A cat owner in Brixton has been left heartbroken after one of her cats was diagnosed with a fatal feline disease which will cost a minimum of £8,000 to treat. Shadow, who is just 14 months old, became unwell at the end of last year and has now been diagnosed with the traditionally fatal disease FIP.
FIP (or feline infectious peritonitis) is known as feline coronavirus. Coronaviruses are common in cats, but cannot infect humans and are usually pretty harmless. But occasionally the virus can mutate into FIP, of which there are two types. Shadow has what is known as ‘dry’ FIP which causes chronic inflammatory lesions to develop around blood vessels in many different organs and sites in the body. Once infected with FIP, cats usually deteriorate in health extremely quickly.
Cindy Hanriot-Colin adopted both Shadow and brother ‘Chips’ when they were eight weeks old. They are now around 14 months and are fast friends as well as brothers. She described Shadow as “sweet” and affectionate. She told MyLondon: “He’s a very sweet cat. He’s affectionate, but also quite wary. His brother is the brave one. He loves going outside, being outdoors.”
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Cindy first noticed something was wrong with her beloved Shadow late last year. Initial signs were inconclusive: he stopped eating, became very lethargic and began losing weight. It took several trips to the vets to be referred to the North Downs Specialist Referrals clinic in Surrey in mid-February of this year.
There was a three week wait for an appointment for testing due to the pressure on such services in the UK. There was no center in London able to run the correct tests to diagnose Shadow – so Cindy had to take him to the clinic in Surrey to find out what the problem was.
Cindy said: “I was just not prepared. I was thinking it was going to be something bacterial, that he’d just need a course of antibiotics. But then they kept him overnight, and the next morning I was told it was FIP and we needed to start treatment as soon as possible.”
But treatment for FIP has only been available very recently and comes with a hefty price tag. Cindy told MyLondon there is only one company in the UK which makes the medicines required, and that the UK is the only place in Europe where the treatment has been legalised. She was told by the vet it would cost a minimum of £8,000 for the 12 weeks of treatment Shadow would require.
“I had no choice. I don’t have any children. I’m not going to have any children. For me they are like my babies, they are really important to me. From the moment you decide to take a pet, it’s your responsibility. You commit to give them a good life, to love them and take care of them. I thought I’d have to take a loan and borrow the money. Then I thought to try GoFundMe to raise a few hundred pounds – and we’ve been doing quite well.”
The treatment involves daily injections administered by a vet for 14 days, followed by a further 10 weeks of oral treatment at home. There is around a 90 per cent chance of a cat making a full recovery if treatment is started in time.
Cindy said: “The last 10 days have been very stressful due to the daily trips to the vet for Shadow’s injections. They are are very painful as the liquid burns when it’s injected into the body and there’s a big quantity. But Shadow has been very brave.”
The clinic kept Shadow for five days, which Cindy described as a really heart-wrenching experience, made worse by the hard reality of returning home to Shadow’s brother without him. “When I took him away and I came back without him, he [‘Chips’] seemed quite anxious and he was looking around the flat for his brother. He was distressed for several days.”
Even when Shadow could return home, the impact of the experience was clear upon both brothers. Cindy said Shadow “went into hiding” upon his return, taking cover behind her washing machine in her flat. Meanwhile, she had to keep the brothers separated for a day as cats often get suspicious of unfamiliar smells, such as the smell of a hospital.
To make things worse, a local fox keeps trying to come into Cindy’s flat through the cat flap she recently installed. This courses havoc and leaves both cats on edge and distressed. She described how, on one day that she took Shadow to the hospital, the fox came in via the cat flap twice and stole the cat’s food, bread which was left out on the kitchen surface and several other food items. She has since had to close the cat flap permanently, but says the fox keeps pestering at her window to come in.
Cindy described the experience as ‘very upsetting’. She said: “I’m really tired. The last 10 days have been pretty stressful and exhausting, physically and mentally.” She said she was constantly worried about having the funds to finish the treatment. But she added: “Right now I’m feeling a little bit better because he’s making progress. He’s asking to go out, he’s grooming a little bit again. I can see an improvement so I’m more positive now.”
You can find Shadow’s GoFundMe here.
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