I would love to introduce myself and talk a little bit about Rita’s story! My name is Annie Tietjens and I am a nursing student from Saint Louis, MO. I got my sweet girl Rita this past March 31st from my local APA. We were over the moon to have Rita join our loving little home, and I quickly fell completely in love with her. We decided on the name Rita after my grandmother who recently passed away from ALS. From the moment we saw her, we knew she was the kitten for us and she instantly held a special place in our hearts. Little did we know that in the following weeks we would be given news that would cause our hearts to drop.
Rita was doing great the first several days in her new home. We started to introduce her to the new digs by keeping her in our spare bedroom with all her needs; litter box, toys, food, and water, etc. We would visit her in the room a lot throughout the day- she always seemed happy and playful. She would climb up on the bed and the furniture, and she always hopped on our chests to cuddle when we went to hangout with her. I took her to our local vet to establish her as a new patient and get her wellness visit done. They told us that she had lost a pound since her last weigh-in, so we really need to try and get her to eat as much as we can so she could gain more weight, but other than that they did not suggest any other worries to me, and said we were good to go!
Then it seemed that things started to change ever so slightly. As the days went on, I realized that she was a bit off. I cannot quite explain it, but she just seemed to be acting “different”. She was very tired, walked sort of wobbly at times, and was not that excited anymore when I came into the room. I also noticed that she was not eating or drinking anything, yet her tummy seemed to be getting more and more distended. I figured maybe she had a little stomach bug, so I called the vet and she had us send a stool sample. The results came back as negative. I thought that maybe she just did not like dry food, maybe she has sensitive teeth or inflamed gums…so I switched her to wet food and she loved it! I thought great, problem solved! I then did some inspection of her mouth to check for any sores or inflammation, and I noticed that she had these odd “red-tinged” streaks on her teeth. I figured that has to be the cause she was not eating her dry food because she was in some sort of mouth pain…so I called the vet and scheduled her for a check-up to look into it, and make sure that everything was alright.
We got to the vet, moseyed our way into our designated room, propped little Rita up on the table, and patiently waited for the doc to come in and assess. She said, “Well her teeth look fine, but I would like to ask you a few more questions…is Rita playful? Does she play with her toys or run around the house? Is she energetic?” To which I answered, “Not as much lately, she seems like she may be a little under the weather, but I figured it was because she had not been eating as much”. The doc took a deep breathe, sat down, then proceeded to say, “Rita seems to have a distended abdomen that gives her a "pot-bellied" appearance, she has been losing weight, has a bit of a rough coat, she’s super bony, does not have much muscle mass, and seems to be a bit depressed and lethargic. I am sorry to say, but I think Rita has FIP. We can aspirate some fluid from her stomach to confirm, but I am almost 100% positive that just by the looks, this is an FIP cat”. I proceeded to look at her with hope in my eyes and said, “Well, okay…how do we fix this? What can we do?!”. She responded solemnly, “Unfortunately this disease is highly fatal, and I recommend that you euthanize her today.” My mouth fell to the floor. I thought how could this be happening, there is no way, this must be a mistake. I looked at little Rita so calm, laying on the examination table as tears started to make their way down my cheeks.
The vet took Rita back to aspirate some fluid from her belly. She came back in and explained to us that the little fluid she could aspirate was yellow, which meant that it was full of protein, which is indicative of FIP. I asked her, “Indicative? I would surely like more of a confirming answer if we are dealing with life and death here.” I asked the vet if she was in pain, to which she said, "not yet, but she will be". She told us there was really nothing else she could do.
I decided to take her home to think about everything that had just happened, do some research, and call around to other vets for a second opinion maybe. It just seemed extremely off-putting that this vet who we went to see for a wellness visit one week ago told us we had a perfectly healthy cat, and now she has this fatal disease and we should put her down today? It just seemed crazy!
We took her home, and she quickly got deteriorated. She started vomiting A TON (I’ll spare you the details). She appeared even more depressed and lethargic than before, just laying around in the same spot everyday. It was heartbreaking to witness. I was determined to find something I could do to help her, so I started doing research. FIP develops from the feline coronavirus, which is very common and usually doesn’t cause any serious issues, aside from mild diarrhea. But when the feline coronavirus changes into a specific strain of the coronavirus, FIP can develop. In about 5% of infected cats, the virus will mutate and multiply, resulting in FIP. It spreads throughout the body and causes an extreme inflammatory reaction, which ultimately is fatal.
I watched YouTube videos upon YouTube videos, and went into a google black hole. I discovered that researchers at UC Davis have done extensive studying of the disease and research on anti-viral drugs for FIP. The research shows that 95 percent of the cats who have been treated have fully recovered. Long story short, I just started treatment for Rita, and I have to say, if you told me a couple months ago that I would be setting my alarm clock everyday at 6am to give a cat an injection to possibly save her life and basically concoct a makeshift kitty hospital in my dining room, I would tell you that you are absolutely crazy….but, alas, here I am.
I expect the medication to cost between $1,500–$2,000 total (the daily dose is connected to her weight and how the disease progresses), and I will also need to pay for periodic bloodwork/observation at the vet. I have already paid around $500 for testing and evaluation so I expect the total cost of her care to be around $3,000–$4,000.
It has been five total days of treatment with Lucky, I got her some anti-nausea medications, prednisolone to help with the inflammation, and have been giving her supportive fluids to help with the dehydration at home. I have to say that since we began treatment after five short days, Rita has finally gotten some life back into her. She started to perk up when I came home from work; she follows me around the house more, started cuddling again, and has a big appetite. She enjoys being rubbed again and hops up onto my chest to cuddle, which before starting the treatment, she did not want to interact at all. She even climbed the steps to go upstairs, which I felt was a big deal for her since she had not been able to do that ever before.
Rita is only on day five of her eighty-four-day regime. She still needs lots of prayers, skilled veterinary care, the love and dedication of her family, plus Lucky, the life-saving medication. She is such a special kitten, as you can see from these photos. She is spunky, adventurous, and affectionate. Since I got her in March, I have completely fallen in love with her. I am doing everything I can to make her feel loved and bring her back to good health, and I would appreciate anything you can donate to help pay for Rita’s recovery. The treatment involves 12 weeks of injections, and we’ve already noticed substantial improvement after just 5 days!
Thank you for your time,
St Louis, MO