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Luca's Story

I’m just one of the many faces of Feline Infectious Peritonitis – We need YOU to be our Voice!

July 20, 2012 - October 5, 2013

This page is dedicated to the memory of Luca and all the cats who died of Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a major killer of kittens and cats from breeding and rescue catteries. FIP is one of the most enigmatic and difficult to diagnose diseases of the cat.  

FIP is the leading infectious cause of cat death and it occurs when the cat reacts inappropriately to feline coronavirus (FCoV) infection. However most cats infected with FCoV do not develop FIP. FCoV infects fewer than 1 cat in 20 from normal pet households but the virus infects over 90% of purebred and rescue shelter cats. 

If you are thinking of buying a pedigree (purebred) kitten – Please INSIST that he or she is feline coronavirus (FCoV) free – Otherwise you may be purchasing a heartache. 

Be informed and share your knowledge… 

Please join the fight against Feline Infectious Peritonitis

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Start by doing what’s necessary,
Then what’s possible; and suddenly
You are doing the impossible.
St. Francis of Assisi






Taking a nap (first day at home)

Luca was adopted from a local rescue group on Sunday, September 23, 2012. At the time of his adoption, he was almost 9 weeks old (his birthday was estimated to be around July 20) and already neutered. Luca was blessed with many gifts, but the gifts of health and time were not among them…

Luca at the age of 12 months

In the beginning everything seemed normal — Luca was growing and developing as expected. We visited the veterinarian a handful of times for the normal “check-ups” and vaccination protocols. Nothing indicated nor prepared me for what was to come.

On Monday, September 9, 2013, I noticed Luca was not as “enthusiastic” about his dinner as he normally was, but he ate pretty much all of it, so I didn't think it was a big deal — maybe just a case of upset stomach. The following day I noticed Luca was not his usual self.

Luca growing normally - no signs of illness

He normally was a very active, playful young cat, and that day he was very quiet; but still there was nothing at that point to be extremely concerned about. However, that night I noticed something was certainly wrong! He was quite lethargic and, without a doubt, running a high fever. He felt “hot” to the touch instead of “warm” to the touch, as I have experienced when other animals in my care felt sick with some sort of an infection.

First thing the next morning we went to see our veterinarian. He did a complete examination as well as ordered several tests (including a complete blood panel). In addition, x-rays were taken to confirm that there was not a foreign object swallowed, nor any other condition which might have caused a high fever in excess of 105 F. We spent almost two hours at the clinic and eventually were sent home with Clavamox and a diagnosis of FUO (Fever of Unknown Origin). The following day the veterinarian called to inform me that Luca was certainly fighting an infection, due to the high white cell count results in the blood test. He even mentioned that the blood test was absolutely normal except for the white blood cell numbers, but he felt there was nothing to be majorly concerned about. The veterinarian confirmed his diagnosis of FUO and tried to convince me that I needed to allow time for the Clavamox to work.

9/12/13 - The day after everything changed

Unfortunately, it was obvious the Clavamox was not working, and, as a loving, dedicated pet parent, I knew we were dealing with something completely different. After insisting on the fact that Luca was fighting something more serious, I took him to see the veterinarian again on Friday, September 13, 2013. He ordered another complete blood panel and sent us home with the same diagnosis, but this time around we got a different antibiotic — Zenequin.

By the following day, I was getting extremely concerned, as I didn’t know what Luca had, but I knew it was something really serious. It was the first time I had a pet who was suffering from intermittent and antibiotic-resistant high fevers. In addition, it seemed that Luca was getting weaker and weaker with each passing hour. I decided to confront our veterinarian and asked him point blank if he felt he was not qualified to handle the case. At that time he referred us to a specialist.

On the afternoon of Saturday, September 14th, we went to the local VCA Hospital, where an ultrasound was performed. Without any other type of supporting documentation or tests, the specialist on call diagnosed Luca with FIP (wet type). Without any type of consideration or tactfulness, he indicated that Luca was going to die, and that I needed to make a decision fast. He also said a PCR test could be done, and he was going to extract fluids from Luca’s abdominal cavity to submit to the lab.

9/14/13 – The day we heard “FIP” for the first time

After I waited for almost an hour, trying to come to terms with the devastating news, the specialist finally showed up and said he couldn’t extract any fluids from the cat. Instead, he submitted some serum for testing (almost a week later the results came back FIP Negative). That was the weekend I found out we may be dealing with a dreadful disease called Feline Infectious Peritonitis and none of the veterinarians we were working with seemed to have the knowledge to help us.

Luca had a very bad night. I was desperately trying to find information on the internet about FIP. The more I read about it, the more I realized that some of the symptoms described were not a match. I decided to start looking for another veterinarian.

9/16/13 - Two days after the ultrasound was done

We went to see a new veterinarian the morning of Monday, September 16, 2013.  Additional blood tests were done. By then, Luca was taking Prednisolone so the results were not as “pure” as the original blood test done the previous week. Also, an ultrasound was performed, and the doctor couldn’t observe any fluids. After all the research done during the weekend, I was quite aware of the traditional symptoms of wet FIP and realized that Luca was not "wet.” Thankfully, our new veterinarian was able to get Luca to eat. She gave him some anti-nausea medication, and he was eating quite well that afternoon. Things were looking up.

Both Monday and Tuesday, Luca had “good days.”  Unfortunately, in the early hours of Wednesday, September 18, 2013, Luca had an episode of which we were never able to find out the cause. As a result, he started having neurological symptoms (walking with difficulty, weak hind legs, etc.). He was trembling and was unable to stand up. It appears to me Luca was having a seizure, however his veterinarian suspected he was having high fever, and his body was trembling as a means to control its temperature.

9/19/13 – Prednisolone seems to be working

It was a long night. Luca looked so ill and weak that I thought I needed to make the decision to let him go. Early the next morning we went back to see our new veterinarian.  By the time we arrived at the clinic Luca had perked up, and I was informed that no decision needed to be made at that particular moment.

What followed was a little over two weeks of countless test(s) and veterinarian visits. Our previous primary veterinarian and his more experienced partner wanted to continue to perform other test(s) in order to eliminate other possible illnesses. I made the mistake of allowing those tests. Unfortunately, I was ignorant about this disease and encountered several veterinarians who were not prepared at all to deal with this type of diagnosis. Out of the seven veterinarians we saw, only our new primary veterinarian was able to help us. As a graduate of U.C Davis, she was quite aware of FIP. This university has a program which is making progress in the FIP field. She clearly explained that she couldn’t rule out FIP. She also let me know that some of Luca's symptoms were in accordance with FIP, but also his was not a typical case of FIP (especially the wet type, as diagnosed by the specialist and one of his colleagues at another VCA location). Time went on, but Luca was not showing signs of ascites/effusions.

9/26/13 - Naively thought he was going to make it

As the days went by and we were able to eliminate other possible illnesses, it became clear that FIP was high on the list of possible culprits, but we couldn’t be certain of a diagnosis. Those few weeks were a rollercoaster ride.  There were days in which it seemed Luca was doing well, and other days when it looked like the end was near.

Luca didn't give up. He was such a fighter! Even when dealing with neurological symptoms, he continued to make efforts to maintain his normal routine. His courage and fortitude was to be admired!

10/04/13 (afternoon) Getting ready for feeding tube

He was fighting an impossible battle, and the virus continued to attack his little body. On Friday, October 4, 2013, we went to see our new veterinarian for the routine weekly blood test. Once we arrived, the veterinarian noticed Luca was getting “yellow.” She explained that his liver was not working properly and he was getting jaundice. At that point, I was faced with two awful options. One of them was to do nothing — Luca was not eating enough to support himself, so he was on track to starve himself to death. The other option was to give him a feeding tube so he could receive proper nutrients and hope that he had FIA (Feline Infectious Anemia) instead of FIP.

10/05/13 (morning) Getting the blood transfusion

I decided for the latter, as well as giving him a blood transfusion. These decisions are something that, up to this day, I have doubts if I was correct in making. Unfortunately, nothing worked.  On Saturday, October 5th, after being at the clinic all day, we came home hoping Luca would have a good night's sleep. It had been a long, stressful day; the blood transfusion was administered slowly, so it took several hours to be completed. Later on that evening, I realized his body was shutting down, and in that manner only a pet will communicate with his or her parent, Luca let me know he wanted to go, he was tired. The battle was over and we had lost it!

With the heaviest of hearts and deepest of sorrows, we left our home for the last time and drove to see our new veterinarian where she helped us one more time — for the last time. Shortly after 10 p.m., on Saturday, October 5, 2013, Luca left this physical world where he was so limited and joined the ranks of countless animals killed by this dreadful and misunderstood disease.

10/05/13 (afternoon) - Final photo taken

Luca was in my life for a very short time, but the impact he made is immeasurable. Out of the pain and suffering we both endured, the need and desire to help find a cure for FIP was born. I will not rest until awareness and education about FIP is spread among pet parents, breeders, rescue groups and members of the veterinary field.

I was extremely surprised and disappointed by the lack of knowledge about FIP among the veterinarians we encountered in our quest to find out what was affecting Luca. Also, I was shocked that, with all the advances in the scientific and veterinary fields nowadays, there’s still no cure for FIP! As a first step on my mission to make a difference, I requested a necropsy to be performed. I was present and saw with my own eyes the condition of his kidneys and other vital organs. About a month later, the results were in: Luca died of the dry form of Feline Infectious Peritonitis.  

How is it possible so little is known about FIP?


On a final note, during the twenty-five days Luca was ill, I spent countless hours researching Feline Infectious Peritonitis on the internet and came across Dr. Diane D. Addie’s website (  It was Dr. Addie’s vast knowledge and her ability to educate others which provided me a source of light and hope during those days filled with so much darkness and despair. 

It was too late for Luca — he was another victim of this dreadful disease about which so little is known and for which proper treatment protocols are not in place here in the U.S.  However, it is not too late for so many other cats and their humans. We all can help spread the word to encourage further research and efforts to eliminate the underlying cause of FIP: the ghastly feline coronavirus (FCoV).

"The single best way to prevent Feline Infectious Peritonitis is to prevent your cat becoming infected with feline coronavirus", says Dr. Diane D. Addie.

Awareness, knowledge and propagation of knowledge are the biggest tools we all have to help eradicate FCoV thus FIP. Please spread the word about FIP, whether it's with your veterinarian, the breeder or rescue shelter you got your cat from, your family, your friends, wherever - the more people who know the true facts about FIP, the greater our chances to eradicating it.

We all must help bring the subject of feline coronavirus (FCoV) and FIP into the open. We need to dismantle the wall of silence and shame around it by educating ourselves and others as well as consumers to exert pressure on breeders to create and maintain FCoV free environments and sell only FCoV antibody negative kittens.

Luca’s warning signs for Feline Infectious Peritonitis



14 months old male. Neutered at 7 weeks old and re-homed at 9 weeks old.
Russian Blue (domestic shorthair). Adopted from local rescue group.  

Presenting complaint:

Decreased activity and lethargy with pyrexia.
No vomiting. No diarrhea. No dietary indiscretion.
Some respiratory sounds. Walking around and strictly indoor.
Lives with three other cats (healthy). No known exposure to toxins.


Physical examination:

Temperature: 103.7F - 105.5F (intermittent and antibiotic resistant fever)
Weight: 12.4 lbs. – 10.2 lbs. at final week
Eyes clear. Ears clear. No nasal discharge. No ascites.
Cardiovascular: No murmurs or arrhythmias, strong, synchronous femoral pulses.
Respiratory: Normal lung sounds bilaterally.
Abdomen: No apparent discomfort. No masses.
Musculoskeletal: Ambulatory on all four limbs with no visible lameness (changed on second week)
Neurological: Appropriate mentation and gait (changed on second week)
Integument: Good hair coat (changed in third week).  No masses



Leukocytosis (WBC: 19.9) with neutrophilia (18.308/ul) and lymphopenia (1194/ul)

Chemistry Panel:

High globulin (6.6 g/dl). High total protein (9.5 g/dl). Low ALB/GLB ratio (0.4) 

FeLV Antigen and FIV Antibody: Negative                                                                                      

FCV IFA at 1:400: <1:400 

Toxoplasma Antibody Titer:

IgG and IgM Antibody: Negative <1:64 

FIP RNA (PCR) Test: Negative

Test performed at Auburn University, Molecular Diagnostic Lab
Antech Diagnostics (informed test is only approximately 70% sensitivity) 

Ultrasonographic Findings:

Liver, Gallbladder, Spleen, Urinary Bladder, Stomach, Small Intestines, Colon, Pancreas, Lymph Nodes, Prostrate: Normal
Kidneys: Appeared enlarged and had disrupted corticomedullary distinction; irregular capsule; there were no nephrolithis and the renal pelvis was not dilated. Right kidney measured: 4.31cm - Left kidney measured: 3.96cm
Additional comments: A scant amount of peritoneal effusion was noted. The mesentery was diffusely very hyper echoic.


Final Note

Luca was treated symptomatically with supportive care but deteriorated quickly after diagnosis and onset of neurological signs. He was humanely euthanized 25 days after onset of clinical signs. A necropsy was performed and samples from several organs were submitted. Lesions were confined to the lungs, kidneys, spleen and brain. All lesions had a vascular linkage resulting in vascular damage or thrombosis and infarction. Section of lung and kidney were immunohistochemically stained for Feline Coronavirus. Numerous clusters of positively staining macrophages are scattered throughout the section of lung and kidney in the region with the most intense inflammation.

This confirmed the presence of coronavirus and confirmed the diagnosis of FIP.


Be informed — Get involved!  Please join the fight against FIP.

Maria Bonino Houserman
Founder and Managing Director 
Luca, Bonino & Associates, LLC