It’s Pretty Certain

ALTHOUGH THEY’RE GOING to run the test again for complete surety, but Rommie has shown positive for FIP — Feline Infectious Peritonitus.

Rommie came to us almost exactly a year ago. She was a stray living rough around Number One Daughter’s apartment. Toni brought her home and handed her to me and my immediate reaction was “Fizzgig!” because she reminded me of the character of that name in The Dark Crystal. I could not tell you how. She just did.

That’s OK. Nobody else gets it, either.

We’ve had a couple of other torties — tortoiseshell cats. Toni says that Rommie is technically a calico, because she has three colors to her coat — orange, black, and “white” (which is just a tinted-back orange). I get the point. But I’d always heard that calicos were white with patches of orange and black, whereas torties were black with patches of orange and white. Whatever. If you see a picture of Rommie, and you know cats, you think, “Tortie.”

Torties have somewhat of a reputation of being… er, um… idiosyncratic in their behavior. It’s probably sex-linked (the gene for these two coats is present in females only), but it would be sexist and therefore not PC to say so. All the others I have known have been so — solitary, anti-social, one-person cats, more than a bit aloof, and somewhat irrascible.

Rommie is none of these. Not quite. She’s very sweet, and willing to show and accept affection from nearly anybody — if I’m not around. She doesn’t really talk much, but she has been observed at odd moments in the dark of night yowling into the furnace ducts to enjoy the acoustics — a most unladylike behavior which she immediately denied upon being caught at it. On the other hand, she will walk across anybody to climb up on my chest and curl up there, dozing and purring and accepting her due in strokes and rubs.

She’s pretty small, though. We never have gotten an adult weight on her, but it’s doubtful she hit seven pounds before this recent — and apparently terminal — decline. Which make her pretty easy to take curled up on your chest.

Last weekend, she was fine. We interacted both on the couch during TV time, but she also took up residence on a pillow next to me while I took afternoon naps and was generally around at night. BUT… Sky was sick. He only really started showing major improvement that Sunday. So he (and the other kittens) were getting more that what Rommie might have felt was their fair share of attention. So when she started behaving as though she was sulking — hanging out in this one tubular structure in the living room cat tree, lying on her chin on the bed, on the couch, on the kitchen floor — I put it down to a little sibling rivalry, thinking she’d get over it.

But, by Friday, when Toni came home from her away gig, she saw the decline right away and pegged it as lethargy. And she also spotted jaundice (inside of ears, sclera, and gums, for your future reference), which I never would have known to look for, or recognized as such if I saw it. (I saw it, had it pointed out to me, and frankly couldn’t see it.) Toni took Rommie into work on Saturday, had the bloodwork done, and got a range of possibilities as to diagnoses from the vets.

Then, Sunday morning, we heard from Tiny Doctor Tim. The blood tests had returned positive for FIP. We had already started a course of treatment — antibiotics and steroids — but FIP is caused by a virus, and apparently one that mutates pretty readily, so there’s not a lot you can do to really kill the little bugger once it’s in a host without — you know — killing the host.

If you read the linked article above, you know that, although the disease is infectious and highly so at certain stages of development, it seems unlikely that it has passed from Rommie to any of our other cats. Or, at least, we’re telling ourselves that right now. We’re taking the disinfection precautions we can, but all we can really do is watch the others for overt symptoms. Sky, for example, just had all the blood tests and came through clean. It’s unlikely that any of the rescue cats have it. But both Belle and Rommie were ferals, so… we worry.

Sunday, Rommie has shown signs of improvement. Which leads us to hope against hope that the first positive was a false positive and a restest will show all-clear. But, then again, how will we know that the retest is correct? Dunno. If she’s in the clear, and we can nurse her back to health, what does that mean? But what is for sure is that, if she’s found positive again (Is a double-positive self-cancelling like a double-negative? Probably not.), this sudden bounceback makes the decision emotionally harder to put her down, whereas, if she’s miserable and wasting away, it’s a pretty black-and-white, open-and-shut case of pure mercy.

I know Heinlein wrote that you should be prepared to shoot your own dog. But state law won’t let me administer euthenasia, and I’m not really big into shooting cats or whatever might pass for a quick death… But Rommie isn’t a dog. And she’s more to me than a pet. She’s a person — a somewhat retarded person with no communication skills, but one who is capable of showing and accepting affection and having a positive effect on her environment. It’s not easy taking the decision to kill a person, human or not. And that is, after all, what we’re talking about.

::sigh::

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