Feline upper respiratory tract disease (URTD), mainly caused by feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline herpesvirus, is a major cause of disease outbreaks in feline accommodation such as animal shelters, catteries and multi-cat households. We conducted a longitudinal, yearlong study in five UK feline animal shelters to identify risk factors for the time to diagnosis of URTD. We were especially interested in risk factors that could be identified at the time the cat entered the shelter. Shelter staff recorded data for 1,434 cats during 2002-2003. Most of the cats were domestic shorthair cats and were from private households, or were stray or abandoned. Sixty cats without clinical signs of URTD at entry had URTD diagnosed (typically within the first month at the centre). We used two multivariable models: one was a Cox proportional-hazards model, and the other a regression analyses with complementary log-log model. The hazard varied substantially between shelters and was considerably lower for the shelter that had a purpose-built admissions unit with its own isolation facilities. The hazard was greater for purebred cats (HR 4.3-5.0) and for neutered cats (HR 2.0). The hazard was also typically greater if the centre had a greater proportion of cats present with URTD. The analyses suggested that the centre-level risk factors were more important in determining hazard than cat-level risk factors.