Today I spent a few hours cooking for my cats. With nine cats who for various reasons eat four times per day, my cat food bill is high but the biggest problem is keeping enough stock. Often the only varieties I can find are tuna and salmon based, and feeding cats too much fish makes them fussy eaters. The food I like to feed my cats doesn’t come in large cans so I’m also conscious of the excessive waste that lots of little cans and pouches creates.
Most of the kitties of Kitty Central go in the cats’ room at night from about 10pm until 6am, when breakfast is served outside. The plan was for all of them to spend the night in there –its certainly big enough and has enough beds and toys! But when there is tension I worry about the more timid kitties being bullied. So sometimes Lulu and Tully (the timid ones) stay out of the room, sometimes it’s Kai and Asha (the bullies). The tabby princes Harper and Finn aren’t yet in the big cats’ room – they will move in a few weeks.
In July 2014, I trekked to the vet with many kittens – all eight I think. The baby fosters were being wormed, and the four big kitties were being vaccinated. The clinic I went to was local, and the care my kitties had received there was disturbingly inconsistent. I had encountered excellent veterinary care with the fosters, particularly when Leyte was gurgling, and later when they had a constipation problem. But another vet had misdiagnosed poor Pip with two fractured hips and he spent a few miserable days in a cage before a second opinion confirmed there was absolutely nothing wrong with him.
On this occasion, I also wanted Asha checked out as I had noticed there was some blood in her stools. Poor Asha had been to the vet many times because of her oversized tummy, but this problem had been hanging around for weeks as it had taken me some time to identify which kitty had the bloody poop.
So all the kitties were treated, then the vet looked at Asha. She confirmed there were no worms causing the problem, took a blood sample which was extremely unpleasant as she couldn’t seem to get the needle in, then examined Asha’s tummy. The blood test results came back and the diagnosis was given. Asha had Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or FIP. The prognosis? She had about two months to live.
I was distraught and struggled to take in what the vet was telling me from that point. I texted my driver who came into the clinic, collected the seven kitties and took them home. I couldn’t stop crying, which the clients in the clinic seemed to find fascinating and had no qualms about standing and staring at this messy, weeping foreigner draped around a frightened white kitten. The plan was for Asha to remain at the clinic for a few days on fluids and observation, but I needed to prepare myself, as she had fluid in her tummy which meant it was “wet” FIP, which had a swift and unpleasant outcome. I stayed with Asha for about an hour, then headed home. I was inconsolable – my beautiful, precious little girl, rescued from the streets, so loving, so intelligent. The shock was enormous, I just couldn’t come to terms with the upcoming loss.
A few hours passed, and after I had time to get the emotional trauma under control, common sense kicked in. I had personally experienced some bad health news two years prior, and an aggressive treatment plan was not only recommended by my doctor, I was almost railroaded into an irreversible surgical decision. What did I do? I pushed back on the doctor’s aggressive approach, took some time, got a second opinion, did lots of research, and took matters into my own hands instead of handing control of my health to someone else. The outcome? I am healthy and intact with no trace of illness. So I knew what I had to do for Asha.
I returned to the vet that afternoon and collected Asha, much to the surprise of the vet. I would take her home and spend the next few days pampering her, letting her sleep in my bedroom next me, getting lots of love and attention from Lyn and I, and an outpouring of love from our Instagram followers. And Jonna, the rescuer of the Fosters – popped back into my life with a wonderful recommendation. She had lost a beloved kitty to FIP, and nursed him through his last days with the help of a vet she highly recommended – the Pet Project. I booked an appointment with them for the Friday – four more days, and set about researching FIP. Jonna had encountered a lot of misdiagnosis with FIP and was giving me hope that this was another such case.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a mutation of Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV), which is common in cats, especially those in multi-cat households and shelters. The virus is shed via the faeces and respiratory secretions, and contaminated litter can be swallowed when the cat grooms. If the virus mutates, it becomes FIP, which is always fatal, there is no cure.
My eyes opened a bit wider when I researched more. There is no test for FIP. There is a test for FECV, but not for FIP. Diagnosis of FIP usually comes about when the cat stops eating, is lethargic and loses a lot of weight – she is obviously sick. Asha was plump and healthy and had been galloping on the wheel every day! But the vet told me Asha had tested positive for FIP – how could it be? I called the vet and she assured me the test was for FIP. I visited the clinic again and asked for the result, which she provided. Positive, but the test pack did not mentioned FIP, only coronavirus. I challenged the vet again but got nowhere, I was becoming a bullying Westerner badgering a Filipino professional. This was not achieving anything at all.
The next four days dragged on until our visit to the wonderful Dr Melay at the Pet Project. Unlike the doctors at the other place, Doc Melay was kind and gentle with Asha. She talked to her about how pretty she was, and admired her white coat and her pink nose. She spoke softly and stroked her. I adored her immediately! The examination was so much more thorough here. Her teeth and gums were inspected. Her eyes and ears were examined. The lights were turned out for another eye examination with a focussed light. Her tummy was thrummed and she had an ultrasound. More blood was taken, this time producing an extensive set of stats. A faecal extract was examined. The verdict? “There is nothing wrong with Asha”. Yes, she may have Feline Corona Virus but many cats do, and most never mutate to FIP. I don’t remember exactly, but I’m fairly sure I cried again.
Since sharing this experience on Instagram, both Jonna and I have been tagged in several kitty accounts where horrified cat owners are dealing with a tragic diagnosis. Most of the ones we have shared our experience with have sought a second opinion, found their kitties to be in perfect health, still alive and happy today.
I am sad for all the cat owners who go through the death of their beloved pets to this awful disease. I can’t imagine what it is like for them to experience such a premature loss – most cats who die of FIP are under 2 years and it strikes swiftly. Cats over 10 years are also susceptible, but it is a more gradual disease. I am also sad and angry for the misdiagnosis of pets. Vets who don’t recognise this illness when it exists, and vets who cause such awful trauma to cat owners and cats by misdiagnosing a perfectly healthy cat.
So what caused the bloody stools? No idea, it resolved itself and all my kitties are healthy, though I am counting the months until they are all relatively safely older than two years.