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FIP research hopeful

FIP research hopeful that within the next 10 years feline infectious peritonitis, FIP, will no longer be a death sentence for cats.

FIP research hopeful

FIP research hopeful

For many of us this is fantastic news because the loss of a young cat can be devastating. The Paws family lost our beloved Tubby to FIP almost 10 years ago, and we think about our black Siamese sweetheart every day.

Most recently, the Winn Feline Foundation announced a major breakthrough in FIP research. Over the past 25 years, Winn has granted $675,000 to the cause. In 2015, Morris Animal Foundation pledged $1.2 million to fund research to better understand the disease and find a treatment for it.

FIP, a devastating condition triggered by infection with a feline coronavirus, is difficult to diagnose, and is always fatal, up to now. Once diagnosed, the cat may only live days or weeks or months; however, a few may live for years. While feline coronavirus is common, especially in places with lots of cats, it by itself is of no concern, except for the cats where it mutates into FIP. Paws wrote about Tubby’s battle. Check out:

FIP, fatal with no cure, most common in young cats like Tubby, can affect cats of any age with compromised immune systems

The little known fatal cat disease FIP strikes home

There’s no single test for FIP. Rather diagnosis is made by taking the sum of numerous findings. Experts at the University of Tennessee’s veterinary college estimate that FIP affects as many as 5 percent of cats in shelters and catteries, as well as some smaller proportion of household felines.

Tubby succumbed to the disease about a year and a half after being adopted from a shelter. We had no idea this kitty was harboring such a deadly disease, nor had we ever heard of FIP before. Now our ears perk up with curiosity when we heard the mere mention of FIP.

FIP research hopeful

Vicki Thayer, executive director of the Winn Feline Foundation, says she’s particularly excited about research on reversing the progression of FIP. The work is a collaborative effort between Dr. Niels Pedersen, a veterinary researcher at the University of California Davis, Drs. Yunjeong Kim and Kyeong-Ok Chang of Kansas State University and William Groutas, a medicinal chemist and professor at Wichita State University.

FIP, SARS & MARS linked to corona viruses

She has reason to be excited. Research is centering on the possibility of FIP vaccines being derived from components used to treat human Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Both are caused by corona viruses similar to FIP, and this may help advance therapeutics toward FIP. Dr. Pedersen shared this positive news at the 39th Winn Symposium in Chicago, Ill on June 29, 2017.



FIP, fatal with no cure

Tubby’s life cut short to FIP, fatal with no cure

FIP, Fatal with no cure

FIP – Feline infectious peritonitis. It’s fatal with no cure, only palliative treatments. It’s hard to diagnose, and there are no vaccines yet available to prevent cats from contracting it. However, research is progressing, and we must be hopeful for future prevention, treatment and a cure.

I write this second post because it would be incomplete to talk about the loss of Tubby to FIP, something I’d never heard of before, without talking about the disease itself. As a writer, I’ll try to interpret my understanding of the disease, it’s symptoms, and it’s connection with the very common coronavirus. While I’m aware that there’s been some interesting research on the subject, in this post I only seek to share the basic information of the disease. As breakthroughs occur, I will seek to share them on Paws for Reflection.

As stated in my previous post, “While my experience with Tubby had led me to believe that it’s a disease of only young cats, I have found out that’s wrong. While most cats that develop FIP are under two years of age, cats of any age can get FIP. Cats with weak immune systems are most likely to get FIP, including kittens, cats already infected with feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and geriatric cats. The fact that he was about two-years old, led the specialists to suspect FIP.”

“FIP is not highly contagious. However, it is believed that FIP is a viral disease caused by certain strains of coronavirus. Most strains of the coronavirus, transmitted through cats saliva and feces do not cause FIP, and are referred to feline enteric coronavirus. It is believed that a possible mutation or aberrations of the immune response to the more common coronavirus are the cause of FIP.”

It is more common in multi-cat environments, places where the coronavirus, transmitted through cats saliva and feces, are present. It is believed that the coronavirus, called feline enteric coronavirus, may mutate. Another theory is that an aberration of the immune response to the virus causes FIP.



While there are many dreaded words in the cat world, there’s none more devastating than having your cat diagnosed with FIP – Feline infectious peritonitis.

I learned first hand about FIP about two years ago, when my two-year-old Tubby, a black Siamese blend, went missing in the house. It was Martin Luther King’s long weekend, and when I tallied up my brood on Saturday, Tubby seemed to be missing. Had he snuck out into a cold, snow-covered outside. I started searching. There was a black cat that I thought looked an awful lot like him outside hanging around underneath the house. I tried to catch him, but he was scared, and ran…I was beside myself.

On Monday, I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye. He was weak, frail, and off-balance. He could hardly walk. He let me approach him. I picked him up and took him downstairs, putting out some special wet food to see if he would eat. He just looked at it, and then looked up at me. I made a bed for him on the couch, lifting him onto it. He was too weak to jump up the foot or two.

I thought, maybe he ate a bad mouse? I didn’t put out rodent control poisons for that very reason. But perhaps one had come in from the outside. Maybe he’d contacted a diseased rodent? It was a holiday, so I decided to wait. If it was a bad mouse, with some food, water and time, he’d most likely get better.

While all my cats are special, Tubby had a special place, probably because I didn’t want to adopt him. You see, he was free for the taking at the animal shelter, coming with his  Siamese-point brother, who was just irresistibly handsome, and had to become part of my feline family. Tubby was a bit smaller, shyer, and while he had the Siamese shape to his eyes, there was nothing else that resembled being Siamese. He and his brother were like Velcro. They’d never been separated. A college girl had left both cats in an apartment with a bag of food and the toilet lid up.

Needless to say, they both jointed a family of three other cats. These two brothers would romp and play all through the house. They were both Velcro, and they found a very special place in my heart. While I’ve always liked cats, and had cat companions since I was 26, these two felines changed me from ‘having a cat’ to being a real cat person. They are now an integral part of my life, as friends, entertainers, and my best buddies.

Let’s get back to Tubby. I hoped to see an improvement. I tried feeding him with a spoon and bottle dropper. He’d take a little water and a tad of juice from the wet food. It was time to get him to the veterinarian.

It was the first time I’d heard the word, FIP. They couldn’t really explain the disease, so they ran off some information about the disease from Cornell University”s College of Veterinary Medicine’s website.

The vet was a fill-in for the regular vet. He suggested steroids, sending me and Tubby home, and calling back if there weren’t any improvements. His gallbladder and liver seemed to be malfunctioning. The vet techs took a very different tack. They recommended going to Portland, Maine to the Portland Veterinary Specialists. They made the appointment, gave me the blood tests results, and off I went, despite threats of two-feet of snow that afternoon.

I felt like I’d been hit by a baseball bat. My poor Tubby…could they help him.

Luckily it didn’t start snowing till I arrived at the specialist office, some two plus hours later. The paperwork, then the check-up, blood tests, x-rays………

FIP is complicated and hard to explain.  I don’t profess to be an expert in veterinary care, but only a writer trying to explain a very complex, untreatable disease.

While my experience with Tubby had lead me to believe that it’s a disease of only young cats, I have found out that’s wrong. While most cats that develop FIP are under two years of age, cats of any age can get FIP. Cats with weak immune systems are most likely to get FIP, including kittens, cats already infected with feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and geriatric cats. The fact that he was about two-years old, led the specialists to suspect FIP.

FIP is not highly contagious. However, it is believed that FIP is a viral disease caused by certain strains of coronavirus. Most strains of the coronavirus, transmitted through cats saliva and feces do not cause FIP, and are referred to feline enteric coronavirus. It is believed that a possible mutation or aberrations of the immune response to the more common coronavirus are the cause of FIP.

In the next posting, I will share some information about FIP.

If you’ve had a cat with FIP, or know a friend that has experienced the heartache of losing a cat to this, or another, fatal feline disease, please share.


motherchristmasparty2010Holidays and the beginning of a new year create a time of reflection, of renewal. So does news of loss, especially when you think it’s someone you just met and established some sort of relationship with – even though it was by afar.  This past summer, I read Homer’s Odyssey, a delightful book about Gwen Cooper’s life changing after she adopted Homer, a blind cat. However, I recently learned that the second of his beloved sisters, first Vashti, and now Scarlet, has passed to the Rainbow Bridge.

My heart goes out to Gwen because one could tell from her writing and her blog that she truly loves these cats, and making the choice on whether to prolong one’s pain or have their misery come to an end is no easy task, whether it is for a loving best feline friend, or a person that you dearly love.

This subject has touched me on many occasions on both levels. There was a choice on whether to continue chemotherapy for lung cancer for my significant other almost 20 years ago. There was a choice on whether to adopt a very strong do-not-resuscitate order for my mother with Alzheimer’s. There was a choice on whether to disconnect my dad from a respirator following a heart attack, stoke and leg amputation.

There was also the decision on whether to put down my Victoria. She was my first cat, an absolutely beautiful tabby coon. I met her on the streets of a small New England city. She was lonely, afraid, and deserted. She became my first cat, one that shared my heart for the next 18 years. She had developed kidney and thyroid problems. I chose to let her go on. She died, I believe from a stroke, walking across the floor.

Smokey Blue came into my life about ten years after Victory stole my heart. Gram had died that past March, and he thought he’d like a kitten to be company with their older cat. When we went to the Animal Shelter, this beautiful Russian Blue kept putting her paw out to get my attention. She gained my heart, something she shared for the next 20 years. Smokey came with a rash of issues, unbeknownst to me. She developed horrendous diarrhea, as a result of ring worm. It was almost six months before she was diagnosed and treated. Hundreds of dollars later (this was in the early 1990’s) her problems were cured, and she became the most loveable cat on earth. She’d come up and coo, like a bird, when I was on the phone. Smokey did well for years except for some dental issues and many teeth being removed. She’d bounce back to health. Then, age caught up with her. Her thyroid became weaker. She wouldn’t take the pills (seems to be a problem with many cats).

Some years later, my mom had lost her cat, and she didn’t know if she wanted another. So I took it upon myself to go to the shelter. I adopted a beautiful sleek, silky six-month old kitten. She had a pink collar and pug face. The only problem is that Smokey liked her too, and so I decided to keep her, and go find another for my mom. A lovely skittish tuxedo cat became her best feline friend. The pink color stayed with me.

Alzheimer’s was taking its toll on mom. Having lost my job at the non-profit organization, I sold my condo and moved back home to help her. The two of us and our three cats were co-existing together very well.

Perhaps it was fate, but a neighbor moved away leaving his little black kitty. I felt bad for him. I’d feed him. I thought perhaps I’d adopt him, so I captured him, and took him to the local shelter to be tested for leukemia or other transmittable diseases that would be detrimental to Smokey, my pink collar or her Clyde.

The stray was diagnosed with leukemia, and the shelter manager recommended putting him down. I was distraught. I had brought this poor kitty to the shelter to be doomed.

But then the shelter manager introduced me to Linus, a beautiful five point Siamese with steel-blue eyes and the personality of a human. I was smitten. He had to be mine. There was no question. But there was a hitch. He came with a twin brother, who was coal-black with the exception of traces of white hairs on his chest. I hadn’t bargained for two more cats. That would bring the household to five felines. Oh well, it was the trade-off.

You see, Linus and his brother Tubby, both about one year’s old, had been in an apartment with a bag of food and the toilet seat up. Their owner, a college student, had graduated and couldn’t take the cats back to her parent’s house. The apartment owner found them and took them to the shelter.

Perhaps that explains why Linus has a propensity for hanging out in the bathroom today, some six years later.

These two cats were spectacular entertainers. They’d race through the house, wrestle, and pounce on one another in boxes. They were both sweethearts. Smokey still had her share of attention, but she was getting older, and really didn’t appreciate their antics. She was also getting thinner and thinner and thinner. Meanwhile, Clyde and pink collar seemed to be able to fend for themselves.

As her age took hold, she also was more afraid. She knew she was becoming more defenseless against these youngsters. She’d stay on the back of a favorite chair. She’d hide among the cans in the cupboard.

As the fall approached, I took her to the vet, knowing that I might have to make a decision about her future life. I put myself in denial. No, not yet, I said. But when the vet put her on the scale and it said less than four pounds, I knew I owed it to her to put her out of her misery. I stood there and held her paw as they put in the needle. I watched her draw her last breath. I cried and cried, and I knew I wanted her with me, so I agreed t have her cremated with her ashes being returned to me. She sits in the glass cabinet, on a special cat shelf today.

A few months later – it was mid-January, the weekend of Martin Luther Kings Birthday – I couldn’t find Tubby. While all the cats showed their love for me, Tubby was the most faithful. That cat slept with me every night from the time I adopted him. It was out of character for him to disappear. Had he slipped out the door when bringing in some wood for the fire?

There was a black cat that looked just like him hanging around the car. And so I tried to catch him. I knew cats can be skittish, but this was an absolute no go. Tubby, or I thought it was Tubby, wasn’t coming in with me. I put out food, hoping to entice him back in. I was frantic. What was I to do?

The next morning, I awoke to see this black cat trying to walk across my bedroom floor. He was thin and frail. Oh my God, it was Tubby, but what had happened? It had only been a few days. He looked terribly sick. I thought, he must have eaten a ‘bad mouse.’ He’ll get better in a few days. I picked him up in my arms and carried him downstairs. I had a dropper, and tried to give him some food. He wasn’t interested, but he did drink a little bit of water. I had bought him a special cat bed. I carried it up and down stairs with me. He was too weak to make the stairs. He was too weak to jump on the couch.

I was befuddled. He was so young. He was only about a year and a half old. The only symptom of illness had been that he would sneeze and then shake all over. But that was a momentary shake.

A few days went by, and I said I have to take him to the vet. Mind you, this is New England in January. I put him in a pet carrier, and took him into the office 20 miles from home while we waited for the afternoon appointment. I took him in a bit earlier for testing, and went back to the office awaiting the results.  I was afraid of what we might hear. I didn’t know what, but I had a gut feeling, it wasn’t going to be good. But I also knew I was going to do whatever I could to help this poor suffering kitty.

The prediction was for a major snowstorm, up to 24 inches of snow later that day. The regular veterinarian was not in. A retired gentleman who had once owned the practice was filling in. He seemed old-practice to me with an attitude that a cat was a cat and replaceable. I think the vet techs could pick up on that feeling. They said you might want consider taking Tubby to a specialist in Portland, some 100 miles away. I can set up an appointment for you if you want.

The vet Dr. P called me in. Tubby’s gallbladder was not working right, and he seemed to have some liver issues. He recommended putting him on prednisone for a few days and bringing him back.

Upon leaving his office, I asked to set up the appointment in Portland. If I could get there by 5 pm, they could see him. It was after 3. I had no time to spare. Even though I’d lived in Portland for several years, I did have some difficulty locating the place. I’m sure that was partly because my anxiety was through the roof. Yet, Tubby was so calm, sitting in his pet carrier, looking at me with trusting eyes.

It had started to snow when I arrived. They took the films that had come with me, the blood test results, and asked for permission to run a series of tests. The vet’s assistant and then vet came in and asked a lot of questions. They said his age could bring suspicions of something called FIP, but more tests would be needed to confirm that diagnosis.

What was FIP? I’d never heard of this disease. Leukemia, distemper, cancer, but this FIP thing didn’t sound good. It sounded luminous, at best. The people at the desk said the veterinarian was one of the best. She had come up here from Boston, having specialized in cats, and had a very extensive knowledge about feline related illnesses. If anyone could help, they assured me, she could.

This hour reminded me of waiting for my significant other to come out of surgery for lung cancer – it was an hour that seconds dragged and minutes that would never pass.

I finally heard my name. I went into the cubicle. The diagnosis was FIP, Feline infectious peritonitis a fatal incurable disease that affects cats. It is believed to be caused by Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV), which is a mutation of Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV), which often affects cats in close environments, including animal shelters. It is most often diagnosed in very young cats.

Tubby would die. There was absolutely no cure and no treatments, but they suggested more tests to find out if it was wet or dry FIP. They said there were programs that would help pay the bills.

It wasn’t an issue of the cost. It was an issue of whether these tests would help Tubby or other cats suffering from this ungodly disease? I said I would consider it. They gave me the tests results, sending me back to confer with my regular vet, unless I chose more tests.

The snow had accumulated. There was a thin set of ice underneath the snow. With a sick cat, I couldn’t stay at a hotel. No one would want a houseguest with a sick cat. The only choice was to drive home. I stayed on some of the back roads. The snow got deeper. There weren’t many snow plows, or many cars for that matter. It was so bad that by the time I was 20 miles from home, I had to reduce my speed to 15 mph to stay in the road. It took over four hours to get home. Tubby was quiet. He was putting his full trust in me. I think he had more faith that we’d make it home safely than I.

I started giving Tubby steroids. He improved a bit. He had more energy. He could jump onto the couch. He was eating and drinking. That lasted a few weeks. Then, it went downhill again.

It must have been two days of crying before I finally could pick up the phone and call the vet to have him put down. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew I had to. It was a decision that had to be made, but I didn’t want to make it. There was no hope. And this cat had no life. He was suffering.

We went into the vet’s office. They inserted the needle. But unlike Smokey who had been so peaceful and looking at me with loving eyes, it was cold.

Tubby also adorns my special cat shelf with Smokey and other cat memories and memorabilia.  It’s been almost three years since he died at such a young age, but I still remember him and think of him almost every day. And perhaps it was because he was so young that my heart still pours out to him.

Linus is doing well. About a year and a half later, my then boss, showed me this beautiful orange long-haired kitten that had been left in a barn. I adopted him, and that very night Linus adopted him, giving him baths and taking care of him. Now they race through the house, romping and wrestling. Every morning they delight me with one of their shows, and almost every morning I think of Tubby wrestling there too.


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Catpersonable BJ Bangs

At Paws for Reflection, we're serious about cats, writing about cat health, cat rescue and cat news. We delve into why cats are the absolute best soul mates. We spring in a little humor with lots of travel tips, photos and a few feline tales, making Paws for Reflection a must stop for cat information on the cat crazed Internet. BJ is an award-winning blogger/journalist, communications professional and photographer.

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