Rescuing a cat is a rewarding experience, but it can also come with its challenges. As a rescue organization, Garlic City Kitty Rescue is committed to providing the best possible care for all the cats we rescue. This includes cats that may develop feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a serious and fatal disease in cats.
Many cats (up to 50% in single cat households and as high as 80-90% in multi-cat environments) become infected with one or more strains of feline coronavirus at some time in their lives. Most cats with feline enteric coronavirus (about 90% or more) remain healthy. The incidence of feline infectious peritonitis disease is low (only 5 to 10% of infected cats and less than 1% of cats admitted to veterinary hospitals).
What are the first signs of FIP in cats?
Typically, the first signs of FIP in cats are simply signs that the cat is not feeling well—excessive tiredness, poor appetite/weight loss, and fever. Cats that have been initially exposed to the Coronavirus may show mild or no obvious symptoms. Some cats may have mild upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge, while others may experience mild gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhea. Some may get a cloudy eye or start walking off balance. This can occur weeks, months, or even years after initial exposure to the coronavirus. Most of the time this disease affects kittens and cats under 2 years old
Are cats with FIP in pain?
Cats with FIP do not appear to be in any pain. However, they seem to feel much like we do with a case of the flu—tired and wiped out.
Is FIP in cats contagious to other cats?
We don’t consider FIP too contagious in the way so many other diseases are, primarily because almost all cats are exposed to the organism early in life and carry it long-term without symptoms. The development of disease requires a specific interaction between the virus and the immune system. It is not uncommon to see one cat in a household die of FIP while the other cats remain perfectly healthy.
Julie, the founder of Garlic City Kitty Rescue, is passionate about saving cats with FIP. She has personally cured 5 kitties with FIP and strongly encourages people to familiarize themselves with what to do if they rescue or adopt a kitty that could have FIP. If you rescue or adopt a kitty that you suspect may have FIP, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible so they can run a complete CBC blood test with chemistry panel. Early detection and treatment are critical. FIP infects the body very quickly and will be fatal without immediate treatment with the antiviral drug GS-441524. There are two forms of FIP, dry and wet. The medication comes in two forms, injectable or oral and once treatment has begun, symptoms can improve or disappear within 12-36 hours. The wet form (fluid) in the chest or abdominal cavity within 10-14 days; and jaundice within 2-4 weeks. Dr. Niels Pedersen, Professor Emeritus at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, has worked for 30 years to find a cure for FIP. In 2019, the results of his studies were published, coauthored by Gilead Sciences, the company that invented and patented GS-441524 (GS). The studies showed that GS blocks the viral replication of FIP and has a cure rate of approximately 85%.
Treatment consists of 84 days of medication. In some cases, cats may need to extend beyond the 84 days, if lab work has not yet returned to normal. All cats should have new labs run prior to day 84, to determine if it is appropriate to end treatment. After active treatment, there is another 84 days of observation before the cat is considered cured. Average cost of treatment for wet FIP is approximately $800. You can do a gofundme.com for financial support.
It is important to note that some veterinarians may be hesitant to treat FIP with experimental drugs, and it may be difficult to obtain them through legal channels. “Veterinarians, who are under legal and ethical constraints, may view the black market quite differently from owners of cats suffering from FIP,” Dr. Pedersen wrote. “Some may refuse to participate beyond making the initial diagnosis of FIP, some may help with drug administration and monitoring as long as the owners provide the drug, and some may require signed waivers freeing them of any legal or ethical obligations.” FIP drugs continue to show promise, while being sold on black market.
There are several groups offering treatment options and support for people and their cats with FIP. FIP Global CATS - https://www.fipglobalcats.com or https://www.facebook.com/groups/fipglobalcats – is a support community open to both cat owners and veterinarians. In addition, a treatment guide for cat owners is available at: https://www.fip-treatment-guide.com and a treatment guide for veterinarians is available at https://www.fipvetguide.com. A new registry for “FIP Friendly Vets” has also recently launched at https://www.fipfriendlyvet.com to help cat owners facing a FIP diagnosis find vets that are familiar with and supportive of antiviral treatment for FIP.
By educating yourself about FIP and taking appropriate precautions, you can help ensure the best possible outcome for any cat that you rescue or adopt.