peer reviewed study.

Blood Pressure

Are You a Cat Whisperer? Take the Quiz on Cat Facial Expressions

By Anthony Hutcherson

The world loves cat videos, so it isn’t surprising that a study from the University of Guelph went viral recently. This author read the printed article in the Washington Post Sunday edition Dec. 1, 2019 and got a perfect 100% score. Join more than 6,000 participants from 85 countries by watching a 1-2 second cat video to determine if the featured cat is sending positive or negative signals.The study is underway to determine how good people are at understanding the signals cats are sending. How will you do

Take the quiz here

The study, funded in part by a grant from Purina, will help principal investigators Dr. Georgia Mason and Dr. Lee Neil of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph better share with the public the means to improve communications with the cats in our world.

Results so far:
Average score: 12 out of 20
Women do slightly better than men
Young people do better than their elders
The veterinary community performs better than the general public

Preview the YouTube video “Can Cat Litter Prevent Feline Infectious Peritonitis? Dr Elsey Cat Attract Reduced Virus Load” here.



The “Munchkin” Gene Has Been Mapped! Dwarfism in Cats

By Lorraine Shelton

There are many forms of dwarfism in mammals, including humans. There are two general categories of dwarfism: disproportionate and proportionate. Disproportionate dwarfs possess shortened limbs with a normal torso while proportionate dwarfs are uniformly small. Disproportionate dwarfs result from genetic disorders involving bone and/or cartilage, while the majority of instances of proportionate dwarfism result from hormonal and metabolic abnormalities.

In domestic cats, inherited dwarfism has been used to develop the Munchkin and Minuet breeds. These cats exhibiting disproportionate dwarfism with hypochondrodysplasia (HCH) have shortened forelimbs and hind limbs, implying that the humerus, radius, ulna, femur, tibia, and fibula have deficient growth. Cat with HCH do not appear to show the common maladies associated with achondroplasia, although the clinical features of these cats have not been extensively defined. This study confirmed an autosomal dominant, fully penetrant mode of inheritance

In humans, fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) mutations account for the majority of cases of disproportionate dwarfism with hypochondrodysplasia (HCH) and achondroplasia. In dogs, FGF4 retrogene is responsible for autosomal recessive chondroplasia in 19 canine dwarf breeds. In this study of 26 dwarf cats, DNA was genetically analyzed using parentage, linkage, genome-wide association studies, and whole genome sequencing. Through these studies, the gene causing this trait of mapped to a specific region on cat chromosome B1, which has homology to human chromosome 4, but the data excluded the region of FGFR3. No obvious candidate genes were identified but the dwarfism genes known to cause similar traits in other species were excluded, indicating that this is a previously unidentified gene that controls disproportionate dwarfism in cats.

The dwarfism phenotype in the HCH cats is unique and distinct, with only mild variations in presentation. Matings that had complete litter information submitted showed no sex bias with 39% of males and 37% of females displaying the dwarf phenotype in dwarf to non-dwarf breedings. For the 10 matings examined with both parents having dwarfism, none of the six offspring were homozygous for the identified mutation, which suggests that homozygous kitten do not survive in utero.

Orthopedic diseases are commonly associated with extremes of dog breed conformation, but far less so with domestic cat breeds. Some cat associations have banned or failed to recognize dwarf cat breeds, due to welfare concerns about the potential for impaired ambulation, osteoarthritis, or intervertebral disc disease, which is common to many chondrodysplastic dogs, including the dachshund, corgi, and basset hound breeds. The fact that these breeds have a different genetic mutation explains why these health problems are not found in dwarf cats. However, poor breeding practices, such as striving for the shortest legs or longest body, could lead to similar health concerns in the cats to those that plague the dwarf dog breeds.

Click here to read Dr. Leslie Lyon’s full article.

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Treating Human Cat Allergies with a Specialized Feline Diet

By Lorraine Shelton

Cat allergies affect one in five adults worldwide, prevent many cat lovers from having thisspecies in their home. Cat allergies are a frequently reported reason that people relinquish pets to shelters and rescues. People suffering from only minor reactions can help reduce their symptoms by reducing or eliminating exposure to cats allergens. Successful approaches include keeping cats out of the bedroom, frequent cleaning of the home, improving indoor air quality through filtration and air exchanges, reducing allergan trapping surfaces such as carpets and drapes, and rinsing cats in water regularly.

Fel d1 is the major human sensitizing allergen. This protein is excreted by cats in their saliva and skin, deposited on their fur through grooming, and then spread to the environment by shed hair and dander. The small size of this protein ensures that it contaminates the environment very efficiently, remains suspended in the air for prolonged periods of time, and is easily contacted and inhaled by the cat’s family members. Fel d1 then binds to the immune protein IgE in humans, which initiates the allergic reaction, such as red eyes, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, or skin reactions. All cats produce this allergen, regardless of their breed, coat length, or other physical characteristics; there is no such thing as a truly “hypoallergenic” cat. The biological purpose of Fel d1 is unknown, but it is suspected that it serves as a pheromone that allows a cat to declare its territory. 

In this study, an antiFel d1 antibody was produced in chicken eggs and added to the food of 105 cats over a period of 12 weeks. Chickens living with cats, such as free-ranging chickens on farms where cats also roam, naturally produce antiFel d1 antibodies. By adding the antibody to the cat’s food, it was theorized that the Fel d1 protein produced by the cat will be trapped by the antibody when it is secreted into the cat's saliva, causing it to be unable to bind to human IgE. By isolating Fel d1 from human IgE, the human hypersensitivity reaction would not be triggered.

During the study, hair was collected from each cat by brushing the cat twice a week. The hair was analyzed for Fel d1 content. Baseline levels of Fel d1 varied widely between cats. A steady decrease in levels of aFel d1 was observed in the hair samples beginning with the first week of the test period. From week 3 of the test period onward, Fel d1 levels declined an average of 47%. Half of the cats had at least a 50% reduction in Fel d1 from their baseline level by the end of the study, with 86% showing a decrease by at least 30%. The cats with the highest levels of Fel d1 demonstrated the most dramatic change.

A previous study demonstrated that reducing Fel d1 levels by just 7% can significantly reduce symptoms of nasal allergy in humans. Therefore, the reduction in Fel d1 levels found following introduction of this novel diet, should have a significant impact.

Title: For male cats with urinary blockage, how effective is penile surgery?

Click here to read the complete journal article.

Vet Week

For Blocked Male Cats, How Effective is Penile Surgery?

Perineal urethrostomy (PU) is a procedure performed in male cats to shorten and widen the urethra through amputation of the penis. It is generally offered to cat owners after multiple or severe incidents of urinary tract obstruction. This surgery does not fix the underlying cause of the urinary obstruction and can be associated with complications, including infection, scarring, and incontinence. However, this approach is very successful at preventing future urinary blockage. The purpose of this study was the determine the long term health and quality of life of cats after PU surgery.

Owners of cats who had underdone PU surgery were surveyed over a two year period. The survey determined whether the cat was alive and still in the same home, litter box and urination habits and issues, veterinary history, and overall quality of life. The mean age of the male cats at the time of surgery was 4 years. The average time spent in the hospital was six days.

Of the 122 cats who had surgery performed in the examined time period, 74 had owners that completed the survey (71%). Four cats died or were euthanized during or soon after surgery (3.3%).

  • 90% of cats were still in the same home, with 8% rehomed due to reasons unrelated to PU and 1% dying of unrelated reasons
  • 27% of cats had post operative litter box issues, of which 22% persisted longer than 2 weeks
  • 83% of owners continued to feed a special or canned only diet
  • All the owners ranked the cat’s quality of life as 7/10 or higher, 75% reported 10/10
  • 48% of owners said their cat’s lives were better and 52% the same as before surgery

It is crucial to note that these PU surgeries were performed by very experienced, board certified surgeons. This is a very delicate surgery and this data may not apply to less experienced surgeons.

Click here to read the complete journal article.

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