Feline infectious peritonitis or FIP in cats is an immune reaction to the infection of feline coronavirus (FCoV). It is a contagious virus, with the majority of its cases observed in multifeline households, catteries, and shelters. It usually occurs in cats at ages of six weeks to two years old. This is a condition easy to miss, especially on its first contamination as cats usually appear to be healthy. How contagious is a cat with FIP? What are the symptoms of FIP in a cat?
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
FIP in cats is fatal and a viral disease rooted from a mutation of the feline coronavirus (FCoV) infection. About 5 to 10 per cent of cats with FCoV eventually progress into clinical FIP. The virus will then be called feline infectious peritonitis virus.
It is important to remember that FIP in cats is contagious to other felines, although not infectious to humans or other animals. The virus can be accumulated even from a human when he/she will get in contact with an infected cat.
How does the feline infectious peritonitis virus work?
How can a cat get FIP? An average of 40 per cent of domesticated cats has FCoV in their faeces. The virus is known to survive or stay in contaminated areas, such as in clothing, carpet, and others, for a substantial amount of time. This means a human in contact with an infected cat is likely contagious to other felines. Young cats are also at risk because of their developing immune systems. Additionally, this is also true for older cats in their senior years or any other cats with weak immune system.
As soon as the virus is contaminated, it spreads and circulates throughout the body along with the white blood cells. However, it may take weeks, months, or at times years for the feline coronavirus to develop into FIP. In other words, early signs of FIP in cats are hard to recognise until it advances into a severe condition.
Symptoms of FIP in cats
The progress of the disease largely depends on the cat’s immune system and which internal organs are infected with the virus.
There are two forms of the manifestation of the virus:
Effusive or wet FIP
The effusive or wet form of FIP mainly accumulates fluid in the cavities of the cat’s body. Watch out for the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Runny nose
- Swollen chest cavity
- Swollen abdomen
- Persistent fever
- Weight loss
Noneffusive or dry FIP
The noneffusive or dry form of FIP in cats mainly affects the cat’s organs. Watch out for the following symptoms:
- Eye inflammation
- Neurological problems (eye and mobility issues)
- Poor overall growth in kittens
The effusive form of FIP is known to progress faster than the noneffusive. It is sad to say that life expectancy of cats infected with FIP would run over a month or two, right after being clinically diagnosed.
In general, cats affected by either wet or dry FIP firstly manifest the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Poor hair and coat quality
- Weight loss
Treatment for FIP in cats
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment deemed effective at this time. There is still collective research that is under observation to be approved in pharmacies.
The good thing is that there are supportive care and treatment available, such as the following:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Cytokine therapy
- Draining fluid build-up
- Environmental and nutritional maintenance
- Fluid therapy
- Homeopathic FIP nosodes
- IV vitamin C therapy
There is an available vaccine against FIP in cats. However, the efficacy of the said vaccine is considered poor. As such, it cannot give a hundred per cent assurance for prevention. It is best to check with a veterinarian about having your cat vaccinated. Here are simple things that you can do especially when rearing a female cat and her litter.
- Rear cats in small groups; the ideal number is four cats or fewer.
- Prepare each cat with its own litter tray, or one for every two felines.
- Choose a clean and disinfected spot for the litter trays area.
- Put litter trays at a distance from food and water bowls. Make sure to keep the area clean regularly.
- Avoid situations that will leave your feline stressed.
- Monitor good hygiene for your furry pet.
- Check and update cats on their vaccinations.
- Provide them with the best nutritional food. Read the Cat Dietary Nutrition Guide.
The best preventive measure every cat owner should do is to keep the pet as healthy as possible. Read more of our blogs for more health-related information.