FIP – What You Should Know

FIP – What You Should Know

What is FIP?  It stands Feline Infectious Peritonitis, and it is a disease that can affect kittens and cats up to three years old.  It is always fatal, and there is no treatment.

Why aren’t cats and kittens tested for FIP?  There is no test for FIP.  A veterinarian makes the diagnosis based on clinical signs, owner input, age, and results from blood work.  

Is there a vaccine for FIP?  There is no vaccine that can prevent FIP.  Just as there is no test for it, there is no vaccine to prevent it.

How do cats and kittens get it?  FIP occurs when the coronavirus mutates.  About 90% of all cats have been exposed to the coronavirus, and in many of those, the disease may mutate, but only in a small percentage does that mutation result in FIP.

Can my cat be tested for the coronavirus?  Yes, your cat can be tested for the coronavirus, but it is likely it will test positive.  Most cats have been exposed to this common virus, but only a small number will end up with FIP.

If my cat or kitten is diagnosed with FIP, what is the prognosis?  The prognosis is grim.  Cats and kittens diagnosed with the wet or effusive form of FIP will usually die quickly.  Cats and kittens diagnosed with the dry form have a much longer lifespan, but it is still fatal.

What is the treatment for FIP?  There is no treatment for this disease.  Often kittens and cats survive for a few weeks then abruptly get sick quickly.  There is nothing that can be done except keeping your cat or kitten comfortable and offering the final gift of euthanasia with you by their side.

Is FIP contagious?  No, FIP is not contagious.  The coronavirus is contagious, but again, most cats experience exposure with no ill effects.  It is very difficult to find cats that test negative for the coronavirus.

What ages are at risk?  Kittens are at particular risk, but the disease can strike usually up to two years.  There have been some cases as late as three years in cats.  

I have an older cat in my home.  Can I bring in a kitten?  It shouldn’t matter.  Your older cat may have been exposed to the coronavirus and will test positive, but the exposure that matters for kittens usually happens between 4 and 10 weeks – when kittens have a weak immune system.  Of those exposed, only a small number will develop FIP.

How can I prevent FIP or be sure I am adopting a kitten that won’t get it?  Unfortunately, you can’t prevent it, and there is no way for anyone – a rescue, a shelter, or a veterinarian – to be able to predict which kittens or cats will come down with FIP.  At this time, it’s just not possible.

What is Purr Partners doing to help prevent their cats and kittens from getting this disease?  As a rescue group, we are constantly researching to see if there is new information available about best practices that might have an effect.  Currently, we do not house kittens and adult cats together, we work hard to minimize stress which can cause the mutation, we 

Daiquiri was lost to FIP in 2018.

work with our vets to maintain the good health of our kittens, and we use litters that help with virus control as well as providing multiple litter boxes.  The coronavirus can be spread through litter boxes, so this is critical.  Other than this, our veterinarians tell us there is nothing else we can do if we are to continue to save cats and kittens that need rescue.

What are the symptoms of FIP?  This is one of the issues with this disease.  There are several symptoms that can occur in tandem or alone.  These include:

  • Fevers of unexplained origin; usually the fever is high in the 104 – 105 range but the kitten’s behavior may not reflect it.
  • Fluid accumulating in the belly
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite
  • Changes in the eyes (usually associated with the dry form of FIP)
  • Poor appearance

If I have a cat or kitten die of FIP, can I get another one?  Yes.  Remember, FIP is not contagious.  If you have a kitten or cat die of FIP, you would clean your home, especially your litter boxes, and remember, the exposure must occur while they are young.  It’s a sad fact that any kitten you bring into your home could, and probably has, already been exposed, and there’s no way to know if that exposure will turn into FIP.

I don’t think I can stand having a kitten die of FIP.  What can I do?  At this time, the only sure way to avoid FIP is to adopt a cat at least three years old.  Of course, there are other diseases out there that can happen to any cat or kitten:  cancer, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, etc.  There are just no guarantees for our much-loved pets.

What is being done about this horrible disease?  There are several studies happening right now through the Winn Feline Foundation and other research organizations.  There has been some progress in identifying treatments, but nothing is available at of yet.  

I want to learn more, what should I do?  Below are some links you can click and learn more about this awful disease.