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Oskar joined our family as a week-old foster kitten and it was love at first sight. He is more than just a cat, he is a member of our family, our baby, our sweet boy and we decided from day one we would do everything we can to save him from FIP.
Oskar is an adventurous and active little guy, and he loves to climb and get into mischief of all kinds! I arrived home from work one afternoon in the fall of 2019 to find a very miserable looking kitten. A vet visit the next day revealed a broken femur, but after some pain medication and rest, he seemed to be on the road to recovery. A couple of weeks later, he began to look extremely unwell – he was rapidly losing weight, lethargic and feverish - so back to the vet we went. I thought he might be having some residual pain from the fracture. It was not to be that simple.
When I heard the words “I have to wonder about FIP…” from my veterinarian, I felt my stomach drop. While I waited anxiously for the tests to come back, I did the only thing I could do – hit the internet for information. What I found was devastating. Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a relatively uncommon disease that kills approximately 1-3% of the world’s cat population each year. The disease is caused by a mutation of feline coronavirus, a very common virus that affects between 40-80% of all domestic cats. FIP is inevitably fatal and its effects on cats are horrific, causing weight loss, high fever, diarrhea, fluid buildup in the chest cavity and abdomen, and organ failure. In some cats, the virus attacks the nervous system, leaving cats with severe mobility issues and in some cases, causes blindness. Most cats die within days or weeks following diagnosis, and with no available treatment, many vets recommend euthanasia for humane reasons.
I knew Oskar was a very sick little kitten. As I searched frantically for information, I found an on-line support group dedicated to saving the lives of cats diagnosed with FIP. Through this group, I learned that an experimental antiviral drug called GS-441524 had been very successful in treating cats with FIP in clinical trials, however the drug was still in the process of going through FDA approval and was therefore not available to treat Oskar.
Much to my surprise, through more internet searches, I soon discovered that there was in fact a treatment available, and that thousands of cat owners around the world were successfully treating their cats with FIP.
I also remembered seeing a Facebook post a few weeks earlier from my local cat rescue where they said they were treating a cat with FIP using this new treatment.
After reading the clinical trial reports and researching GS-441524, I decided without hesitation that I would do my very best to treat Oskar myself. I reached out quickly to my local rescue for help, and fortunately the rescue was able to provide me with immediate access to the medication Oskar needed to get started while I waited for my own supply of the drug to arrive.
The treatment protocol was daunting. Twelve weeks of daily injections. 84 shots in total. I had no experience with needles, and I was so scared I would screw up and hurt Oskar. My 14-year old daughter volunteered to help me. Together, we decided we were just going to figure this out.
With the help of my local cat rescue and the amazing team of volunteers running the support group, I learned how to administer Oskar’s daily injections, and within just two days, I watched my sweet boy begin to recover. His fever broke within hours of his first shot. He began to walk around, then run. His appetite returned with a vengeance. He began to play and purr and give cuddles again. Oskar completed 79 days of treatment and 84 days of observation on March 20, 2020. Today, he looks and behaves like a completely normal, healthy one-year-old cat.