When Athena was diagnosed with FIP, Jim and I had no information about what to do or expect. With research, we’ve learned a lot, but there are things I wish I’d known before starting her treatment, both to spare her some trouble and to better prepare myself.
Please note: At the time of writing, I do not have any experience with the oral (pill) form of treatment. It looks like we’ll be starting oral treatment soon, so I may have some “lessons learned” a bit further on.
There are several supplies you’ll need to get as treatment starts and some extras that may make things easier. Jim and I overlooked the Healthy Cat Store link our FIP caseworker shared with us in the early information dumps. When I found it later, I bemoaned the loss, as the starter kits they sell would have been nice.
If you don’t go the Super Bundle starter kit route, when choosing a scale you want one that has plenty of space for your cat so that you aren’t trying to weigh them on a small platform. Also, take into account how they’ll grow (if they’re a kitten) and/or fill out as they get healthier.
Supplies you’ll need (not including medicine):
- At least 84 3ml syringes (5 ml are OK, too)
- At least 84 20G needles
Additional supplies that, based on my experience so far, would be good to have:
- Probiotics (either mix-in powders, treats, food, or a combination). If your cat is having any kind of digestive issues, the probiotics can make a significant difference
- Vetericyn Plus wound care spray. Depending on the type and severity of injection site sores your cat ends up with, Vetericyn may be useful to help them heal.
- Terumo brand needles, either 20G or 22G. These needles are very sharp, and the 22G are thin-walled, so the injections are less painful for your cat. I suggest the 20G, because it will allow you to administer the medicine faster, but if your cat has trouble with 20G, 22G should still be OK.
- “Rage food.” Some cats do better eating while receiving their shots. Others — like Athena — want a treat after their ordeal. Either way, it’s a good idea to have something to offer your cat after the shot. If they’re amenable to it, give them some cuddles, love, and praise afterward, too.
- Nail clippers or file. You’re going to want to keep your cat’s nails trimmed, in case they get extra spicy with the shots. As you’re supposed to avoid any unnecessary stress you should try to trim their nails at home, even if you have to do one claw per day.
You’re going to need two people or some type of restraint device for your cat. Unless your cat is very sick, incredibly docile, or you have special skills, the injections will be much easier with either one person to hold and one to inject, or some kind of restraint device like a mesh restraint bag or a grooming hammock. Regardless of what you use, your cat will associate the thing, location, and/or time of day with shots, and will likely be… spicy.
Make sure you’re giving the injections in the right place. The ideal is between the shoulder blades and hips on either side of the spine to about half way down their sides. You also want to rotate the injection site to help avoid sores.
The injections hurt. Not just the needle piercing skin, but the medicine itself. But there are some ways to help minimize that pain.
- Swap needles between drawing up the medicine and injecting your cat. Even slight bluntness will make the needle more difficult to insert and cause more pain.
- Use thin-walled needles, or needles from a brand, like Terumo, which are known for their sharpness.
- Medicine temperature. Some cats do better when the medicine is refrigerated. For Athena, it seemed to cut down the duration of pain by half. In other cats, refrigeration seems to make the injection more painful — or so I’ve read. With it being a 50/50 chance, you probably want to try both early on and see which is better for your cat.
- Distractions. If you can distract your cat with a favorite toy or food, it will help them ignore the pain. If you can’t distract them during the injection, then perhaps toys, treats, or attention after it will help with lingering pain.
Make sure you schedule blood work every 4 weeks, as opposed to once every calendar month.
If at all possible, get a course of vitamin B12 injections from your vet. This helps prevent anemia, maintain nervous system integrity, and keep the intestines healthy for the proper digestion and absorption of food.
Make sure that you avoid any non-emergency stress, including (but not limited to) grooming, vaccinations, and non-emergency medical procedures until at least week 9. Stress is a major cause of FIP relapse/regression so you want your cat to be as healthy as possible before causing non-emergency stress.
Generally, by week 8, cats are stable and can handle the extra stress if there’s an important procedure they need — like dental work. However, if they can wait, it’s best to put off any procedures until after the observation period (AKA, after they’re considered cured).
Regression and Relapse
Regardless of how well the treatment usually works, right now, it’s not a guaranteed cure — and any advertisement or website that tells you otherwise is lying. Regression and relapse are both possibilities you may face. Athena’s regression has taught me a couple of additional things it would have been nice to know earlier.
Report ALL symptoms, even if seemingly unrelated. Because the treatment is so new, and is not available in the United States, the chances are high that your cat is one of the first, if not the first, cat your vet is seeing during FIP treatment. Mine consistently refers me to FIP Warriors for information or to get questions answered because this is new territory for her.
Because of this, make sure that you report ALL clinical symptoms your cat is experiencing, even if they seem unrelated to FIP. It could be related to treatment, or it could be an important clue to how your cat is doing while on treatment. Better too much information than too little.
Despite “relapse” being defined as “deterioration after a period of improvement,” FIP Warriors prefer to separate a return of symptoms based on how far along the cat is in treatment. If still receiving treatment, they call it regression. Relapse is reserved for a return of symptoms once the cat has entered the observation period.
I’m sure there is plenty more information out there, but this post is entirely based on my own experiences with Athena. If anyone has any other suggestions, information, or resource links, please include them in a comment.
Thanks for reading to the end, I hope you found this post useful. If you’d like to learn more about Athena and her treatment progress, be sure to subscribe to my blog, check her tag page, or follow the AthenaUpdate hashtag on Instagram. I’ve also started an FIP tag page, with the general FIP posts I’ve written (as opposed to ones focused on Athena).