OAHN Wildlife Project: Pilot Surveillance for Avian Influenza Virus (AIV) in Feral Cats (in progress)

Project Lead: Dr. Claire Jardine

Collaborators:  Dr. Maureen Anderson, Dr. Alex Reid, Dr. Emma Webster


Project Background

New strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) have been detected in North America with unprecedented outbreaks causing significant morbidity and mortality in domestic and wild birds. Recent detections in mammals have raised concerns about mammalian adaptations and highlighted the need for enhanced surveillance of AIV in key captive and wild mammal species. Feral cats live in colonies with opportunity for cat-to-cat transmission and increased zoonotic risk for people managing colonies. Some colony managers may also remove kittens and more socialised young adults and rehome them with limited disease testing. Currently, there is limited surveillance and a lack of coordination for AIV surveillance in feral cats.

Project Objectives

The overall objective of this project is to increase surveillance for AIV in feral cats through stakeholder partnerships. We aim to use the results of this pilot study to inform future targeted surveillance. This project will help estimate some of the potential health risks posed by AIV in feral cats and develop informed and effective strategies to monitor and potentially mitigate those risks.


Instructions for clinics / animal control agencies

Cats eligible for inclusion in this study must fulfill the following criteria:

  • acute clinical signs (10 days’ duration or less) or a cat found dead with no prior clinical signs, for which there is no other obvious cause of illness/death
  • with free-roaming outdoor access (and therefore potential exposure to wild birds)
  • that does not have an owner, or has been surrendered by a rescue
  • that does not need to be submitted for rabies testing due to human or domestic animal exposure

If in doubt about the suitability of a case for inclusion, please contact the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) at 866-673-4781 or on-nu@cwhc-rcsf.caDue to limited funding, not all eligible cats can be tested, therefore all cases must be triaged by CWHC before submission.

If you have additional concerns about case or contact management, please contact the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) at 877-424-1300 (option 1) for domestic animals, or your local public health unit for human exposure concerns.

OWNED cats can also be included in the study, but approval must be obtained from the owner in advance and documented in the medical record.

Click here for complete instructions for veterinary clinics and animal control/services agencies.

Click here for infection prevention and control guidance for companion animal veterinary clinics related to HPAI.