Monday, 29 October 2012

Hope is a Black Swan

"Rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno" (a rare bird in the lands, very much like a black swan) ~ Juvenal

The first thing you will likely hear after the diagnosis of FIP is that 'there is no cure'. Utter bunkum - there are cured cats - not a sure thing, not easy and not cheap but just one survivor proves that it is possible. Black swans did exist unbeknownst to Juvenal writing in 1st century Rome. If your cat has wet FIP the cure is Feline Omega Interferon (FOI); if your cat has dry FIP the cure is Polyprenyl Immunostimulant (PI). UPDATE: PI has also possibly cured a kitten with wet FIP. The sooner you start the more likely the cat will do well.

Wet FIP Cases

Miracle 6 week old F6 Savanah

Dusty 3yo scottish fold - survived wet fip with pleural effusion in 2007. Still alive and well October 2012 and on no meds. Diagnosis confirmed by Jaqui Norris, University of Sydney direct immunoflourescence of pleural aspirate. This is the feline omega interferon (FOI) 'poster case' for the manufacturers Virbac.
Click here for full case history
I talked directly to the vet responsible for Dusty's case - Simon Craig in Sydney Australia; his practice is up the road from where I used to live and I have followed their pioneering work in autologous bonemarrow stemcell treatment for hip arthitis in dogs which we can now use in humans too, thanks to their collaboration with a local doc. Be aware Simon Craig says it is no miracle cure and did not help most of his patients and he has not used it in years.

Dry FIP Case

The Hucaby cats live in Nashville Tennesee. Gringo (white cat in centre photo) was 2 years old and Natasha was 15 when they contracted dry FIP in 2006. Both were successfully treated with PI and Natasha reached the grand old age of 20 in 2010. (Update: at autopsy Natasha was found not to have FIP "Natasha passed last year of natural causes at the age of 21. Dr. Legendre has not included her data on his paper since he doubted that she had FIP (he had no doubts about Gringo). Natasha's necropsy revealed no FIP, as I recall. Dr. Legendre was correct as always." Oct 2012)

Click here to read their story
Polyprenyl Immunostimuant (PI ) survivors - reprinted with permission

Saturday, 6 October 2012

FIP is a rollercoaster

"Being diagnosed with a serious illness can seem like a roller coaster ride; scary, up and down, out of control.
Remember, the following is also true of roller coasters:
1. It's less scary with a friend
2. If you stay on the ride to the end you won't get hurt
3. It's okay to scream"

~ borrowed from a post by Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis

As you can see I hate rollercoasters and so does Michael - the others are 007 cool with it which may have something to do with differing levels of reaction to having a terminally ill kitty.

1. Yes much less scary with a friend - Mother/son bonding is a little known benefit of having a fippy cat.
2. Not sure about point 2 - one can step off the ride at any time by euthanizing cats (but not humans yet in australia) It goes smoothly for some but others have had a traumatic time, notably if the cat freaks out at the vets and tries to scramble back into the kitty carrier or dies with its eyes open. There are misdiagnoses - it is not easy to diagnose dry FIP and it is suspected many cats will be euthanized who may have recovered from some other self-limiting illness - or fail to receive the correct treatment
3. aaaarghhh!!!! Don't automatically expect understanding from your friends, or nearest and dearest. Even those with pets have been known to utter "It's only a cat!" Note the use of IT. Use the padded cell of cyberspace and do your screaming in a dedicated FIP support forum or facebook group.

The ups and downs of FIP are extreme. Mishka has earned the nickname 'Lazarus cat' - i have video evidence of resurrection.

A Long Ride


 On Friday last I was thinking "euthanase" as either her appetite was so poor (bad sign) or Mish was now the fussiest cat in the world in space - fussier even than the one pictured on the fussy-cat food which she is too fussy to eat. Fussiness v. inappetance is a good sign (expansion of vocabulary is another little known benefit of FIP in humans) But the universe took charge and sent our new vet away for the weekend so euthanasia was not possible till Monday earliest.

Plus she woke me with retching noises at 4 am yesterday. For a panic stricken moment I thought we were back at square one with a chest full of fluid (our acquaintance with FIP began with an early morning emergence vet visit after I mistook symptoms of suffocation for a hairball). Sat up with her a bit longer to be sure it really was a hairball this time and was so tired I forgot to turn off the grill before leaving the house.
The universe then saved us as my husband came home at lunchtime instead of having a chat with me at the health expo, due to a 'misunderstanding' and switched it off or I might have burnt house down and kitten up!
At dinner time I finally seized the bull by the horns ( poor Mish by the cheeks ) and syringed in some Lectade with Nutrigel and for good measure smeared a fingerful on her chin --> about a minute of unhappy vanilla flavoured cat. Some fish was offered to take away the yuk and HUZZAH she ate it!
claws moving human cushion back into place

Later I lugged the fippy little furball complaining out to the lounge room to watch tv with dad. Couch potato mode is actually classified as 'active' if you are a tired fippy cat because you are out socialising, snacking and grooming rather than buried in a furry heap alone in a bedroom feeling sorry for yourself. She got comfy on her favourite human cushion, Kevin McCloud showed us some nice houses while she polished off seconds, then tidied her fur and fell asleep - the picture of a contented kitty. Her breathing is not wheezy anymore - I even hauled out the baby stethescope to check. A nice big hairball on the carpet would have made us all even more happy!

Now i had to edit this post to tell the end of the story....


We had decided to drain her at home to prevent the extreme trauma she suffered from having this done twice before with two different vets and made preparations which were delayed by the receptionist from hell. This woman specialises in mucking me around, why I have no idea - first she said to come over and pick up the sedative, then when i show up instead made me book an appointment a few days later but when i arrived for that she claimed the vet didn't do appointments on that morning and he wasn't there - lies lies - he was out the back. So with a critically ill cat at home I  got yelled at and belittled, had to beg ,..... shaking and tearful I finally was given the required meds. It was almost too late.
Mishka was still happy and active though very full of fluid as it was now three not two weeks since her last drainage, ate a good lunch as she wasn't going to be drained until the evening. Husband came home to find she had vomited all the food and a small hairball but things didn't settle - she kept bringing up fluid. We suspected impacted hairball and she's no candidate for surgery - I REFUSED to lose her to a hairball! Frantic text message to a supportive vet, purchased catlax and shoved it in; the vomiting stopped overnight so we drained Mishka 400 mls and gave her subcut fluids /vitamin C. Afterwards she looked the best she had in a month. The upshot is that she will need draining perhaps every two weeks unless we can get control of the inflammation leading to the effusion.

Still on the ride.....

Monday, 1 October 2012

A Deliberate Cat Life

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Thoreau

Are you dying every day or living every day? 

Is our little cat dying more than living? That is the question we ask every day with FIP. Today Mishka was living - waiting by the door after breakfast to head off into the sunshine, enough pounce to try for a lizard that scuffled past her favourite resting place under the ash tree. So it was a good day.

When you find out your cat has got FIP you ask what could you have done to prevent it? You have seen at least one thing, probably many things, on the list of stressful events you did which depress the immune system causing the virus to mutate inside your cat, and will waste some time beating yourself up over it. Rehoming is one of them.

"Mummy, mummy can I have a cat?"

 Mishka came to us when my son's violin teacher moved to England and left her kitty behind, a fluffy indoor cat with dreams of being a snow leopard. Being housebound was never her thing so we decided to take her and give her the freedom of a big sunny garden in which to be a cat. We were aware and prepared if she fell prey to snakebite or a hungry eagle - but a virus she caught indoors from her mum was an irony never on our radar.

So if there is a wish fairy for terminally ill cats Mishka would like the 'catching a bird' experience please in this cat life.

What's on your bucket list?