The Road Ahead: Gridley’s FIP Journey
A kitten is found in a gutter, dying a slow death. Kitten gets rescued, his life is saved. He thrives and is soon a beautiful, loving ball of fluff ready for a home.
That describes Levi in July 2005. I was the person receiving him at FieldHaven Feline Center when he was rescued. I saved him. I fostered him. I loved him. I adopted him. I look around at my “herd” of cats reflecting on how they all came to FieldHaven in some special way, some like Levi. Levi should be here with them all, an aging senior citizen at 16.
Sadly, he’s not: he died just before his first birthday. FIP claimed him and broke my heart.
When Levi was diagnosed, I knew FIP was fatal. I knew, but I was determined it wasn’t to be for MY Levi. Levi would prove all those veterinarians wrong because I was his mother, and I wasn’t going to let FIP win. I called dozens of veterinarians to ask for treatments. I called herbalists, acupuncturists, and even a veterinarian in Scotland who supposedly had a cure, yet Levi died.
I was angry, and I got angrier over the years as I would see kittens die of FIP, or worse, learn of them dying after they were adopted, breaking their adoptive family’s heart. Some stand out as particularly painful, like the four-year old girl who had brain surgery and wanted a kitten to cuddle during her recovery. Her (very, very angry) mother called me shortly after adopting when their kitten developed FIP and was euthanized. My very good friends adopted three siblings, one for each of their children. Not one, but two of the kittens died of FIP.
The frustration of a disease that we had no way to predict, test for, treat, vaccinate for and was always fatal. It could strike a healthy, playful kitten overnight. No. Hope. Whatsoever. FIP is perhaps the three most hated letters in the world of cats…until now.
Now, there is hope: a treatment – a chance to live and recover from FIP. It’s not easy (painful daily injections); it is expensive ($3,000 – $5,000+); and it is a long treatment and recovery (6 months).
Never under-estimate the determination of a cat mother or father determined to save their beloved kitty.
At FieldHaven, we have been coordinating the treatment of cats and kittens with FIP since January. We call them FIP Stars. They are also called FIP Warriors. These cats and kittens are both Stars and Warriors. While I have been helping others with treatment, I haven’t taken on my very own FIP Star until now.
Meet Gridley. He’s about 10 or 12 weeks old, a classic tabby. Originally intaked to Gridley Animal Services (Gridley, get it?) as a feral kitten. Officer Stopplemore socialized him, had him neutered, and was just about to place him for adoption when he got an eye infection that didn’t respond to treatment. She was perplexed and reached out to us. In the photo, we recognized what was likely uveitis, a common eye condition associated with dry FIP.
Gridley was blind and had the hallmark blood work of FIP. He was on a fast downhill slide to death. We initiated treatment immediately. Because I was leaving the next day for vacation, a veterinarian friend offered to begin the treatment until I got back. After just two weeks of treatment, he has put on over a pound and his sight is nearly returned to normal. He is only on day 16 of 84, so he has a long way to go, but we are very encouraged by his early progress.
It is my honor to be treating Gridley with the miracle drug. I still must pinch myself to remember that there really is a treatment for the horrific disease. With every daily injection, I think of Levi. I couldn’t save him but, dammit, I have a fighting chance to save Gridley thanks to the dogged determination of Dr. Niels Pederson of UC Davis to find a treatment.
Please join me in celebrating each day that Gridley is improving and getting to enjoy his kittenhood. I will be chronicling Gridley’s treatment, join me in praying for his eventual recovery from a disease that less than two years ago offered no hope.
If you are able, a contribution towards his medical care would be so appreciated. We are looking at a minimum of $3,000 for labs, radiology and medications over the next six months. The initial treatment is three months, then remission/observation is another three months.
In loving memory of Levi – 2006-06
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FieldHaven Feline Center
2754 Ironwood Lane
Lincoln, CA 95648