by Kelli Brinegar
Peter Cohen has more than twenty rescue cats he calls family, and every single kitty lives a pampered life in the Santa Barbara home Peter crafted into a feline purradise. For decades now, his kitties have seen their house grow into a haven of ramps, scratchers, greenery, cushy beds, and so much more!
But House Nekko isn’t just about giving cats a fabulous place to live. This house of cats also garners attention for ZenByCat, a nonprofit Peter started to raise money and awareness for Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) research.
Peter’s love of cats began in 1988 when a pair of kitties he adopted from his yard stole his heart. As the years passed, and he met more and more cats, that love just kept growing. And to keep his indoor cats happy, Peter used his years of construction experience to build and install catwalks designed to enrich the lives of his feline family members.
Now, Peter’s home is known as House Nekko and inside those walls is a haven for his twenty-four rescue cats.
There are ramps, ledges, and high perches galore.
When the kitties are done prowling, they can find plenty of comfy places to rest and spots to snack.
Everywhere the cats roam, they’ll also find lots of plants and painted greenery that give the illusion of escaping outdoors.
And this house for cats isn’t just a wonderland. It also raises awareness for FIP research, giving cats a shot at the long, happy lives this devastating disease might otherwise rob them of.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a viral illness in cats caused by a strain of coronavirus. Be assured, though, this feline coronavirus has nothing to do with the viruses that cause COVID-19. Instead, it is a common virus that affects cats with mild symptoms.
According to Fetch by WebMD, “When the feline coronavirus changes to a specific strain of the coronavirus, FIP can develop.”
“In about 10% of infected cats, the virus will multiply and mutate, resulting in an infection known as feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV) that spreads throughout the cat’s body. It can cause an extreme inflammatory reaction in the tissues surrounding the abdomen, kidney, or brain.”
FIP can manifest in a wet or dry form and, until recently, the disease has been considered fatal.
Peter’s first experience with FIP came in 2014 when the disease killed his cat Peanut. FIP heartbreak found Peter’s family again in 2016 after adopting a kitten named Miss Bean. Soon after joining the family, she fell ill, and the disease swept through her tiny body. Her end was near.
But a message from a friend about Dr. Niels Pedersen and his UC Davis drug trials for young kittens with FIP offered some hope. Together, Peter and Bean gave it a try and the next 31 days brought an up-and-down battle that finally claimed Bean’s life. But Miss Bean left her mark on Peter’s heart, and he was inspired to create ZenByCat.
Thanks to groups like ZenByCats and FIP Warriors, so many cats have a chance to live longer lives. In 2018, Peter’s cat, Smokey, took part in the UC Davis trials and became one of the success stories — his FIP went into remission, leaving him cured!
Work to commercialize treatments is still underway, but hopefully soon, FIP heartbreak will be a thing of the past.