by Ashley Geist
(U.P. of Michigan, USA)
Presley the Maine Coon mix: overcoming illness and doing it with spunk
This is my Maine Coon mix cat, Presley. We adopted him from a shelter in November of 2013. He came from a litter at the shelter with two other siblings.
All was going fine for a few months, then in February 2014, he suddenly fell ill. He became lethargic, developed extreme weakness in his hind legs and lower spine area, could not stand to use the litter box, could barely walk, and would often collapse.
I got him to the vet right away, where they tested him for Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
Both tests came back negative. This was a relief, but we still did not know what was wrong. He was prescribed ClinDrops, which is an antibiotic, and after a 10-day period on those, he progressed and within a month, had regained all muscle function and was racing through the house again.
Then, in April of 2014, the symptoms of weakness in the hind legs and lower spinal cord came back again, coupled with an odd, permanent head tilt toward the left side of his body.
This time, he was not showing lethargic symptoms and was still eating and drinking, but I was not taking any chances and took him to the vet ASAP.
This time, they tested him for the Feline Coronavirus, and he tested positive. This virus is common in cats and usually does not do anything more than sit in the body.
However, a small percentage of cats have this virus mutate into a fatal disease called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP).
FIP is: "a viral disease in cats which carries a high mortality due to its characteristic aggressiveness and non-responsiveness to fever, along with other complications."
There are two versions of FIP: wet, where fluid accumulates in the body of the cat, and dry, which shows a multitude of symptoms like poor growth, fever, eye inflammation, and neurological symptoms.
This was not good news, as Presley was showing the neurological symptoms of dry FIP. The hardest part is that there is no way to test precisely for FIP. It is an ever-changing disease.
The vet said it is difficult to tell whether he's been afflicted with FIP or not, unless he of course began accumulating fluid in his body like the wet version or was exhibiting close to or all the symptoms of FIP.
Since he's only showing the neurological symptoms, the vet says she would not feel comfortable diagnosing him with FIP at this point, nor is his condition a death sentence.
For now, he's on antibiotics indefinitely and is to be fed a high protein diet, because he is quite small for his age and had shrunk to just 3.9 pounds at his sickest. I am proud to say that he has gained 1.5 pounds back and is now being an absolute feisty, energetic, crazy kitty.
In fact, I have never seen this devilish of a side of him until now. He loves to hit things to the dog off the counters when I turn my back and loves to tease the dog as well and flaunt the fact that he's completely spoiled.
He chirps and trills and proudly parades through the house, waving his plumed tail all over the place.
All the weakness in his hind end has vanished and his favorite things to do are play with toys (which includes vast amounts of racing up and down the hallway, constantly messing up the rug) and snuggle with me and my husband at night time when we go to bed.
My hope is that he has a long and fulfilled life. I am trying everything I can to help him. There is another disorder I am looking into called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) that he may have, based on his symptoms. It involves a chromosome deletion, which weakens the whole back end of the cat.
Thankfully, cats who have this are able to live happy lives and generally are not in pain or bothered by the disorder. A cheek swab is needed for this test, and I am looking into doing this in the near future.
He is truly my baby!