4 Effective and Inexpensive Ways to Save Cats with URI

February 6th, 2020

In many places around the county, Upper Respiratory Infection, commonly referred to as URI, continues to be a leading cause for euthanasia for sheltered cats. Thankfully the implementation of cost-effective, research-based protocols is making this unnecessary death sentence a thing of the past. Here are four things you can do in your organization to save money, staff time and help cats recover, and find homes faster. It is possible to start saving all the URI cats today!

Stop moving cats around, yes, even when cleaning.

Not moving cats, especially in their first seven days at a shelter, greatly reduces the risk of cats getting Upper Respiratory Infections. Move cats as little as possible from intake to outcome, both when cleaning and throughout their stay in your shelter.

If you are lucky enough to have cat cages that have portals, this will greatly reduce cat stress during your daily cleaning routine. Clean one side of the portal at a time, use food, treats or toys to lure the cat to the side you want her on and clean each side cat-free.

If you do not have cages with portals, spot clean around the cats. If you have to move them, be sure to return them to the same kennel they were in prior to cleaning. If you want to make the best use of the space you have, try cat Kuranda beds, or boxes to give cats options to sleep and hide. Shake out daily, but only replace bedding and personal items (toys, scratchers) when soiled.

The bottom line? By minimizing cats being moved around the shelter, especially in the first seven days of their stay, you can reduce URI.

Cost-effective treatment: Use Doxy, not Clavamox.

Doxycycline is an inexpensive and effective antibiotic for treating feline URI-- but wait there’s more! In addition to the cost-saving benefits, Doxycycline has also been proven to be the most effective treatment for URI when compared to Clavamox. Stock up on Doxycycline, save your money and help more cats feel better, faster!

If you do it, stop using L-lysine snake oil.

In many shelters, L-lysine is used to prevent URI in shelter cats. Recent research suggests that L-lysine is not effective for URI treatment or prevention. With a lack of research that proves that it is effective, making the choice to stop using L-lysine will save your organization money and staff time. Have you taken L-lysine out of your URI protocols, yet?

Allow adopters and fosters to take sick cats home!

Stress plays a huge factor in the health and wellness of cats (and all living things.) Shelters can be a hotbed for spreading disease, and getting sick from stress. The flip side? By giving cats the opportunity to relax and be more comfortable while they get well, not only do you help cats recover more quickly, you also help to prevent other cats from getting sick, too. Many people want to help sick animals get well, so provide them with the information they need to succeed and give your cats the safety and comfort of a loving, restful home. 

Looking for more information about how to create a shelter flow conducive to best practices in cat health and disease management? Cost effective ways to treat URI? Or how to save all of the cats in your care? Join us at the American Pets Alive! Conference for 3 days packed full of lifesaving information or email us at [email protected]


Wagner DC, Kass PH, Hurley KF (2018) Cage size, movement in and out of housing during daily care, and other environmental and population health risk factors for feline upper respiratory disease in nine North American animal shelters. PLoS ONE 13(1): e0190140. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0190140

Annette L. Litster, BVSc, PhD, mmedsci; Ching Ching Wu, DVM, phd; Peter D. Constable, BVSc, PhD, DACVIM, Comparison of the efficacy of amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, cefovecin, and doxycycline in the treatment of upper respiratory tract disease in cats housed in an animal shelter, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, July 2012

Rees TM, Lubinski JL. J FELINE MED SURG 10:510-513, 2008.

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