Feline Spongiform Encephalopathy
FSE was first identified in Britain in 1990. Since then there have been 87 cases in Great Britain, one in Northern Ireland, one in Norway and one in Liechtenstein. FSE is not an easy disease to study. Although Britain has a large cat population they would not normally have been subjected to close neurological examination in the past. Nevertheless, sufficient numbers of FSE cases have been seen and investigated to permit an association with BSE to be made. Obtaining lifetime feeding history for cats is not easy, so although all have eaten foods that would be expected to contain specified bovine offals, no particular type of food can be implicated.

The epidemic in cats is often thought to be a useful model for past human exposure to BSE. The number of feline cases has declined dramatically.

Although MAFF has not historically held responsibility for investigating disease, other than rabies, in domestic pets, most of the information gathered about FSE in domestic cats and zoo animals has been provided through the good will of owners and veterinary practitioners. Laboratory diagnosis of a spongiform encephalopathy in any species has however been notifiable since November 1994, thus ensuring that cases would not be missed.

Interestingly, when brain tissue from some of the early cats identified identified as having FSE, was inoculated into mice, the pattern of incubation periods and lesion profiles in the mice was indistinguishable from that produced by BSE.

In exotic cats there have now been nine cases in cheetahs (three were diagnosed abroad but originated in Britain), three in pumas, three in ocelots, two in tigers and two in lions.

In October 1998 the simultaneous occurrence of spongiform encephalopathy in a man and his pet cat was reported. The report from Italy noted that the cat did not display the same clinical features as FSE cases previously seen. Indeed, the presence of a new type of FSE was suggested. The man was diagnosed as having sporadic CJD, and neither case (man nor cat) appeared to be affected by a BSE-related condition.


Zanusso-G, Nardelli-E Rosati-A Fabrizi-G-M Ferrari-S Carteri-A Desimone-F Rizutto-N Monaco-S. Simultaneous occurrence of spongiform encephalopathy in a man and his cat in Italy. LANCET, 1998 V352, N9134, OCT 3, Pp 1116-1117.

Pearson G. R. et al. 1992. Feline spongiform encephalopathy: fibril and PrP studies. Veterinary Record. 131. 307-310.

Wyatt. J. M. et al. 1991. Naturally occurring scrapie-like spongiform encephalopathy in five domestic cats. Veterinary Record. 129. 233.

Gruffydd-Jones T. J. et al. 1991. Feline spongiform encephalopathy. J. Small Animal Practice. 33. 471-476.

Willoughby K. 1992. Spongiform encephalopathy in a captive puma (Felis concolor). Veterinary Record. 131. 431-434.

[Transmissible Mink Encephalopathies] [Chronic Wasting Disease] [Feline Spongiform Encephalopathies] [Exotic ruminants]