FIP is often deadly virus

Pete Keesling

Q: We recently had our stray kitty put to sleep. She was sick when we found her and she never got any better. The vet said she had FIP, and that she could never be healthy again. I don’t understand why this disease is so untreatable. Can you explain?


Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is one of the real “bad guys” in the kitty world. It’s a virus that’s very infectious and often deadly. Your little stray was probably infected by a carrier, maybe a feral cat. Some kitties are able to mount an immune response and they never become ill. But others get very sick as the virus gains a foothold in their blood. These victims become progressively weaker with time. And once this occurs, there’s little chance for recovery.

FIP is tenacious and unresponsive to antibiotics and many antiviral medicines. Since most of its victims become very sickly, many people choose humane euthanasia, as your family did. We’re so sorry for your loss. Perhaps someday, science will find a way to eliminate this disease. Attempts to develop an effective vaccine have thus far been futile. We all hope that an effective immunization can someday protect our cats from this deadly disease.


Is it true that animals have a higher body temperature than people? How much higher?


Humans do, indeed, have a lower temperature than domestic pets and farm animals. For example, dogs and cats have a temperature normally between 101 and 102.5 degrees fahrenheit (depending on stress, excitement and surrounding temperature). Horses are a little lower (closer to 100 degrees), but they still run warmer than any person. On the other hand, goats are much higher with a normal reading of about 104 degrees. When they are sick, their temperature is often 105 to 106 degrees!

So who gets the prize for the highest basal body temperature? The answer is for the birds. Listen to this; the average body temperature for many parrots and macaws is 106 degrees. However, the highest temperature I know belongs to crows and sparrows. They typically hover around 110 degrees! Pretty toasty, at least by our standards.


Everybody knows that puppies and kittens are born with their eyes closed. They take weeks to mature and wean away from their mother. This got me to thinking. Which animals are the most mature when they are born? Horses stand and walk within hours and I presume calves and baby goats do the same. Are they the most advanced?


It’s true, newborn farm animals are very precocious. Their eyes are open, they can hear, and right from birth, they vocalize to communicate with their mother. Foals, calves, lambs and kids are usually standing and nursing within a short time after their birth (about an hour or less). On the other hand, puppies and kittens, and even most rabbits are completely reliant on their mother. They’re unable to see or hear, so they depend on their mother for everything.

But how about other small animals? Are any as precocious as farm critters? Yep, there are a few.

First let’s talk about guinea pigs, the cavies. These little guys are fully haired at birth. And they’re quick to get up on their feet; they’ll get up and move around their enclosure within minutes after birthing. Not only that, newborn cavies eat solid food within a few hours and can be seen scurrying around, chattering away as if they already have a great story to tell.

In the world of birds, we all know how cute baby chickens and ducks can be. They’re “up and around” soon after birth. But the most precocious birds I’ve seen are baby killdeer hatchlings. Killdeer nests are usually found on the ground in open fields, sometimes in the middle of a pasture. The eggs are well-disguised; their shell markings blend right in with the rocks and dirt in their surroundings.

These birds are everywhere in South County. And here’s a fun little fact about them: Killdeer hens are clever birds that feign an injury if any animal or person comes near their nest.

They make painful sounds and act as though they have a broken wing, trying to draw a predator’s interest from their eggs. It works and that’s partly why these birds are great survivors.

You’d think that newly hatched killdeer chicks would be easy prey for other animals. But Mother Nature provides them with the ability to make an easy escape. These little guys learn quickly to run. Within a few short minutes of birth, baby killdeer are gone, off with their mother, running to safety just like their parents. These are very remarkable birds.


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