|Purred: Sun Feb 15, '09 3:03pm PST |
|I only learned about FIP about a year ago when I went to my local pet shop to get cat food and there was the cutest little long haired Scottish Fold on sale. I was tempted to buy him...but when I was talking to one of the employees, they showed me his card, which said that he may or may not have the possibility of developing FIP. "What's that?" I asked, and was told that it is a usually fatal and nasty disease. Needless to say, I did not buy the kitten, but more than that, this really turned me against pet shops in general.
However, since then I've figured out what they were trying to tell me. FIP results from a mutation of coronavirus, which is incredibly common in cats--some estimates say that more than half of all cats carry this virus. The probability goes up if the cat has been living in a group situation (since it's passed through shared toilets, mainly)--multi-cat households, shelters, catteries. The two big questions are, what is the coronavirus titre (level), and whether it mutates or not. The titre can go up and down; a cat with a relatively high titre can live out a normal lifespan, provided that the virus doesn't mutate. And no one can predict whether the virus will mutate or not.
This is not to say that Lionel's illness and death weren't tragic. FIP death is nasty. It's also random and unpredictable. So, while I don't think very highly of the pet store that was selling Mr. Scottish Fold for a cheap price because he had a possible time bomb in his immune system, as a budding breeder, I also know that these things can be random. If you look at breeders' websites, you'll notice that catteries often specify that their cats are FIV negative or whatever, but I haven't yet seen a website that mentioned coronavirus exposure/titres. I think the reason for this is that so many cats have the coronavirus, and, frankly speaking, so many have titres that are what are considered dangerous levels (not only to the cat in question, but its children), that breeders tend to gloss over this as much as they can. Does this mean they're lying and evil? Well...yes and no. Since so many cats carry the coronavirus, it would be hard for a breeder to find totally coronavirus-free breeding stock. As for titres, they can go up and down, and are not necessarily an indication of whether the virus will mutate or not.
Poor Lionel! He ended up being one of the unlucky ones! But if you are a cat owner and curious, and you go to your vet to have your cat tested for coronavirus, you may be unpleasantly surprised to find that your own cat has been exposed to the coronavirus. And yet most cats with the virus do not develop FIP. I imagine that most breeders don't talk about this phenomenon because it's so unpredictable--and not only because they're afraid of losing a sale. I know a breeder of Maine Coons in Japan who has given up breeding because, after 20 years of being a breeder, one of her adopted kittens died of something or other--not FIP. But she'd never had a kitten of hers die before, and she was devastated. Lionel's breeder may have known that he had lethal diseases when he/she sold him--or maybe not. But a truly conscientious breeder will not sell an animal they know to be sick, and if one of their animals dies because of illness after being sold (especially when it's a kitten; one does expect an animal to die after 15 years or so), then many, if not most, conscientious breeders will feel very responsible and very guilty. Another reason why being a breeder is stressful and so many people burn out after the first few years.
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