This is Sake. My family and I adopted him after we lost our sweet older cat Orbitz, to kidney failure. When we laid eyes on Sake during a visit to PetSmart, we knew he needed us, just as our grieving hearts needed him. Nestled between two pure white girl kittens, my husband noticed Sake’s beautiful cookies-and-cream coloring, and we just had to take him home. He got along well with our other cat Sushi, right from the start!
He was found to have a wide range of problems, from roundworm, ear mites and coccidia (a microscopic parasite) to fleas and ringworm. One by one, we treated everything. The ringworm proved to be much more difficult to get rid of, as it had then spread to my daughter and me (I still have a scar, almost two years later).
One day, I noticed that the lymph nodes on the sides of his neck were swollen. My first thought was lymphoma. We had him tested, and he was negative. We felt very relieved, but it still posed the question: If it wasn’t Lymphoma, what WAS it?
The day before Thanksgiving in 2015, I brought him to the vet with a fever of 104.4. A cat’s temperature should range between 100*F to 102.5*F. The vet took blood to rule out different diseases that could cause his fever, and gave him subcutaneous fluids to help the fever come down. They gave me a brochure to The Hope Center in Vienna, and told me that because they’d be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, the emergency room would be open in case I needed to bring him in. I took the brochure, thinking that I wouldn’t need it. In the back of my mind, I still believed everything would be okay.
Thanksgiving was nice. Sake had a taste of his first holiday turkey, which he loved. But by the next day, he still wasn’t acting like himself. His fever was still very high, and I decided to bring him to the emergency vet. Throughout the entire time, all he wanted to do was cuddle and be held. Still purring, still hugging, no matter how bad he felt.
I had done some research before we left. Being the kind of person I am, I focus on the worst-case scenario, but wish and hope for the best. After the doctor’s initial exam of Sake, it seemed to take forever before she came back. I could see in her eyes that she didn’t think it was good. She’d given him some subcutaneous fluids and some pain medicine and I took him home, promising to take him back in if anything changed.
Around 3am on the morning of November 29th, I got up to check on him, and he was having trouble breathing. I brought him back right away, and they took him back with them, telling me that they were going to do everything they could, and that I should go home to get some sleep. As much as I tried, it was impossible.
I got a call from the vet around 6am, telling me that the ultrasound showed fluid in his chest cavity. She told me that her belief was that Sake had FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis), a devastating and fatal disease in cats. In all the research I’d done, FIP was the thing I feared the most. I talked with my family, and we decided to put our baby down. As difficult as it was to decide, it was even harder to go through with it. But the fact that he was in pain and suffering, was too much for us to bear. Losing him has devastated us, especially our kids. As soon as Sake saw us, he started purring. It was the most beautiful, heart-breaking sound. Because, as much pain as he was in, he was still happy to see us. With heavy hearts, we said our last good-byes.
After it was over, I decided to make it a personal goal of mine to see this disease come to an end. I promised Sake that I would do everything I could to make sure other cats and kittens could have the chance to overcome this horrible disease. I started working as a direct distributor, and promised that any money I made in commissions would go towards FIP research.
*What is FIP? FIP is caused by a mutation of the Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV). In fact, many cats carry FECV. It’s common, and most cats who have it won’t get FIP. FECV doesn’t usually present with clinical signs, but mild diarrhea can occur. There is always the chance that a cat that has FECV will develop the mutated gene that causes FIP. The chance is greater in cats who are very young or very old, or those with compromised immune systems. There are two forms of FIP: Effusive (Wet) and Non-Effusive (Dry). Both are considered fatal, but the effusive form progresses more rapidly and is more common.
*How do I know if my cat has it? The effusive form of FIP will cause breathing difficulties, due to the accumulation of fluids in the chest or abdominal cavities. There may also be fever, lack of appetite, diarrhea, and jaundice. The non-effusive form also causes jaundice, diarrhea, fever, lack of appetite and weight loss, but there will be no accumulation of fluid. Instead, there will be ocular (vision) or neurological symptoms. There is no definitive test to diagnose FIP. Testing the fluid in effusive FIP may help in diagnosing, but most veterinarians rely on their suspicions.
*What kind of research is being done to help? Researchers are making great strides in not only learning more about this devastating disease, but also how it works, how it can be treated, and how it can be cured once and for all. Studies are being done, and researches are depending on funds they receive to continue their trials. The Bria Fund was started in November 2005 by the Winn Feline Foundation, and together with numerous studies and research, are making amazing progress. I recently read a news story in which a beautiful kitten named Luna started a drug trial and is doing wonderfully, 5 weeks later! Hopefully, there will be an end to FIP in our lifetime.
*How can I help? Where can I donate? As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m donating 100% of my commissions until the end of the year (and most likely longer) to the Bria Fund. I’m an independent consultant to a company called Perfectly Posh, and I sell pampering products, i.e. giant soap bars, hand cremes, face masks, body butters, etc. The website to purchase items (where my commissions will go directly to the Bria Fund) is https://Posh_Jess.po.sh . At the end of the year, when I’ve tallied up the amount, I’ll take a screenshot of the donation I’m making. To donate directly to the Bria Fund, there is a tab on the top right of the page for donations at https://www.briafundsupporters.com/ . To read up more on the Winn Feline Foundation, you can go to http://www.winnfelinefoundation.org/ . Any additional questions you have may also be found there. To read more on Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feline_infectious_peritonitis .
Thank you so much for reading Sake’s story. If anything good can come out of our loss, our pain will have been worth it.