Adopting a new kitten is a wonder. Kittens bring joy and play into our lives and within days they become our family. Most of the time, we share many years together. And sometimes, kittens are affected by a tragic, unpreventable and fatal disease called Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
Choosing a kitten may depend on numerous factors; some kittens choose us. Some of us want a somewhat predictable adult appearance and temperament found in purebred kittens; others prefer to rescue a kitten from a shelter or to adopt one from a private home.
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease that results from the mutation of a feline corona virus that is ubiquitous in the feline population and generally causes only mild enteric symptoms. About five percent of the time, the enteric virus will mutate to a virulent form causing a persistent fever, decreased appetite, and often fluid building in the chest and/or abdomen. Eventually it leads to death. To date, no effective cure has been found.
Factors that contribute to the mutation of the virus are poor health, husbandry, heredity and stress. It is widely accepted that in multi-cat facilities the enteric corona virus is impossible to eliminate, and the percentage of enteric corona virus carriers will ultimately be higher than those in the general domestic population of cats that usually live in individual homes. Despite the presence of the virus in carriers, fortunately the incidence of FIP is low.
Cat breeders are challenged by this disease, because in any population of kittens some cases will develop. Conscientious breeders do their best to identify any breeding pairs that produce kittens who develop FIP, and eliminate them from the breeding program to reduce heritable factors that may increase the risk in their offspring. Still, there will be cases.
Because FIP results from a viral mutation, no effective vaccine has been developed. For the same reason, although the enteric corona virus is infectious, FIP it is not considered to be directly contagious among kittens.
I believe that to love we must risk. There is no guarantee that our loved ones will stay healthy or live long and full lives; still we love. So being aware of Feline Infectious Peritonitis is simply that. There is nothing that can guarantee its prevention, so let’s enjoy our kittens while we can, celebrate each day we share, and know that it is likely our kittens will mature into adulthood and live for many healthy years.