Thursday, September 24, 2020

Remember Me Thursday: Fleurp's Story

Remember Me Thursday's contest asks this question: Tell us a story of how your rescue pet changed your life! 

While many of my cats, and many of my fosters, changed my life, none so changed my perceptions as much or as often as Fleurp.  This is her story

Fleurp's Story:

Remember me Thursday: Fleurp

Fleurp came to me in 2008 as a foster kitten. I had run to the shelter for supplies for the kittens I was already fostering, but something made me look up at a cage that was above my eye level. There she sat, all meatloafed with an eye all swollen, looking for all intents and purposes to be a rather pathetic soul. As I walked up to her cage to make soothing noises at her, she stood up and screamed at me and told me in no uncertain terms I was coming home with her. She was ANYTHING but pathetic. Spitfire was more like it.  She took no guff from anyone or anything, which is probably how she ended up in the condition she did.

Fleurp as a kitten

I had originally thought she had an upper respiratory infection due to the nature of that eye. She had evidence that she had been dealing with fleas and her ears were caked with ear mite debris. I bathed her and cleaned out her ears and began treating her for URI. Well, as it turns out she had actually been bitten as she had a few small scabs on the top of her head and under her jaw. I thought it would be sad that her eye was impaired even though it eventually healed; watching her adjust to her new impaired eyesight was very interesting. She had depth perception issues for a month or two, but then she just "got it" and it has never been an issue for her again.

While I was fostering her, she presented with a really large belly. I was so sure she was full of worms that I asked the shelter to test her multiple times (every time was negative) and dewormed her anyway just as many times (not all stool samples show worms). After long past what should have been a worm clearing amount of medication she still had a big round belly. I decided not to worry about it unless something else showed up. She still has that belly today and I jokingly call her my fuzzy watermelon on legs. Fleurp decided I was her person that very first day - who am I to deny what she so clearly knew.

Years later Fleurp became anemic. She started licking dirt and cement, even going so far as to eat a few chunks of cement the vet found upon x-ray. While I thought I knew what caused it, she stumped not only me but multiple vets that have treated her over the years. See, after that initial bout of anemia, she became anemic the same time year after year. Every time in the late spring just before summer she drops a lot of weight and starts looking for something inappropriate to lick.  For years we treated her with antibiotics and steroids, but finally, I took a proactive approach. The only thing different in her life in the spring is that she sheds her winter mane and her very fluffy coat. By shaving her coat once it starts getting warm enough, we have been able to mitigate the worst of her symptoms so she no longer needs steroids to survive. 

Remember me Thursday: Fleurp

Beyond all of this, she has given us so much love and joy that my husband calls her "my little sunshine" She is sweet and sassy, patient and demanding. She often is mysterious to us, even after having owned cats for 40 some odd years and fostered so many. She keeps us on our toes and rewards us for it daily. She has presented me with many opportunities to shift out of my own preconceived notions of what things are to accept that not always what they seem. She often rejects my reality and substitutes her own and takes me along for the ride.

All this from "just a shelter cat" that very well could have been euthanized at another shelter due to her injury, her small size, the lack of resources, the lack of volunteers to help out. So many other cats and dogs and rabbits and birds and various other pocket pets are waiting for their humans to give love and help them learn and grow. Pets bring such joy to pet owners and lovers.. 

If you are not in a position to adopt this year, please consider donating to your local shelter. If you don't have a favorite local shelter, consider Colony Cats out of Ohio, which is currently supporting two amazing little kittens I so very much want to run over and adopt (which btw is an excessively long drive from where I am) but I am currently not in a place to adopt more kitties.. 

Remember Me Thursday

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

What I know about Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

Having been in rescue as long as I have, and focusing my rescue work on kitties, I have come across FIP too many times. Now that I am also networking and providing support to other people who foster kitties, this topic comes up a lot, and it is quite disheartening to hear so many things that I know are patently untrue when it comes to FIP. I wanted to take a moment to write down what I have learned from my own experiences, by reading as many articles as I have, and being a part of the FIP community.

I will admit, it had been a while since I had dug deep into the research and experiences of owners and vets so to do this post I started looking for verification from the experts of what I knew to be true a few years ago as well as any new data that has arisen. Some of the information has changed dramatically since the availability of the new "treatment" for FIP, and that in and of itself is unsettling. Too many people are calling this once 100% fatal disease "curable", which I find to be misleading.

What is FIP?

FIP is a mutation of the Feline CoronaVirus (FCoV). It is rare, occurring in shelter kitties at a rate of 0.06% of the population (*) It presents in two ways, wet and dry. Wet fills the abdomen with fluid, dry does not.

What is Feline CoronaVirus (FCoV)?

CoronaVirus in cats generally is pretty harmless(*); it might cause a bit of diarrhea which might need some supportive care such as fluids, but on the whole, there is not much to be done for it but wait it out. Think of it a very mild common cold. FYI: one fact I stumbled on while getting the reference material for this post is something I have wondered for years. FCoV is a pretty fragile virus. Quote: FCoV is a relatively fragile virus (inactivated at room temperature within 24 to 48 hours), but in dry conditions (eg, in carpet), it has been shown to survive for up to 7 weeks outside the cat. Indirect fomite transmission is thus possible, and the virus can be transmitted through clothes, toys, and grooming tools. In organ homogenates, it is even resistant to repeated freezing at −70°C for many months. The virus is destroyed by most household disinfectants and detergents, however. (*)

Unfortunately, the rates of incidents of FCoV is actually very high in shelter and rescue kitties (*), which leads to all kinds of confusion. If you ever hear of feline coronavirus and you look it up on the internet, all you basically find is information about FIP. At least that is what happened to me when I first tried to figure it out. FCoV is actually pretty contagious and I have been told that we should just assume that any shelter/rescue kitty has it.

FCoV mutates into Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

Occasionally, rarely, FCoV mutates into Feline Infectious Peritonitis. As far as I can tell, we still do not know why(*). There is a really cool video on YouTube that shows what happens after the mutation if you are interested. 

Once the virus mutates, it is no longer contagious. If you have a kitty with FIP, you do not need to be afraid of it giving it to another kitty. Could the second kitty also mutate the coronavirus and acquire FIP, yes, especially if they have similar genetics and similar stressors in their life, but remember, this is a pretty rare occurrence in the first place.

I have been hearing some people talk about Ocular and Neurologic FIP. I found this quite fascinating as I have only ever heard the experts talk about "wet" and "dry" forms of FIP. Looking for information on this I have found that people are using these terms to discuss the progression of dry FIP.  Back in 2002, my cat Kodi (*)  had dry FIP (although we never did the necessary tests to ultimately confirm that) and he started bleeding in his eyes at the end. It was what caused me to realize that his time was at an end. I always assumed that it was due to the damage of his internal organs and not FIP in his eye, but in the end, that is unimportant. What matters is figuring out if when someone suggests your kitty has FIP if that is accurate or not.

Why am I writing this post?

The reasons are two-fold. One to discuss what FIP is and the second is the serious limitations we still have regarding this disease. We still have no definitive way to diagnosis it. There is no FIP test despite what vets will tell you. Researchers are getting closer to figuring out how to definitively say a cat has it, but right now that is only via some very expensive testing and even that is only 96% accurate. There are biomarkers that can "rule in" or "rule out" FIP, but that does not mean the cat actually has it as those biomarkers can be raised for any number of other reasons.

There are many symptoms to FIP depending on how it presents and sadly all of them are generic and can present because of any number of diseases. Some issues that have been misdiagnosed as FIP have been: toxoplasmosis, brain tumor, required a dental, lymphoma, bacterial pleurisy, thiamine deficiency, cancer, worms, cerebellar hypoplasia among others. Most of these have a pretty safe and easy treatment, so when your health care provider is suggesting your kitty has FIP then you really need to either tell them to forget that diagnosis and look for something else or get yourself to a new vet. The experts in the field have a flowchart to diagnose it. I am going to reiterate how rare it is. Only 18% of the samples for testing that had a diagnosis of FIP actually had FIP.  Quote:
"You can only be really confident of an FIP diagnosis if you have a positive FCoV RT-PCR result on the effusion of a wet FIP case, or a MLN FNA or aqueous humour in a non-effusive FIP case." (*)  
These cases are not just people thinking the kitty had FIP, but vets who suspected it enough to refer the case on to this point. 

Are you starting to understand why I get so incredibly frustrated when people bandy about the idea that a kitty is suffering from FIP?  Yes, FIP is a real and incredibly serious disease. FIP can and does happen to kitties everywhere, but simply because a kitten is failing to thrive doesn't mean it has FIP. 

FIP is also a disease that takes time. Kittens are generally not diagnosable before three months. They are only open to infection to FCoV at 5 to 7 weeks when their maternal antibodies start to wean. It then takes time for the body to interact with the virus enough to mutate and then it takes another couple of weeks for the mutation to do the damage required to start showing symptoms. (*) Most cases of FIP occur in cats between 4 and 18 months (*)

But isn't FIP treatable now?

Yes, there are two drugs that have put cats with FIP into remission. Some people call that a cure, but with so little data on the subject it is hard to know. I looked into what it would take to get the drug, and it is basically a black market drug from China that requires almost no oversight. You don't need a diagnosis of FIP (mostly because it is still extremely hard to prove as there is no test for it) and the people selling this drug simply say if you suspect it to go ahead and try it and see what happens. From what I have learned it is extremely expensive (in the thousands of dollars range) and quite painful (the medication stings) and it involves daily injections for weeks if not months and sadly many cats do not survive. Because we generally do not know if the cats who receive this treatment actually have FIP or not, we can not say that those who survive the treatment are cured of FIP. Maybe they had some other condition that they recovered from because of the constant care of the owner while being given this medication. Lastly, since this medication has only been in use a few years (at the time of this post) we have no long term data about what happens to these cats in five or ten years. Do they continue on with a normal life? Is there organ damage? Are cancer rates higher (or lower?)? We simply do not know.  I do know that, at this time, if I had a kitten with a seriously strong suspicion of FIP, I believe I would not give the medication at this time.

In conclusion:

While FIP is a real and serious threat to kitties and it is not something to be taken lightly. If you suspect your kitty has FIP, you really need to work with a vet who is willing to ignore the suspected FIP infection and look for a different diagnosis or work with you to do the necessary tests (*) to figure out if that is what you are dealing with.  If your vet is not willing to go the extra mile for a kitty who they suspect has FIP, you need a new vet.

I have said that more kittens die of a false FIP diagnosis than will ever die of the disease itself, and the experts are in agreement.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Remember Me Thursday: Shining the light on pet adoption

 I first heard of Remember Me Thursday back in 2013. It is a campaign by the Helen Woodward Animal Center to shine the light on pet adoption (#seethelight)

Remember me Thursday

I will admit I was a little confused by the campaign in the past, as they use candles as part of their logos; to me, that means you are honoring those that have passed on, not those here waiting for homes, but they really want to bring light to animals waiting for their people. 

This year they are having a contest to get people to share their pet's rescue story to show others that rescue pets are wonderful pets. The goal is to get people to go to rescues and shelters and not pet stores or back yard breeders. 

On Thursday I will share the story of Fleurp, of the challenges and joys she has brought to our lives, and the lessons she has taught me. 

I hope you take a moment this Thursday, September 24th, 2020 to take a moment and share your light about adoption. Talk to a friend about the joy of a rescue pet, Share something on social media about the horrors of pet mills. Share what inspires you about pet adoption.  If you are so inspired, enter the contest and tell the world about your rescue story

Remember me Thursday

Friday, September 11, 2020

Meet Virginia

 Meet Virginia

Very sleek black kitty

She was surrendered to the rescue for not having a great quality of life. Other pets in the house were intimidating her pretty hard and I heard she spent most of her time hiding.  The owners did the right thing and reached out to find her another home where she can flourish.

She is a bit lacking in self-confidence. She will run and hide every time I go into the kitten room... 

small black cat hiding beside the couch

But she very quickly comes out and starts to meep at me if I am not paying her attention. She demands quite a bit of petting and head buts and then will go and lay on the floor and proceed to roll around like a bit of a hussy (yes, she is making biscuits) 

young black cat laying on brown carpet

She had not been spayed so that was done right before I picked her up. I am unsure what happened to her chin, but I know it happened a few days before her surgery so I am confident that the vets took a good look at it. I was able to get a pretty good look at her skin and it has healed up nicely.  

small black cat showing her shaved belly and her spay scar

She came to me with the name Sketch, but I thought she needed something a little more pizazz. I was calling her Precious for a few hours, but it didn't really work for me. I woke up the morning after bringing her home and I thought about creating this blog post and immediately the song Meet Virginia popped into my head (and it has not left thankyouverymuch) so, Virginia it is.  I am a little surprised I haven't named a kitty Virginia yet.  I know I had a Ginny, but she was Ginny, so this totally works.

I originally thought she was going to need a lot of time to decompress and to be won over, but really all that needs to be done is for the hormones to leave her body and a little self-confidence building (which has started and she is willing to participate in) so I am guessing she will not be here for long.  She is a VERY good girl.. 
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