FIP Awareness Day is Saturday, April 9 according to the 2016 Cat Writer’s Calendar of Cat Holidays and Causes. The day is also called “Mr. Swanson’s Day.” Mr. Swanson is a kitty that died from FIP. Twenty-two years ago, I lost my precious cat, Mr. Tweedy, to FIP. My husband used to say that Mr. Tweedy was “the cat of a thousand expressions.” We thought that he was trying to understand us by sweetly gazing up at our faces to learn what we were thinking. He was the sweetest, most expressive, interactive cat that I/we have ever had. I affectionately called him “my little Tweedy-Bird.”
Mr. Tweedy’s painful disaster started with the veterinarians that I had at that time. They felt that the FIP Vaccine might actually give Mr. Tweedy FIP. (This remains controversial to this day.) Thus, they refused to administer the FIP vaccine to my precious, indoor and only cat, Mr. Tweedy. I had only heard of the FIP vaccine. I didn’t know; I trusted my vet.
The problem started one day when my neighbor’s out-door cat came to my open patio door. Mr. Tweedy was sitting inside the patio screen door looking out into the yard watching the birds and butterflies. I remember that he was scared of the hummingbirds, they used to dive bomb him as he looked out…he would run and duck under the dining room table and peer out. When the neighbor’s cat and Mr. Tweedy saw each other, they were startled for a moment, then they hissed at each other through the screen. I saw it; I heard it. In retrospect, they must have exchanged fluid. I didn’t think much about it but I reflexively closed the sliding glass door. I watched the neighbor’s cat run and jump up on the cement block wall bordering my yard…and I watched as he stumbled, fell off and ran away. I remember thinking: “There is something wrong with that cat.” In fact, “that cat” was dead in a few days.
My Mr. Tweedy went from a totally healthy, beautiful juvenile to dead in a month. The vet kept draining large beakers of yellow fluid from his little chest or lungs. He could hardly breathe and he wanted to snuggle with me and just be with me...constantly. I will never forget his pain and mine. I knew I had to help my little Mr. Tweedy-Bird escape his frail, failing little body. So, I made that difficult decision that all loving caretakers have to make. After all this time, I still have tears just remembering and writing about him.
So, what is this dread disease? FIP stands for ‘Feline Infectious Peritonitis.’ It is a fatal, incurable disease that affects cats. It is caused by a virus that mutates from Feline Enteric Coronavirus. Experts do not agree on the specifics of genetic changes that produce the FIPV. It appears that the mutated virus invades and grows in macrophages (certain white blood cells). The immune system’s response causes an intense inflammatory reaction.
A nasally administered vaccine for FIP is available but, to this day, is still controversial. It should be noted that after my Mr. Tweedy died, I had two cats that lived for almost 19 years and I now have four healthy cats that I have had for three years. They have all had the FIP vaccine with no problem.
There are two kinds of FIP: effusive (wet) and non-effusive (dry). While both are fatal, the wet form is the most common and it progresses more rapidly. My Mr. Tweedy had the wet kind. The wet FIP results in the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and/or chest that causes breathing difficulties. Dry FIP does not result in fluid. However, the cat may develop difficulty in standing or walking as well as losing vision. Some experts say that some cats are carriers only and some cats might have a mild form of the disease. For cats with dry FIP, there is a new immunostimulant that has extended the life of some cats. In contrast, wet FIP progresses too rapidly for any meaningful therapy to be attempted. Antibiotics and steroids are sometimes administered for wet FIP but it only extends life for a few weeks or months and, reportedly, does not mitigate the suffering.
Information for this article was obtained from the following: http://pets.webmd.com/cats/cat-fip; http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm; http://ww.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/Health-Information/brochure-ftp.cfm; Wikipedia; my current veterinarian as well as my experiences with my cat, Mr. Tweedy, as well as my two subsequent cats, Charlie Brown and Tigger (both have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge), and my current family of furry felines known as the Cat Authors.