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FIP Warrior:


Ozzy was my bucket list Maine Coon. I agonized over buying a cat after spending my life in cat rescue, but he was what I wanted. I poured over kitten pictures, and found a breeder who showed me a face that I knew was my boy. Stupid me, I never thought to ask the breeder any questions about her affiliation with any reputable associations that would have ensured her breeding standards. I was in such a hurry to get him - I was smitten. Because of COVID, I was unable to get him until he was 4 months old. His breeder was in Oregon, and I was in Florida. No airline was flying animal cargo, only people traveling with a pet. If not for two steadfast friends, one of whom worked for Southwest Airlines, I might never have gotten him. They flew out to Portland, visited the coast for a day, picked up Ozzy in a pet carrier, and flew home to Florida. I met them at the airport in the middle of the night. It was an exhausting ordeal, but he was finally home. He was unlike any kitten I had ever had, and I have fostered more than a few over the years. He was so chill, so laid back. No running, no swatting at toys, no playing - just watching. I didn't know that was probably a warning sign. As I always quarantine new arrivals into my cat house for 30 days, I decided to put the time to good use by getting him examined by my vet, having pre-surgical bloodwork done, and getting him neutered. It was no doubt the triggering event for the full blown arrival of FIP. At this point, he had been with me for a week. Surgery seemed to go smoothly, but he wasn't out of the cone of shame 2 days when he stopped eating. I could hear water in his breathing, and I could tell he had a fever. FIP never crossed my mind. I had only seen the wet form of FIP, and only twice in my life, so his descent into lethargy without abdominal swelling did not set off any alarms. I thought he must have aspirated fluid on extubation and he was sliding into illness from that. Off to the vet we went, where he was given antibiotics. They assured me of no fluid in his lungs, but his fever was 103.5. He seemed to improve with the antibiotics and he ate a little, but was not consuming enough food or water to survive. He needed subQ fluids. Still believing that my vets office had somehow caused this, and struggling through a week with little change in his condition, I took Ozzy to Blue Pearl over the weekend. COVID was raging, and they were the only emergency clinic available. They confirmed he was still running a high fever, was very dehydrated, was not eating enough. They ran xrays and saw nothing. Blood work was not revealing either. An ultrasound showed abnormalities near his spleen, so they wanted to test for FIP. The mere mention of the disease sent me into total denial. Ozzy could not have FIP, he could not die. I just got him. He had only been with me for 3 weeks. They wanted to keep him, but I took him home. I was so afraid he would die inside that building without me there to hold him. We went back to the vet on Monday. We continued with subQ fluids and added Mirtaz to stimulate his appetite. His appetite picked up, and he seemed to perk a bit. The FIP test came back negative. I had hope. I kept telling him that he could not leave me, he could not die, and he could not have FIP. But my hope didn't last long. Friday night, he suffered 2 seizures. I drove him to Blue Pearl in tears. They gave him more Mirtaz, and he seized two more times. I didn't realize that Mirtaz was a central nervous system stimulant. A new doctor at Blue Pearl looked at his eyes and said that Ozzy reacted differently in each eye to the same light. He said that because the FIP test was negative, he suspected toxoplasmosis, and that it had crossed the blood-brain barrier, so they switched his antibiotics. I took him home, and waited for Monday morning with my vet. By this time, Ozzy was dying. I could see it. His back end was a limp rag, and his front legs were stiffening up as though he had rigor mortis setting in. He could not stand, much less use the litter box. On Monday morning, my doctor said she didn't care what the tests said, Ozzy had dry FIP and we were losing him. She gave him fluids and entyce to stimulate his appetite, showed me how to force feed him Recovery cat food, gave me medication to get his bowels working, and sent me home. She said she wanted me to look up, read it, and call her with my decision. I called her right after I sent a plea for help on FIP Warriors 2.0. She said she would help me anyway she could. Julie Ittel contacted me, I sent her bloodwork, she connected me with a couple who had just lost their kitty to FIP and had a vial and a half of Capella. I met them the next morning in my vet's parking lot, and that afternoon at 2pm, Ozzy received his first injection and became an FIP Warrior. He was a dry neuro case - the Blue Pearl doctor had part of it right. FIP crossed the blood brain barrier, and did a little damage. I call him my Jar Jar Binks cat, because he is a bit goofy, thanks to his encounter with FIP. We struggled through 84 injections with the help of Dr. Brooke Certa, and her office Manager Alex, who drove every weekend for over an hour on Saturday and Sunday to give Ozzy his shots. Ozzy grew quickly, and was far to strong for a burrito wrap, even with clamps!!! Churu and Squeeze Ups became my best way to make him forget the pain. He slept for weeks in a small animal cage on my bed so I could hold his paw all night to let him know he wasn't alone. It was more than a month of treatment before he could stand on his own, and get in the litter box. He was so proud of that moment. Another few weeks, and he could get up and down off the bed. He got so cocky, he started running down the hallway, chasing toys for the first time since he arrived. Unfortunately, he had a collision that knocked his patella out of alignment, so he literally limped over the observation finish line. He was declared officially cured January 13th, 2021, and had his first birthday on January 17th. It was a long road, an exhausting road, full of tears and fear, but we made it - he made it.