Tuesday, 17 July 2018 08:11

How to Avoid FIP in Your Cat

Written by 
Kitty Roulette Kitty Roulette

Introducing a pedigree kitten who has not been tested for FCoV antibodies to your existing cats is playing Russian roulette with their lives

I recently heard about a lady who had seven cats and who introduced a new purebred kitten without first testing the kitten’s blood for FCoV antibodies.  It turned out that the kitten was infected with feline coronavirus (FCoV).  FCoV is the virus that causes FIP in a small percentage of cats who get infected.  However, it wasn’t the kitten who developed feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) …yet … it was one of her other cats. 

What surprised me about this story was that the homeowner was no stranger to FIP—she had already lost a cat to FIP and so she should have known just how dangerous this virus can be.  She had previously worked to make her household free of coronavirus—yet she introduced a new, untested, purebred kitten, perfectly aware of the risks of doing so: knowing that the prevalence of feline coronavirus in breeding catteries is extremely high. 

Introducing an untested kitten or cat—and especially a purebred— is like playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun pointed to her cat’s head. Who knows how many cats this lady will lose before this virus is through with her? 

On the other end of the kitty parent spectrum, my heart was absolutely uplifted to see a Facebook post by Maria Bonino: she has a known feline coronavirus (FCoV) carrier cat called Natalie—shown below top right: the beautiful calico cat.  Most cats mount a successful immune response and eliminate the virus, but some infected cats remain outwardly healthy, but shed coronavirus in their faeces continuously—Maria has one of those cats.  Maria also wanted to obtain a new kitten—two new domestic shorthair kittens, in fact—which came into a rescue shelter near her.  Here is a screenshot of Maria’s Facebook post:

Maria S Bonino FB PSC
Maria S Bonino FB PSC

You can see Maria’s grey kitten, Lupo in the photo above and the photo of Natalie, her FCoV carrier cat, the tortoiseshell. Amongst the small photographs is her black kitten, Perseus. On Maria’s Facebook page she proudly displayed the FCoV antibody negative certificates of Lupo and Perseus a year after introduction to her household: this was proof that she had kept them safe from the virus and had prevented them being at risk of dying of FIP. 

Careful vacuuming and lots of litter trays protected the kittens from becoming infected with coronavirus

Maria was also no stranger to FIP, having lost her beloved Luca some years before to FIP, but she had a different attitude to the person described above: she vowed to never again lose a cat to this virus. Maria vigilantly kept the kittens away from Natalie’s litter tray and she was very careful about hygiene: in her house each cat has their own litter tray, she vacuums diligently using high powered cordless vacuum cleaners, with one vacuum cleaner which she ONLY uses in Natalie’s room and not elsewhere in the house (to avoid contaminated microscopic cat litter particles on the vacuum cleaner itself being transported to the kitten area).  She uses World’s Best Cat Litter because it tracks a lot less than other litters and has some activity against FCoV. Every month she sends samples of her cats’ faeces to the University of Glasgow Veterinary School Laboratory in Scotland to monitor their FCoV shedding—or rather complete lack of virus shedding, apart from Natalie. Maria’s Facebook post was in celebration of her success—she proudly displayed her blood test results from the University of Glasgow, showing that the kittens had antibody titres of zero to FCoV: in other words they had not even been exposed to a few particles of this very infectious virus!  This result was proof that she hadn’t even allowed a single particle of infected cat litter to blow under the door into the rooms where the kittens were housed!  Wow!

FCoV Immunocomb from Biogal

The FCoV Immunocomb gave the best overall results in a study I conducted comparing many available FCoV antibody tests.  For screening cats for possible infection, one wants a test which is as sensitive as possible: the Immunocomb was 100% sensitive – it didn’t miss any sample with FCoV antibodies – it had the highest sensitivity of any of the tests examined.  The kit is complete and can be used in the veterinary practice, it doesn’t require complex technology to read the results – just an ordinary scanner.

FCoV antibody test any new cat or kitten to save the lives of your existing cats

If you are planning on buying a pedigree kitten, or a shelter cat or kitten, and you already have cats, PLEASE get your existing cats and the new kitten tested for FCoV antibodies BEFORE you bring him or her into your household: if you do not, you could be inviting Death into your home. 

If you won’t test your cats, at least have them vaccinated against FIP before introducing a new cat

If you refuse to test, then at least get your existing cats vaccinated with the FIP vaccine Felocell FIP (Zoetis) before bringing in the new kitten.  The vaccine doesn’t protect 100% of cats, but it does prevent FIP in about 75% of cats who would otherwise have died.

How you can help to End FIP: share this blog, put up a www.catvirus.com poster

Cats die of FIP because people are not aware of it until too late.  We have beautiful posters warning people of the risk of FIP which you can download, print out and put up in a place where cat lovers are likely to see them.  The posters are available from http://www.catvirus.com/Choosekitten.htm#Poster

Diane D. Addie PhD

Diane D. Addie is former senior lecturer and Head of Diagnostic Virology at the University of Glasgow Veterinary School, member of the European Advisory Board of Cat Disease and author of the website www.catvirus.com and book “Feline Infectious Peritonitis and Coronavirus.”  

Latest from Diane D. Addie PhD

4 comments

  • Comment Link Diane Monday, 17 December 2018 11:36 posted by Diane

    I'm sorry to hear about your experience last year, that must have been distressing for you.

    I cannot sugar the pill - if you buy a purebred kitten infected with feline coronavirus, you do have a one in ten chance of losing him or her to FIP down the line. My advice would definitely be to find a breeder who practices raising feline coronavirus / FIP-free kittens. The best thing you can do is test the new kitten and your adult Devon for virus shedding, by having your vet send their faecal samples to a reputable laboratory, such as Veterinary Diagnostic Services, at Glasgow Veterinary School in the UK, or Idexx. I have no idea which country you are in, but your veterinary surgeon can find my list of recommended laboratories on my http://www.catvirus.com website. Only one third of cats who have FCoV antibodies sheds virus, so there is a 66% chance that your adult is not currently infected. But if he is infected, bear in mind that your cat could be stressed by the introduction of the kitten and stressing your adult cat could cause him to develop FIP. Use Feliway diffusers, catnip and any other stressbusters you can think of: there is a section about minimising cat stress in my book "FIP and Coronavirus."

    It's good for cats not to be alone, and I understand why you want to get a companion for your Devon. It can be done with less risk if you do it carefully. One person with a coronavirus carrier and an uninfected cat trained her cats to use separate litter trays in different rooms and there was no virus transmission. It's possible to get microchip-operated cat flaps so that the cats could mix together but not share a litter tray: contact with faeces is the main route of coronavirus transmission.

    Now you are fully aware of all the risks, you can weigh it all up and make an informed decision. God bless you and your cats.

    Diane Addie (http://www.catvirus.com)

  • Comment Link Kelda Sunday, 16 December 2018 18:07 posted by Kelda

    Hi, I hope it is alright to ask a question here about the question we are facing in our house.
    We are supposed to get a new Devon Rex kitten, next weekend. It is a replacement for the one, last year, that developed uncontrollable seizures, last year after we brought him home. We do not know if he died from FIP. Both cats had runny eyes, for a couple days, but otherwise appeared healthy.
    To try to avoid another heartache, we just tested our adult Devon, with a blood test, that came back positive for coronavirus antibodies. She has not been around other cats for a year.
    Should we not bring another kitten into our home? Our vet said (off the record) that he would still go forward, as FIP so rarely develops from the virus.
    What are your thoughts on risks to the kitten, as well as to our adult cat, if she was exposed to the coronavirus by that last kitten. Could she be at risk, in case the virus originates in the breeders home? Is there another test that would give us more information?
    Thank you for your help!

  • Comment Link Diane Sunday, 21 October 2018 12:03 posted by Diane

    Thank you for your good question, and I am very sorry to hear that your cat is sick. It would be unusual, but not impossible, for a cat to have both FIV and FIP, since typically FIV infects older and outdoor cats, while FIP tends to occur in young pedigree cats, which are mostly kept indoors. However, we do see FIP in any age of cat if they've recently been in a rescue shelter or boarding cattery, and only met feline coronavirus for the first time at a later age. In my experience around 80% of non-effusive FIP diagnoses are erroneous and I frequently find some other disease is the cause of the clinical signs that are bothering the cat. How was your cat diagnosed with FIP? If your cat truly has FIP, sad to say, the prognosis is close to hopeless, which is why my emphasis is on prevention. At least four studies in FIV positive cats have shown a life span equal to that of uninfected cats, therefore it would be premature to conclude that the present clinical signs were due to FIV infection and to infer a worse prognosis than if the cat were FIV negative

  • Comment Link Vali Tuesday, 02 October 2018 16:25 posted by Vali

    Hello

    Can you save a cat with FIV if now he is sick also with FIP?
    He started to refuse food and he's on perfusions since last week..

    Could he have both viruses in his body? FIV & FIP? Is this possible ? And to reach 10 years old?

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