In the midst of my own mental health self-discovery, I made an impulse decision to adopt two cats from Cheatham Co. Animal Control adoption drive at a local pet store that happened to be on my mother’s birthday, because I missed her and felt a cat would give me the affection that I was missing. I ended up getting two because I didn't want one to be lonely; A 3 month old kitten, Frank and a year old cat, Socks: I renamed Socks to Oscar, and called Frank, Frankie. The first thing that I noticed about Frankie was that he seemed unusually clumsy even for a kitten, but he was extremely playful and very loving. I thought he would grow out of the clumsiness since kittens are sometimes a bit wobbly, but he kept having little accidents where he would run into things and otherwise hurt himself until finally, he fell from a ledge of our upper storey, hurting his rear left leg. After an X-ray, three different vet opinions and direct treatment on his leg, a couple weeks passed without seeing improvement.
He was trying to tell me something was wrong. After everybody went to bed each night, he would come to me, look me dead in the eyes and miow. I fretted over him, worried if he was getting enough to eat, if the older cat was bullying him, racking my brain for anything he could be trying to tell me.
Then he began wasting away. It hurt my heart just to look at him, he seemed to only want to sleep and my previously playful and affectionate little kitten who begged me for massages, snuggled with me every night and kissed me good morning began to hide and refuse touch. I was heartbroken. It was now clear what he was saying. He was terribly ill.
“Mama, it hurts all over. Mama, I’m dying.”
I heard these words clear as a bell in the back of my mind, and I couldn’t chalk them up to anxiety or push them away anymore. He began refusing to eat and drink and, except for a fat lower belly, he was almost skin and bone. People tried to reassure me and told me that I was overreacting but I was sure that if I didn’t get him to a vet ASAP he would die.
I took him in on a Thursday, three days before my own birthday. The vet ran some tests and told me that he has FIP; Feline Infectious Peritonitis, and that it’s fatal. She went on to explain that there is an experimental treatment and because it’s not FDA approved, she can’t prescribe it, and it’s prohibitively expensive, but if I wanted to treat him she would tell me how to get it.
I cried and cried in her office as I thought about what to do. How could I afford to do this? Could I live with myself if I chose put him down? Not only would making that choice go against everything I ever stood for in my life as an animal lover, but he happened to share a name with my uncle! If there was a way to save him, I resolved to do whatever it took.
She reassured me that his illness is nobody’s fault, it’s a mutation that exists in the DNA of 6% of cats that triggers the common and harmless feline coronavirus to mutate into a deadly disease. She gave me a printout about it, and covered up the part about prognosis and fatality.
“Don’t read that.”
She told me that there are several different ways that FIP shows up in a cat and we were really lucky that Frankie’s was Wet FIP because it’s easier to diagnose — due to the swollen abdomen she could extract a little bit of the fluid and run a test on it — and hopefully less complications during treatment.
It was going to be 3 months of daily injections that I would have to administer myself. It was 3 months of hell, of scratches all over my arms, of findign different ways to outsmart and restrain him every morning before work... I prayed every day that I would have a cured cat by Christmas. Frankie and I went through all this on top of the intense burnout I was experiencing in every area of my life.
I started working extra shifts to help pay for his medicine, as well as using credit cards and a loan from my bank. It wasn’t enough, so I started a fundraiser on GoFundMe, and my best friend since I was 7 years old, Kate, suggested that I share Frankie’s story on TikTok. She helped me manage the TikTok account while I was treating Frankie — I had to give him an injection daily, around the same time every day to ensure the antiviral stayed in his system at the high level needed to combat the virus — the emotional toll of doing that for your own beloved cat every single day is extreme. On top of that, fielding questions from the public and having to prove that my need was legitimate was so difficult to bear. Having my bestie’s support and help made it all possible and with the help of the TikTok pet community, Frankie has been saved.
Since then, a few copycat accounts have popped up, downloaded my old videos from the time of Frankie’s treatment and reposted them as if Frankie was theirs in an attempt to fraudulently collect donations. I have reported the accounts and done my best to warn people as soon as I found out about them. The platform desperately needs a better system for reporting frauds and scams. Anyone can easily see that the original videos are my original content and it’s members of the community that recognize Frankie popping up again and reach out to me about it.
I keep Frankie’s account active today to share my joy that he is cured and living his best life, and also use it to continue spreading awareness about the cure for FIP. I do this out of my love for Frankie and gratitude for the support that I received both from Frankie’s TikTok followers and the FIP groups that helped guide me through his treatment. I have not collected donations for him since December of 2022 when I bought his very last batch of medicine and even though I am still paying off the debt that I incurred for him I gain nothing from keeping this account active except for the joy and community shared.
Frankie’s first dose: September 27, 2022
Frankie’s last dose: December 19, 2022
Frankie was considered cured on March 19, 2023, after passing an observation period to watch him for signs of relapse. We did have a health scare in early March that made us think he could be relapsing but the stinker just took a bite out of a monstera plant and got a sicky tummy for a few hours. Due to this scare, it wasn’t until May 05, 2023 that my Admin reached out to me and said the words that I needed to hear:
And yes, he was worth it.
Frankie is loved beyond belief and both him and Oscar (I love you too, big boy!) will be my lifelong companions for as long as they live.