Losing a pet is extremely difficult for everyone involved. Most pets are well loved and their owners feel blessed to have found such a perfect, unique animal. Losing a young pet is possibly even more difficult; with questions arising such as “why so young?” among many, many others. Feline Infectious Peritonitis, also known as FIP, is an incurable, 100% fatal disease. It generally infects and kills kittens before they even make it to 8 months of age. While it is extremely rare (less than 1% of all admitted feline hospitalizations,) it is still very heartbreakingly devastating.
According to WikiPedia, “the most common theory is that … FECV [Feline Enteric Corona Virus] mutates into FIPV [Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus.]” Very little is actually known about the disease itself, and the symptoms of the cat vary. There are no tests available to detect the virus and FIP is generally found to be the source of the problem upon death. It is believed that anywhere from 30% to 80% of cats carry the FECV strain, however only 1 in 5000 cats will develop the FIP strain.
In the beginning stages of FIP, you may notice a gradual change in your cat or kitten’s behavior. Your kitten may become lethargic, sleeping more and more over the course of a few days or several weeks. The unfortunate truth of FIP is that it can last anywhere from a few months to a few days. In our kitten Mac’s case, FIP lasted less than two weeks. Many cats and kittens also exhibit symptoms of lack of appetite, loss of interest in food, constipation or diarrhea, sneezing, infections in eyes or other organs, seizures, dehydration, and so forth. When the kitten is no longer consuming food, the organs will begin to fail and you will more than likely notice a yellow coloring in his eyes, nose, ears and mouth. This leads to thoughts of liver failure and is one of the more common reasons why FIP is so easily misdiagnosed.
There are two forms of Feline Infectious Peritonitis. Effusive, which is a wet form, and non-effusive, which is a dry form.
The wet form is signified by a pot-bellied appearance which is caused by a collection of a yellow fluid in the abdomen. This is the more common form of FIP to develop.
The dry form of FIP has similar characteristics; the only noticeable difference is the lack of the fluid gathering in the abdomen.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis shows no mercy and while it is mostly found in young kittens prior to two years of age, it is also found in older cats over twelve years of age – and very, very rarely in cats in between ages. It is important to keep a close eye on your cat’s health, because a sick cat showing changes in behavior should be brought to the vet as soon as possible.
Our kitten, Mac was born on July 31st, 2008. On the day we brought him home, he was shy at first but soon became a normal, rambunctious kitten. We thought we had made the best choice – Mac was perfect, cuddly and everything we could have hoped for. During the first week of January of 2009, Mac began to become severely ill. He would walk around the apartment meowing for hours, with no apparent reason as to why. Mac was a polydactyl kitten and some of his toes had fused together and were growing incorrectly – we thought he was simply in pain from his toes, and were planning to take him to the vet on the following Friday to fix them. Mac began to lose most of his weight and he began severely dehydrated.
Frantic, and unwilling to allow my kitten to die at such a young age – I rushed to the local pet store for a syringe, some kitten milk and wet kitten food to help boost his system and hopefully get him to gain back some weight. Mac was unresponsive for the first few feedings, but soon after getting food in his system he began to fight back and some pink returned to his gums. We took this as a great sign that he would begin to return to normal. One afternoon, three days after I began force feeding him food and water, Mac became unresponsive. He began to have little seizures and I panicked. I called a local vet, got an appointment set up and as soon as my fiancé returned home from work – we rushed to the vet. Mac showed some responsiveness on the car ride, meowing weakly in concern and trying desperately to hold his head up.
Many tears would be shed that night, as we shelled out over 700$ to save our little kitten’s life from what we thought was liver failure. Mac underwent several blood tests, examinations – and our vet was hopeful that Mac would make it. He had several tests showing organ failure of the pancreas, kidneys, and liver – as well as signs of anemia. He was hooked up to an IV, given an antibiotic and placed into his own separate room with a little space heater. We told Mac we loved him and we would see him in the morning as he cried little meows while we left him alone in an unfamiliar place.
It was the hardest decision for us to leave him there, knowing he could die that very night – but the vet was so hopeful that we decided it was the right choice. At midnight, our vet returned to check on Mac – only to find that his stomach had filled with a yellow fluid, and that is when our vet realized that Mac had the wet form of FIP.
Mac passed away a few hours later, on January 9th, 2009 – at a young 5 months and 9 days of age from FIP. It is our sad regret to lose our amazing little kitten in the prime of his life.
It is believed that the FIP virus is transferred through blood, feces, urine, or saliva. It is also possible to spread the virus through fleas. After loss of a kitten to FIP – it is extremely important to disinfect everything. This is especially important if you have a second cat.
Losing a kitten or cat is very difficult when they are at such a young age. It is perfectly normal to be angry and upset – especially when an incurable disease such as FIP is the cause. Keep faith alive and one day there will be a cure for FIP.