Missing Monty: Our Experience Owning a Cat with FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)
Trigger warning: This post contains sensitive material related to pet loss.
Two Christmases ago, we adopted a sweet, 6-month-old fluffy grey cat from Underdog Pet Rescue that we named Monty. Just as he was really starting to become part of the family, he was suddenly gone. We expected Monty to be with us for over a decade, if not two. We only had him for a month.
The loss was very sudden, and of course it’s a little hard to write about it. However, now that a year has passed, I feel as though I owe it to Monty to share our experience with other pet owners, in hopes that maybe someone with a similar story could feel supported by this post.
Near the end of January 2017 on a Tuesday, I received a frantic phone call from my husband (then fiancée) that I needed to come home immediately as something was wrong with Monty. I came home to Monty lying on a towel just outside the closet where his litterboxes were kept. Toby had returned home unable to find Monty. After a bit of checking around, he discovered Monty laying in the litter box. When he went to pick him up, his body was limp and he was unable to walk. There was some fluid dripping collecting outside his mouth, and he let out very intermittent, sad, alarming meows. We wrapped him in a towel and brought him to the Emergency room.
Upon arrival, Monty was rushed into the back and we were led to a private waiting room. We didn’t know what to expect, we just knew we were scared for our sweet little kitty-cat that had already made such an impact on our lives.
The doctor returned with the news no pet owner in our position wants to hear: “Your cat is very sick, and his prognosis is very grave.” Our hearts sank.
Without needing to officially diagnose Monty as his symptoms were so obvious, the vet declared that Monty had contracted a fatal virus called Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or more commonly known as FIP. Still, even though I had owned cats my entire life and never heard of this disease.
We had no choice but to put Monty to sleep that very evening. He looked up at us and stopped crying when he knew we were there. We told him how sorry we were, how much we loved him, and that it was going to be okay (although not for us).
We strongly advise researching FIP online or speaking to your veterinarian when it comes to learning about the virus, but we can give you our Cliff Notes version. FIP is a viral disease that affects cats and ferrets caused by a strain of virus called Feline Coronavirus. Many strains do not cause disease, but a small population of cats are infected by either a genetic mutation or an autoimmune response. It typically affects younger cats and kittens under the age of two that share a litter box with multiple cats as it is transmitted through saliva and feces. Since there is no cure for FIP, it always results in fatality. It is known as one of the greatest veterinary mysteries. There are two forms: Dry (Non-effusive) and Wet (effusive). Monty had the wet form of FIP. Looking back, we realized his symptoms: Lethargy, lack of appetite, and weight loss. It was a very gradual decline and at the time we simply thought he wasn’t a food-driven cat and cats do sleep up to 20 hours a day. He also spent much of his time by the heater, which we thought was due to cats being drawn to warm spots. The virus doesn’t typically show symptoms for a while after it is contracted, so a cat may have already been affected long before any symptoms show.
Following Monty’s departure from this earth, we didn’t talk right away about if we were going to get another cat someday, but I think we both knew that we would--especially as Monty helped Bullett with his separation anxiety. If you have a cat in your home that has had FIP, it is suggested that you wait a few weeks to a month before bringing another cat into your home. On its own, FIP is a very fragile virus without its host. Do some thorough cleaning, but any traces of the virus should die off within this time period, reducing the risk that it could be passed on to another cat. This gave us enough time to mourn, but also make our house safe to bring our little Eowyn home to.
We hate this disease, we miss our cat, and we want to tell his story so that others may know about this horrible virus we didn’t know existed. Our heartbreak is felt for other cat owners who have lost their cats to FIP. Thankfully, this disease is rare and many cats will never have to face a fate like Monty’s. Hopefully someday a cure can be found. I won’t lose hope for our feline friends.
I’ll always miss the chatty grey fluffball in the red bowtie who was nothing but a perfect gentleman. Despite of how sick he may have been feeling, he overcame his fears and joined our family on his own. He brought us so much love.
Now onto cheerier things,
~The Girl in the Unicorn Pajamas