Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Losing a Cat to FIP & Knowing When to Say Goodbye

Jon and I recently lost our Orange to a disease called FIP (feline infectious peritonitis). It was heartbreaking and sudden. I hope none of you ever hear your vet utter that acronym. After online research (links provided at end of post) and conferencing with our vet, we have learned that FIP is a rare mutation of a common cat virus, but the mutation mostly occurs in kittens. It is currently viewed as untreatable, with life expectancy of only days to weeks after symptoms occur.

In mid-July we noticed the following changes in Orange: she appeared to have lost weight, she was hiding out more under the bed, and she was sluggish. Our vet did a check-up and found a filled anal gland, which was easily released. Our vet was confident that Orange was healthy but had been experiencing discomfort due to her anal gland. She suggested the procedure be done every couple months. But just to be sure nothing else was going on, blood was also drawn. The results showed a seemingly healthy cat. Last week brought drastic weight loss and another appointment with her vet. This time, the vet noticed Orange was sensitive in her abdomen, so she was taken out of the room for an x-ray. The vet returned with an x-ray image of unrecognizable intestines and yellowish fluid that she had extracted from Orange, all indicative of something I had never heard of before, FIP. We were informed that the next step was giving Orange the best we could during her last days.

When pets are faced with a terminal illness, it is important that we remind ourselves to be selfless in our approach. It helps to establish a "When is it time?" moment. Our vet advised us that we would know that moment when Orange stopped enjoying her favorite activities. Orange was less agile, but still cuddled with me and kneaded on her favorite cat bed. But every day brought more and more weakness due to her loss of appetite. Since she was not eating much on her own, I gave her watered down high calorie food using a syringe. By Monday, it felt selfish keeping her alive. I saw Orange do the usual walk to the cat room, but then squat just feet away from the litter box. I called my husband knowing the final conclusion. It was time to take her in that day.


She loved to cuddle with Squeeze.

In the end, I find it helpful to reflect on how much Orange enjoyed life with us and our family of cats. She started out as an abandoned kitten in a cardboard box at a Wal-Mart (said the foster parent). We first saw her in 2010 at an adoption event at the Town Square Mall. At the time, we already had Chooch, Kunu, and Squeeze. Adding a fourth cat to the mix seemed crazy. But months later we saw her again at another adoption event. After holding the purring cat in my lap, we knew we wanted to share our home with her.



My crazy cat lady side is about to show...the cats hang out with us during dinner. As I walk up the stairs with my dinner plate, Padre bolts in front of me and takes my seat (which I gladly share). Orange was usually already lounged on the table patiently waiting for whatever treat I had for them that night.





Many blog posts have been written with the companionship of Orange. Whenever I sat down at the computer, the pitter-patter of her feet would soon approach. Next came the I'm here meow, followed by a quick and considerate investigation to make sure I was not barelegged, and then the leap onto my lap. Much purring and head rubbing ensued.

Thank you for taking the time to read my lament-laden post. For those that found this post because your cat has FIP, I am deeply sorry. These are some trustworthy sources I would like to pass along to you:

     Information from the veterinary schools of Cornell & UC Davis
     Sock it to FIP - a UC Davis group looking to spread awareness
     FIP Mutation - possible hope for the future

26 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. I am so sorry for your loss.

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  2. I am so, so sorry to hear about Orange. :(

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  3. Sorry for your loss and what a beautiful kitty she was. :(

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  4. I'm so sorry for your loss! Orange was blessed to have you as her fur mama.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this. So sorry to hear about Orange. :( My boyfriend has two cats and I love them to death. Although I've never gone through this experience before, I can empathize with how you feel. Orange was a cutie!

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  6. I'm so sorry to hear Michelle...I know how hard it is to lose a pet.

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  7. Michelle & Jon - I'm so sorry for your loss <3 Orange was beautiful (as are all your other cats). RIP Orange.

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    1. Thank you to all for your kind words. :)

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  8. I just stumbled upon your blog randomly and wanted to extend my sincerest apologies... I lost my kitten to FIP in February and it is so hard to hear the news. She had started showing symptoms in September/October and would do the same things Orange would - look at the litter box and go wherever she was. You made the right choice to let Orange go peacefully, as it was very painful for us to watch Gizmo get to the point where she couldn't walk anymore (it happened almost instantly, where she was walking one day and the next her legs couldn't support her very very small weight of about five pounds). You made the right choice and although it is always hard to say goodbye, I'm happy to have had my little kitten in my life, as I'm sure your big kitten was happy to be in yours.

    Best wishes.

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    1. Thank you for your condolences. I am sorry to hear about your Gizmo. Really that is one of the best things we can do to cope...look back and know that we gave them a happy life.

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  9. Same with me, I just happened to stumble onto your blog and saw this sad story. I'm sorry for your loss. I just became a crazy cat lady myself. I adopted my cat Jax two years ago. I can honestly say that Jax has melted my heart and me a different person. I will never be the same. Its a beautiful story and I'm glad that Orange had you. She looked happy, healthy and loved. RIP Orange.

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    1. Thank you. I love that phrase "melted my heart" :)

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  10. I'm so sorry to hear the about the loss of Orange. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  11. Oh wow, I so sorry for your loss. I can't even imagine how terribly heart-wrenching it is to lose a pet. I didn't lose my cat, but had to give it to my parents when I moved it with my boyfriend (he is very allergic to cat... like can't breathe allergic) and it completely broke my heart. I cried for days. I was going to see my cat again, obviously, but it hurt so much. I can't even imagine losing my Billie forever.

    I'm so sorry for the lost of your Orange. I'm glad you were able to say goodbye though. My thoughts are with you and your family (and cats!) <3

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    1. Thank you Annick. That is too bad that your boyfriend is so allergic. :(

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  12. I am so sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thank you to you and the other anonymous above. :)

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  13. Oh Michelle, I am SO, SO sorry for your loss. Our fur babies are such a big part of our lives, it's impossible to see them as "just animals". Give the others extra love, because I'm sure they will miss her just as much as you guys do.

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    1. They are definitely our children. :) Giving them all extra treats and cuddle time. I am worried most about Squeeze because she has been looking for Orange and seemed a little mopey.

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  14. I am so very sorry for your loss, Michelle :( I know what it's like to lose a cat suddenly, and even 10 years later, I get all choked up about it. I hope you find comfort in the cuddles of your other babies.

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    1. Hi Michelle - just checking up - how are you doing? When we lost Pudge, we jumped into "rebound" cats. It took 3 adorable, loving new furbabies to fill the hole in our hearts.

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    2. Thanks for checking in. I am really missing her company when I am at the computer. But like you said, I am finding comfort in having the others to take care of. Life has been pretty busy with school and home renovations, so that does help get my mind off of having my buddy gone. Again, thanks for checking in. :)

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    3. I just read your story and today I found out my cat of 1.5 months has to get put down. I rescued him from a shelter and he was a happy kitty till 2 weeks ago, I went to two vets as the first one diagnosed him with a bacterial infection, the 2nd opinion vet has concluded it's IP. I am so distraught as I lost my 1st and previous kitty at 2 yrs to a road accident. Bert is such a special cat and we shared such a special relationship. I am really struggling dealing with this loss, so if any one is out there who can help it would be much appreciated.c\ xxx

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    4. Anonymous - I am so sorry for your loss! Have you tried thecatsite.com? You may find some comfort in the "Crossing the Bridge" forum: http://www.thecatsite.com/f/19/crossing-the-bridge

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  15. I Lost my 5 month old kitten to FIP. The amount of pain I felt is immeasurable. I felt powerless. There will be many sunny days she will not see, many meals she won't enjoy, many places she won't explore. And many years she will not know.

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