Breeders – FIP 101

How to safeguard the litter mates of an affected kitten from developing FIP

What should I do about the littermates of the kitten who died?
It is likely by now those littermates are in their new homes, please consider reaching out to their new guardians and calmly provide advice regarding how to prevent FIP in FCoV infected cats. If you need clarification about how to prevent developing of FIP in FCoV infected cats, visit our Pet Guardians 101 page for detailed information.

If you still have the littermates, you may wish to test them for FCoV antibodies to determine if the kittens are still infected. If you have any doubt that the FIP kitten got infected with FCoV in your household (you suspect the kitten was infected in his/her new home) then testing your own cats for FCoV antibodies is the best way to find out.

How do you know if your cats are infected with FCoV?
Unless you know that your cats are definitely not infected with feline coronavirus (FCoV) by annual FCoV antibody testing, then the chances are extremely high that they are infected, even if you’ve never had a case of FIP: FCoV is found in almost all cat breeders’ cats. The biggest tell-tale signs of FCoV infection amongst the kittens are: many litters will have kittens of uneven size, occasionally runt kittens and there will be a tendency for the kittens to develop diarrhea starting around 5 or 6 weeks of age.

To find out for sure whether your cats are infected with FCoV, you can have some or all of the cats tested for FCoV antibodies (if you have 10 or fewer cats, you should test all of them). FCoV antibodies testing is suggested instead of FCoV RT PCR on the feces due to two different reasons: first, RT PCR is more expensive than FCoV antibody testing and secondly, because 1 cat in 3 with FCoV antibodies is actively shedding virus at any given time, so, you will need to test more often and test 3 times as many cats to be sure that your household is FCoV free – although you’d only need to find one positive result to show that the virus was present in your cats.

If you test your cats and find that they are FCoV free, yet a kitten you sold died of FIP, try to establish how the kitten could have become infected or indeed whether the kitten truly did have FIP. It is a good idea to ask for a post-mortem to be performed on the kitten to be certain of the cause of death. Even if it isn’t FIP, it may be something that did originate in your cattery – for example, feline parvovirus – or of course, it may have absolutely nothing to do with your cattery. Either way, knowledge is power and is essential to know what really happened and chose the best course of action to prevent kitten deaths occurring in the future.

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