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Dog Flu Jumps to Cats in Midwest

For the first time in the United States, the H3N2 dog flu has been detected in multiple felines.

For the first time in the United States, the H3N2 dog flu has been detected in multiple cats, according to researchers with the University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Veterinary Medicine.

The school said several cats from an animal shelter in Indiana have tested positive for the illness, which last year infected a large number of dogs in the Midwest.

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The virus was first suspected in the shelter when cats there began to show upper respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose, congestion, and general malaise.

The animals also displayed H3N2 symptoms such as lip-smacking and excessive salivation.

Thus far, the illness has not caused a fatality among the cats, and symptoms have tended to run their course quickly. Similarly, most dogs recover, though the virus was said to be the cause of death in some infected canines.

The shelter has placed all of the infected cats under quarantine and the facility said no sick felines have left the facility.

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News of a U.S. outbreak of H3N2 in dogs broke last spring, with more than 1,000 canines in the Midwest testing positive for the flu. The virus - seen previously in China, Korea and Thailand - was blamed for the death of six dogs.

Until now, only a single cat in the United States had tested positive for the flu, although cases in South Korea indicated the illness could make the jump from dogs to cats.

Currently, an H3N2 vaccine only exists for dogs. UW officials recommend infected dogs and cats live separate from other animals until their symptoms subside and that anyone handling the animals should be careful not to let the virus spread via clothing and hands.

"While this first confirmed report of multiple cats testing positive for canine influenza in the U.S. shows the virus can affect cats, we hope that infections and illness in felines will continue to be quite rare," said Sandra Newbury, clinical assistant professor and director of the Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, in a statement.

There's a new addition to Smithsonian National Zoo's Small Mammal House: a female sand cat named Lulu. She was brought in as a mate for the resident male Thor. The hope is that kittens will soon follow. Let's learn a bit about sand cats, starting with what they are, and then find out how the two are getting along.

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Here Thor says "Hello" in sand cat. As their name implies, sand cats live in deserts and are the only cats to live primarily in such environments. They live in deserts of Central and Southwest Asia, as well as those of North Africa. They're well suited to the hot and cold swings of temperature in the desert and will burrow into the sand to keep cool. Smithsonian researchers say they're tough animals to study, in part because their presence is hard to spot. They have fur on their foot pads and leave barely a trace in the desert sand.

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Here's Lulu striking a pose. (Hint; you can tell it's her from her oval-shaped face, compared to Thor, whose mug is a bit more horizontally inclined.) Early reports are that Lulu has already established herself as the more dominant and feisty of the two, while Thor is outgoing with zoo staff and is happy to try his best in training sessions.

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The cute cats are very active early in the morning, scooting around their enclosure and playing with their toys. Catch them at noon, though, and they're likely to be napping.

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Zoo staff say they help the cats keep up with their natural behaviors by hiding some of their food in puzzle feeders, as shown here. It keeps them busy remembering how to claw and dig at things to get a meal.

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If the stylish pair produces kittens, it will be the first experience of parenthood for either cat. Their introduction went "incredibly well," according to zoo staff. So there may well be babies in the offing! In fact, the zoo has recently separated Lulu from Thor, while veterinarians determine whether or not she is indeed pregnant. Thor's presence, say staff, could stress out Lulu if she's going to have kittens. Every little new kitten helps the species, too. Sand cats are currently listed as "Near Threatened" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's "red list" of threatened species.

Animals Grab Some Shut-Eye On World Sleep Day: Photo

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