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Help with orphaned kittens, possible FIP

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I have with me two foster kittens of just over 4 weeks old. They belong to a local no-kill rescue group and were supposed to stay with me just long enough to gain enough weight for shots and neutering before being placed for adoption. I have fostered several kitties previously, but I have never dealt with something like this before. The timeline goes like this:

Nine kittens were orphaned in a crowded municipal shelter when their mother died of unknown causes. They were three weeks old at the time and had been in the shelter for about a week already. The mother is said to have shown no symptoms of illness prior to her suddenly being found dead, and no necropsy was performed.

The kittens were not bottle fed and were sometimes given canned food, but the only reliable care they received was daily dry food. They were not to my knowledge seen by any veterinary professional.

About a week later, the nine kittens were placed on the euthanasia list. Because they seemed adoptable, the person who does euthanasia for the shelter asked our rescue group to take them as transfers. Foster homes were found for all nine- I was to take three and a vet tech was to take six.

I picked up my three- all in the same carrier- by meeting a transport volunteer in a Petsmart parking lot. I went in with the kittens and bought some litter and canned food for them. I then brought them home. Upon removing the kittens from their carrier, I saw that one fluffy grey kitten's fur had been hiding extreme emaciation. I could feel his pelvis just trying to gently wipe diarrhea from his bottom.

I rushed all three kittens to the vet who sees the rescue animals. She immediately put the sick kitten on intravenous fluids- around 5:30 PM- but said that the other two seemed okay and would just need careful care. The sick kitten weighed only 10 ounces- half what his siblings weighed. Unfortunately the grey kitten passed away at around 9:00 PM that night. Another kitten from the litter who had been taken to the other foster home died the same day with the same symptoms.

My surviving two kittens had diarrhea and were obviously underweight with prominent ribs and hipbones, but were fairly active. The tabby was very playful immediately, but the black kitten seemed dehydrated, so because of this and the diarrhea I gave them fluids every hour all night and every couple hours the next day, with either a bottle or a syringe. By the second day I had them, both were eating very well (even stealing my dog's food!) and were fairly active, though the black kitten remained less playful, which I attribute mainly to personality differences.

The kittens have had some diarrhea and a couple of incidents of vomiting, but the vomiting appeared connected with one brand of canned food I offered them, and has not recurred since I discontinued offering that particular brand of canned food. They are currently eating Second Step weaning formula and Natural Choice kitten food. The black kitten has solid poop and the tabby sometimes has very soft stools and sometimes has more solid stools.

Today- day 5 of the kittens with me- I got a phone call saying a third kitten from the same litter was rushed to the vet and an x-ray revealed fluid in the abdomen. This kitten was never with me but was with my kittens in the shelter and in the same car during transport.

The veterinarian said it was probably FIP and that there is no treatment and she expects the whole litter to die.

What I have read today since hearing this contradicts that- I have read that only a small number of cats exposed to FIP develop the lethal form after their initial exposure. I also saw here that others have had some success with drug therapy for FIP, and the vet did not mention that. She just wants to euthanize if the kittens show signs.

I don't know if an organ biopsy or necropsy was performed to confirm diagnosis.


Is there something I can do to prevent them from developing FIP? Should I pay (though I've had my own emergency vet bills recently and can't really afford it, but it's better than losing them) for them to see a different vet and ask about drug therapy? What do I do? These are beautiful vibrant little kittens (I have pictures if you want to see) and I do NOT want to lose them, and especially not now- I just lost another loved pet Thursday night to cancer, lost my first horse last month, and I could go on but let's just say this has not been a good year and that I have lost many friends both human and animal and I can't believe that I am facing losing two more I've already fallen in love with....
post #2 of 11
i cannot help much except to say i'm in rescue too as we've had fip cats and kittens before. all died except one, but i have certainly had littermates and housemates survive.

i'll be thinking of you and yours.
post #3 of 11
There is no test for FIP. The vet even told me my cat might have FIP which was not true at all. My cat does not have FIP. The vet did do a test for a corona virus. The test determines if the cat has a high titer of the corona virus, which is not the same as FIP. My cat wasn't even exposed to a corona virus, so after that vet stopped telling me my cat might have FIP. You could ask your vet to do this test. Although with shelter cats I am not sure it will give you an answer because a lot of shelter cats have been exposed to the corona virus, as I understand it.
But basically just because vet thinks cat might have FIP does not necessarily mean a cat actually has FIP, since there is no test like there is for FIV and Felv. Have those kittens been tested for Felv and Fiv?
post #4 of 11
There is actually a test for FIP, but it's quite expensive - it's a DNA test. I've had a cat with FIP, and diarrhea was not one of the symptoms. If I were you, I would probably give the kittens L-Lysine to bolster their immune systems. I wouldn't euthanize just because it might be FIP. (not that you would, just it sounds like the vet is recommending it.)

Also, after our experience, we did discover that when it reaches the full-blown FIP stage that it's not as contagious as people once believed. I hope it's not - keep us updated...
post #5 of 11
The poor little pets. I'm not familiar with these diseases, but I would try another vet. I'm so lucky, when my son found Blossom at 3 weeks, that she was a healthy kitten.It's a shame they weren't bottle fed when their mum died, I think they were too young to be weaned. I gave Blossom a bottle until she was nearly 6 weeks old.
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
The black kitten just threw up- how much should I panic?

Both kittens tested negative earlier this week for FeLv and FIV. I have not had a coronavirus antibody titer done since today is the first day I knew about it and I'm afraid if I take them to the rescue's vet (who is VERY nice and I do not mean to disparage her) she will just want to euthanize if they show any symptoms in order not to have to charge the rescue for expensive tests and meds that they can't really afford.

I'm thinking of asking to temporarily take official custody and having them go back into rescue custody and be adopted out IF they become healthy enough as older kittens/young adults, but I can't really afford more vet bills this month (sooo many already when it rains it pours) any better than the rescue can- though if I just have to do that versus having a mostly-healthy looking kitten euth'd I will...

I am so freaked right now.
post #7 of 11
Originally Posted by kluchetta View Post
There is actually a test for FIP, but it's quite expensive - it's a DNA test.
Are you talking about the mRNA PCR test? It's not specific for FIP. It can verify whether a corona virus is present in the samples tested, but it cannot tell for sure whether the virus is a feline enteric corona virus (FECV) or FIP. The location that the samples were taken from plays a role in determining the meaning of the test.


The test is $95 for three samples (plus overnight shipping from wherever you are) if it is sent to Auburn University--I just sent samples from my cat who we believe died from FIP.
post #8 of 11
Originally Posted by cloud_shade View Post
Are you talking about the mRNA PCR test? It's not specific for FIP. It can verify whether a corona virus is present in the samples tested, but it cannot tell for sure whether the virus is a feline enteric corona virus (FECV) or FIP. The location that the samples were taken from plays a role in determining the meaning of the test.


The test is $95 for three samples (plus overnight shipping from wherever you are) if it is sent to Auburn University--I just sent samples from my cat who we believe died from FIP.
I was talking about the PCR test, but I thought the vet told me it could be specific for FIP, sorry about that. We sent ours to Colorado State University, and it came back "inconclusive". I believe they took fluid from his eye for the test.
post #9 of 11
It was hoped when PCR first came out that it would be able to detect FIP only--unfortunately, that wasn't how it turned out. Apparently they thought that finding coronavirus outside of the instestines would indicate FIP, but they didn't realize until they had a test as sensitive as PCR that the coronavirus can drift to other parts of the body without mutating into FIP first.

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Okay, I called Alameda East (yeah the one from Animal Planet) and talked to the vets there- they don't think that it is correct for the other vet to be expecting the whole litter to get FIP and die. I'm still very worried about the kids- especially General Mao who seems to be gaining weight a little too fast- but they are eating and drinking well. I am giving L-Lysine in their morning milk replacer- I sometimes shove it down their little throats but I feel so awful doing that even though they get more that way. I am just so freaked out knowing that if they develop symptoms chances are I'm looking at either taking them to my own vet with or without permission from the rescue, or having them just euthanized without proper tests being run or treatment being discussed by the rescue vet....
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Okay, so the kittens turned six weeks this week. They are both still alive (knock wood) but out of the nine, only one other besides my two is surviving. General Mao, the smaller black kitten, is not gaining weight at the rate I'd like him to, but does still have a full belly and is eating and drinking. He also had some very soft stools and diarrhea and was lethargic.

I took him to my own vet and she suspected parasites, but he tested negative for everything- she prescribed a prophylactic dewormer anyway, and after one dose he produced a solid stool and seemed more energetic. A Giardia ELISA also turned up negative.

Monster, the grey tabby, seems (knock wood) fine. He is gaining weight and VERY playful! General Mao does not really play much, but sometimes bats at string or wrestles with his brother. Mostly he sleeps, begs for cheese, and washes himself.

All four of the most recent kittens to die had fluid in the abdomen on an X-ray. No other diagnostics for FIP were done such as tapping fluid or a biopsy of an organ or a necropsy, because the rescue cannot afford it.

Call me a crazy optimist, but I do NOT think that this is FIP- so many so young should not be dying from exposure to FIP! Most cats develop antibodies after exposure but do not develop infection, from what I have read. It should be closer to a one in ten chance of lethal infection after exposure, correct? This is what I've read.

So I've taken temporary custody and obtained permission to use my own vet for the kittens. I am treating them as mine until further notice- and if they make it to the right age, I may or may not adopt them out from home, but I certainly won't be returning them to a shelter situation or taking them to a pet store due to the stress it could cause. I have permission from my foster coordinator to keep them if they live and I want to keep them (I just miiight be getting attached...)

I need to know what else besides FIP could cause fluid in the abdomen. I am beginning to wonder if the kittens in the other foster home were exposed to something there, but she has fostered cats (though adults only) previously with no trouble. Their little immune systems were pretty down when we got them, though, so maybe something got to them that didn't affect healthy and less stressed adult cats? I have thought of parasite load getting so huge it caused fluid leakage from the intestines, but Mao tested negative for all parasites and Giardia. I'm starting to get a little crazy and think that maybe we have a new parasite that responds to the prophylactic dewormer but does not show up on a test!

I've also considered Feline Distemper, but they'd have either died or beaten it long before the last kitten of the six that died passed this weekend. Feline Panleukopenia is a possibility, but it doesn't seem to present with the same symptoms- the onset of illness with the four whose x-rays showed fluid on the abdomen was VERY rapid, with the latest one going from normal to gone in less than 24 hours. Both kittens tested negative for FIV and Fel-Leuk, though if they were exposed to it in the other foster home maybe? But not so many or so quick!

Does anyone have any ideas?

Please send good thoughts for my two babies. I still have pictures if anyone wants to see....
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