Denae Wagner, DVM, Facility Design Veterinarian

Dr. Denae Wagner and Zoie

In her work for the Koret Shelter Medicine Program, Dr. Wagner has helped shelters from Florida to Vancouver. Her contributions have ranged from Capacity for Care (C4C) calculations and population health to full facility design consultations.

After initially fashioning them by hand, Dr. Wagner oversaw the design and manufacture of the Cat Portal for the Koret Shelter Medicine Program.  Over 5,000 of her hand-made and manufactured portals have been installed in animal shelters throughout North America and beyond, earning Dr. Wagner the nickname, The Portal Queen. The portals safely and cleanly couple pairs of existing cat cages, transforming cramped housing into roomier double-compartment condos. 

By allowing shelter cats to eliminate away from their food and sleeping area, and creating an efficient way to spot-clean without having to handle or remove the cat from the housing unit, the condos increase cats’ physical and mental well-being (and make cleaning faster, easier and safer for shelter staff). 

Dr. Wagner’s current interests include evidence based shelter design and the effects of housing and the shelter environment on animal health and well being.


  • DVM, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine 
  • MPVM, Preventive Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine 
  • Residency, Food Animal Reproduction and Herd/Health, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

Professional Highlights

  • Consulted with architects to insure best shelter medicine practices incorporated in design of Placer County’s Animal Services Center in Auburn, CA 
  • With KSMP team, guided the Tracy Animal Shelter through Phase 1 of a 2-phase animal shelter building project, making dramatic improvements and meeting animal care needs that prioritized animal health given limited staffing 
  • Oversaw design and manufacture of the Cat Portal, improving cat health and mental well-being in shelters all over North America and beyond 
  • Assistant Director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program 2017 – 2020 


  • CFHS/FSCAA Innovation Award (2016) 

Selected Publications: 

A. Tanaka, D. Wagner, P. Kass, K. Hurley. (2012) “Associations among weight loss, stress and upper respiratory tract infection in shelter cats.” JAVMA, Vol 240, No. 5, March 1, 2012, pg 570- 576.

Burns RE, Wagner DC, Leutenegger CM, Pesavento PA. (2011) “Histologic and molecular correlation in shelter cats with acute upper respiratory infection.” J Clin Microbiol. 2011 Jul;49(7):2454-60. doi: 10.1128/JCM.00187-11. Epub 2011 May 11.

Denae Wagner, Sandra Newbury, Philip Kass, Kate Hurley.  (2014) “Elimination Behavior of Shelter Dogs Housed in Double Compartment Kennels.” PLOS ONE 5(14): DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096254

Wagner, D.C., Kass, P.H., Hurley, K.F. (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.

Wagner, D.C., Hurley, K.F., Stavisky, J.H. (2018). “Shelter housing for cats: Practical aspects of design and construction, and adaptation of existing accommodation.” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery  20(7), 643-652

Wagner, D.C., Hurley, K.F., Stavisky, J.H. (2018). “Shelter housing for cats: Principles of design for health, welfare and rehoming.” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery  20(7), 635-642

Karsten, C.L., Wagner, D.C., Kass, P.H., Hurley, K.F. (2017). “An observational study of the relationship between Capacity for Care as an animal shelter management model and cat health, adoption and death in three animal shelters.” The Veterinary Journal 227: 15-22.