Harry was a one and a half year old British Shorthair. On april 18, the doctors told us he had Feline Infectious Peritonitis or FIP. Either that or some bacterial infection based on the fact that they had extracted 300 ml of yellow fluid from his chest.
We had just moved to a new place, and we were also expecting a little one joining our family. It was also time for their annual vaccination shots somewhere around late march and I guess all of this happening at the same time caused a lot of stress for our cats, William and Harry.
First it was William who got some sort of flu and he was sneezing a lot after the trip to the vets. He was eating and drinking normally so we didn’t think much about it though the vet did prescribe some meds along with some ear drops to help clean his ears.
A few days later, we heard Harry sneezing a bit too. With him though, it was different. He lost his appetite, didn’t drink, and we noticed he was having trouble breathing. His whole body would sway when he stood still from his own breathing. We decided to bring him to the vet for check up.
On the way, again he was so stressed that he peed himself in his carrying bag. He used to pee himself only on the way home.
The doctors did an X-ray and ultrasound and what I saw broke my heart. It looked like Harry’s chest was filled with fluid. So much that both his lungs were only half the normal size. The doctor recommended to do an immediate chest tap, basically draining his chest of the fluid. The procedure would take 1-2 hours so he told me to come back for Harry.
Two hours later, they called and I went back to pick Harry up. That’s when they explained their suspicions about what was ailing Harry. They had extracted 300ml of yellow fluid but until they sent in the fluid for testing, they can’t make a diagnosis but they had their suspicions. They went on to explain what they were but all of it was jargon to me, plus I was a quite worried about what that would mean for little Harry.
”Okay, so you’re saying there’s two possibilities with his condition. But bottom line, are both treatable?” I asked.
”Yes, but depending on the condition, it may take an extended period of time to treat,” the doctor replied.
I felt relieved. As long as it was treatable, we would do whatever it takes to get Harry better. They sent us home with antibiotics for Harry as his kidneys had also been inflamed from the infection.
On the way home, I started researching what yellow fluid and “FIP” were as those were the only things I remembered the doctor saying. I could feel my heart drop as I read articles online saying that cats with FIP pretty much had 100% mortality rate.
”But the doctor said it was treatable,” I thought to myself. ”Maybe these articles are just out of date.”
When I got home, I read all the articles I could find on FIP, and couldn’t find a single case where the result was positive. I got more and more depressed.
On the other hand, Harry started eating and drinking again so that was at least good news.
William was being unusually aggressive towards Harry though. I read somewhere that as part of primal instincts, the alpha male of the pack would try and drive away the weak and sick for fear that they would make the pack vulnerable to predators. I wasn’t sure whether that was what was happening here.
The doctor called my husband to pretty much confirm that it was FIP. They didn’t even send the yellow fluid for testing as they were 90% sure that was the case.
I was furious, maybe because I explicitly asked the doctor whether it was treatable the last time I was there because I wanted to avoid this exact situation, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. When he asked what that meant for Harry, he confirmed what i had read online, that cats with FIP had from a few days to a few months. Obviously, I cried again that night.
Pregnant with our first born, I was scheduled to be induced on the eve of May 7th. Since we’d definitely be busy from then onwards, we wanted to have Harry checked out for any relapses of the fluid etc. He had been back to his normal self, eating and drinking. Apart from William still being aggressive to him, and his rapid breathing, nothing else seemed amiss. The vet’s X-ray was busted so he only did an ultrasound. He could se that there still was fluid in his chest though it wasn’t as much as before. We told him about how he’s been back at eating and drinking normally and he was pleasantly surprised. He recommended seeing him again a month from then just to check on the fluid build up.
We took him for a checkup on 9th of June because he looked like his breathing was heavier than usual. Sadly, the fluid had returned. We had a chest tap done again and this time 140ml was taken out. Again, the doctor couldn’t take out the fluid near his heart.
He was back to his normal self again for a few days but then he started to lose his energy again. I was slowly accepting that it may be close to Harry’s time to go.
On June 21, and we made an appointment for Harry at the vet’s at 7pm. He hadn’t been eating, not even when we tried to give him salmon. Again we couldn’t bear making a decision yet, we got them to do another chest tap. That tap yielded 170 ml of fluid. When we got home, he started eating, however the next day, he was being weak again, not eating as much. When I petted him, I could feel his pulse on his chest beating hard. He was back to being social though so we didn’t think of bringing him to the vet just yet.
We had another appointment made for July 1, by then he hadn’t been eating for 2 days,but that was what he was like before we took him for the previous appointment. We put him in the carrier but then he went berserk. That stress was probably too much for him, he didn’t make it to the vets, even though it was only 5 minutes away.
We knew he would pass but it was painful to see him in his last moments in the carrier. Harry was a fighter, he lasted a bit beyond the life expectancy for wet FIP diagnosed cats.