Saturday 6 September 2008

Feline FIP

feral cats Israel
Feral cats Israel - photo by yell saccani (A.S)


Feline FIP is cat (feline) infectious peritonitis. Peritonitis affects humans as well and in humans it is an inflammation of the peritoneum, which is a thin membrane in the abdomen that hold the internal organs in place and acts as a conduit for blood vessels, nerves and lymph vessels.

In cats the disease is not confined to the peritoneum, however. The virus that causes the disease, a member of the family Coronaviridae, causes inflammation of the fine blood vessels (the capillary blood vessels) of the body generally. This is called "vasculitis". This results in the loss of fluids to the tissues.

The Coronavirus (FCoV - see Feline Viruses) is so called because the virus is circled by a corona or crown of circular structures on thin spikes. These structures are called viral spikes or peplomers.

The virus lives in the cat's intestine. For 9 out of 10 cats it's presence has no detrimental effect. For the remaining cats the virus leaves the intestine and, as mentioned, inflames the capillary blood vessels (vasculitis). Half of the cats that contract vasculitis develop Feline FIP.

The disease is spread from cat to cat through close and continuous contact with infected secretions. This can be through, for example, sneezing or sharing a food bowl when transference takes place through the saliva. Apparently the most common route for transmission of the virus is through feces. The virus enters the cat through the nose and mouth.

Three quarters of exposed cats show no sign of infection. Of the 25% that do show signs of infection the first symptoms of feline FIP are a runny nose and/or eye discharge. Cats can recover from this and show no symptoms but remain carriers of the disease nonetheless.

Of the cats exposed to the disease, 5% (or is it 1%) go on to develop the secondary disease, which is fatal. Feline FIP tends to infect either young or old cats. That is cats in the age range 6 months to 5 years and 11 years and older. It would seem that an age less than 18 months is the most vulnerable time.

Clearly there is a greater chance of infection where many cats live together as in a cattery or a multiple cat household. Catteries are concerned with the breeding of purebred cats so it is often purebred cats that suffer the disease. Also, more vulnerable cats will be those that are run down (and have a lowered resistance) because of a prior illness.

There are two forms, wet and dry feline FIP. Both forms prove fatal.

Wet Feline FIP

Fluid builds in the body spaces including the heart sac, hence the name. The symptoms are general and it can be hard to differentiate the symptoms of this disease from other feline diseases. Symptoms include loss of appetite and weight, listlessness, running a temperature (fever of 106 degrees), vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, anemia, jaundice (yellow skin - liver failure) and unsurprisingly the cat looks very ill.

Dry Feline FIP

Fluid is not produced hence the name. This is also called the "disseminated form" and is difficult to diagnose. "Dissemination" means diffused or dispersed. The symptoms, early on, are similar to Wet Feline FIP.

In a quarter of cases the eyes are affected. The color of the eyes may change and a reddish area on the iris, bleeding into the eye and the eye may be cloudy.

A number of organs can be affected namely the brain (brain damage), liver (liver failure), kidney and pancreas (see Feline Pancreatitis). 10-20% of cats with Feline FIP also suffer from Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV - see Feline Leukemia Symptoms). The dry form leads to death over a longer period. This is a traumatic disease for both the cat and the person. People whose cats have died by this disease have spoken of the devastation they felt. It was obviously a traumatic event for them.

The prognosis as mentioned is bad as there is not cure and all cats who develop either version of Feline FIP will die in a few weeks. All vets and keepers can do is to make the cat as comfortable as possible.

Prevention is the only option therefore. A controversial vaccine is available that is inoculated into the nose. It is a problematic vaccination and not recommended it seems as a routine vaccination (see cat vaccination recommendations).

Maintaining the cat's natural immunity is a factor. This is achieved in a common-sense way through good nutrition, low stress environment (spacious enclosure and room to exercise), good cat parasite control (see cat parasite pictures - this is not comprehensive), early treatment of illness and regular grooming (grooming your cat).

Cat breeders and boarding catteries will disinfect with bleach regularly. Routine testing of all the cats for Feline FIP in homes where there are a number of cats is a proactive measure. Testing though it seems is also problematic.

Update 11-Jan-2009: Bearing in mind that the corona virus is carried by a large number of cats in a benign way could it be possible that vaccination carried out too early might trigger the onset of feline FIP? Cat vaccinations are quite traumatic for a young cat and are to be taken seriously by the cat owner. They are not routine procedures to become complacent about. One or two breeders might agree with the above suggestion, I think.

More information: Feline Infectious Peritonitis
Feline FIP - Sources:
  2. Veterinary Notes for Cat Owners by Dr Trevor Turner and Jean Turner VN
  3. Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlson and Giffin

Feline FIP to Cat health problems


  1. I have just sadly lost my 15 month old cat to FIP, I am absolutely devastated. It is an awful thing. However it is rare and as my vet said I have been extremely unlucky

  2. On Feb. 28, 2010 I had to put down my 15 month old baby Toby. He had FIP. He was perfectly fine until 2 weeks before having to put him down. His FIP was very rapid. I found out on a Wednesday afternoon, he was gone by Saturday that same week. I'm crushed. He was my baby boy. Mommy loves you Toby <3

  3. We will never truly know how our 15 month old Wolfgang died. He presented with many of the above symptoms but clinically it was hard to diagnose. He went from a happy cat to death within two weeks. I loved him dearly but one thing I have learnt from this is that the immune system of a pure breed cat is not sufficient for this world. I hope research demystifies this incurable disease.

  4. My big black beautiful Sheba was 12 years and a couple of months old. I was devastated by her death, she died on the front seat of my car in her pet cage just as I pulled into the vet, Sunday morning at 9:50 am August 8, 2010.
    I had been living with her disease in a condo. Without realizing what was really wrong, I also developed a lethargy and lacked energy. Once it took hold of Sheba, she rapidly took ill and her breathing was very labored. It happened over 11 hours, literally overnight.
    I will miss my pretty girl, she knew I was right beside her when she took her last liquidy gasp for air.

  5. My Baby Guy was just diagnosed with FIP today. I think I know what to expect from all the information I've been reading on the net. What I'm unsure of is how he got it. He's 7 months old. we got him in April from a cattery. He came to us just as he was finishing his antibiotic for an upper respitory infection, so they say. He had a running noise and watery eye. I have an 11 year old cat that has never seen the outdoors and is perfectly healthy.
    Comments or advise are welcomed greatly

  6. I have just returned from the vet with my Lilac Oriental, Jasper, and have been told he has F.I.P. I have opted to have him put to sleep before the disease progresses further and he suffers. I am beside myself with grief and feel that I have contributed in some way to his state of health as I introduced another kitten to the home who came with what I believe was the F.I.P virus and, although the kitten recovered, I fear it has given Jasper his death sentence. I will remain with Jasper when he's finally put to sleep so that he knows he is loved and always will be.

  7. We lost Freddie in September after a 6 week battle with the virus. We were completely destroyed as we rescued Freddie adn his sister and we though after 4 months we had got them well. Fitzgerald was left with no companion and am now completely confused as to whether we could get a companion for our cat that is left?

  8. we lost our baby lilly on wednesday to fip. it is a horrible disease.she was only five months old and now im worried sick about her sister chloe,and my others that have now been exposed. chloe appears perfectly healthy but i now know that can quickly change.we are praying for her,chemo,cooper,cutie pie and all others in this situation.

  9. I was told by my vet that my cat has fip on saturday, its heart breaking that there is no cure, all i can do it wait and see everyday how she is....she is only 1 year old :(

  10. Response to last comment. I am sorry to hear this. It is so sad. I wish you both the best.

  11. I feel for all of you who have posted. I lost my 5 month old kitten on Feb. 3, 2011 to FIP. It is a terrible disease I will never understand. It isn't fair. He has been cheated out of life. I miss him so much and always will.

  12. I have been reading everyone's posts and I have a few questions. I had to put my 17 month old Himalayan, "Jussy" to sleep yesterday and the vet said it could've been FIP, but she said the tests are hard to read and are not always conclusive. I bought her and her brother from a cattery when they 8 weeks old. They came down with horrible ringworm and it never resolved, despite constant treatment. Jussy suddenly lost a pound in a week and the ringworm became worse - lesions all over her body. The vet recommended putting her to sleep because she was declining rapidly. Sound like FIP?

  13. My little Molly is only 10 months old and at the veterinary surgery waiting to have an MRI scan in the morning. All syptoms are pointing to FIP. But she was so weak when we left her, I don't think she's going to make it through the night! I'm dreading the phone call tomorrow!! :(

  14. My heart goes out to you and your cat. Good Luck.

  15. My kitty is 10 mths old and I got him from the SPCA and was told that he was a ferral kitten. He was a playful kitten just up until 4 days ago, when suddenly he started bumping into the walls. By the next day he was losing his balance and falling over as though he was intoxicated. I took him to the vet who says that he may have FIP. His temperature was good. 3 days later the vet called to say that one of his tests showed that he was FIV negative but definitely anemic. His globolin levels were high. We are still waiting for confirmation whether or not he is FIP positive. Other than the fact that he eats very little (but he always did), he still attempts to walk around the house, jumps up and down on the bed but is constantly using the wall as a balance. It's been 6 days since I had him to the vet and he has not been getting worse but remains the same. I'm worried that the vet may leave me no option but to put him to sleep.

  16. My beautiful kitten Floyd died on Sunday from FIP, he was not even 5 months old. He had been sleepier than normal for a week or two before but was eating and seemed well other wise. However he developed fluid in his tummy and the vet diagnosed FIP and my sweet, beautiful kitten died just 3 days later. Heartbroken, devastated and shocked. This infection is rapid and deadly. I hope a cure is found very soon.

  17. I feel for you. And I am sorry at the loss of Floyd. Good luck for the future.

  18. I lost my beautiful Satchel yesterday to FIP. He was diagnosed last September at the age of 3 months. We opted to keep give him the best quality of life until the disease took him. Up until this past week he was very active, playful, and mischievous. He went to the vet at least once a month for secondary infections (ear, mouth, stomach), and kept on going. He started having seizures yesterday so we had took him to the vet and let him go. We had a year with him, and for that we are very thankful but we miss him so much already.


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