On December 21, 2014 it had been One Year. Remembering my Huck.
In August 2013, I saw a picture of a 4 month old kitty “George” on Mower County Humane Society’s facebook page. I knew then that I needed him as part of my family. When I first met him, I was absolutely smitten. He looked right in my eyes with such hope and love. He snuggled right into me and started his motor. His purr was the loudest I ever heard. His meow was barely a whisper. A few weeks later I brought him home with me and from then on he was known as Huck. (after the character in Scandal). Things were a little intense at the beginning. Grayson did not know what to think of this new member of the family and wanted to make sure Huck knew this was his house! I was both worried and proud when I saw Huck had some of Grayson’s hair in his mouth. Huck made sure to tell Grayson that he wasn’t about to be bullied. He may be small and young but he was a fighter too! After about a week, Grayson slowly begin to accept Huck. Nothing warmed my heart more than the moment when they sat near each other for the very first time.
Grayson and Huck became thick as thieves. They tore through the house in the middle of the night. They knocked over the reclining chair when I was at work. Huck was definitely very much a kitten. He chewed through two of my phone chargers. There was a night I had a pizza box sitting on top of the garbage to toss. The next morning I found the box on the floor open and Huck eating the leftover pieces. Another day I found that Huck had chewed through a treat bag. After that I had to make sure I kept the treats tucked away and hidden! Grayson and Huck kept me busy at feeding times. They ate different foods (Grayson is on a prescription diet) and yet they both wanted to have the other’s food!
Huck was the sweetest boy ever. He loved to snuggle. He’d sprint from across the room when he was called and jumped right up on my lap. A few times when I took a bath, Huck jumped on me and lay on my chest. He was so small that he could curl up and stay dry. He loved being close to me. At night time he’d sleep next to or on me. He was always super friendly to everyone he met.
In December I started to observe Huck acting differently. His appetite became significantly decreased. Huck had always been such an eater that I knew something was wrong. It really sunk in there was a problem when he stopped playing. He showed complete disinterest in toys and this was not normal for him, or any 8 month old kitten! He started sleeping on the floor in the downstairs bathroom instead of sleeping with me. This complete change in him was so abrupt. I discussed what was going on with a vet tech at the previous clinic we went to. She was convinced it was something behavioral, so I didn’t take him in right away. Finally it sunk in that something was seriously wrong. He was getting worse each day.
I took him to a vet on Dec 20, 2013. We got a diagnosis that no cat parent should have to hear. The vet combined the symptoms Huck had been experiencing: the inability to put on weight (he was 5.6lbs at 8 months old), he had a poor hair coat, and he was now having trouble breathing. The vet did a scan of Huck’s lungs and I can’t get the image out of my head. There wasn’t much capacity in his lungs. They were filled with fluid as was his stomach. Huck was diagnosed him with feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).
“Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease of cats caused by certain strains of a virus called the feline coronavirus. Most strains of feline coronavirus are avirulent, which means that they do not cause disease, and are referred to as feline enteric coronavirus. Cats infected with a feline coronavirus generally do not show any symptoms during the initial viral infection, and an immune response occurs with the development of antiviral antibodies. In a small percent of infected cats (5 to 10 percent), either by a mutation of the virus or by an aberration of the immune response, the infection progresses into clinical FIP. The virus is then referred to as feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV). With the assistance of the antibodies that are supposed to protect the cat, white blood cells are infected with virus, and these cells then transport the virus throughout the cat’s body. An intense inflammatory reaction occurs around vessels in the tissues where these infected cells locate, often in the abdomen, kidney, or brain. It is this interaction between the body’s own immune system and the virus that is responsible for the disease. Once a cat develops clinical FIP involving one or many systems of the cat’s body, the disease is progressive and is almost always fatal. The way clinical FIP develops as an immune-mediated disease is unique, unlike any other viral disease of animals or humans.” (Cornell University)
I had never heard of FIP before. I was shell-shocked. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t anything we could do. I still can see the face of another vet in the clinic in my mind. She had tears in her eyes as we walked by her. I couldn’t fully process what I was just told about my beautiful Huck. I couldn’t sleep that night. I brought Huck upstairs to sleep with me. All night, I could hear him struggling to breathe. I was confronted with the toughest decision any animal parent has to face.
I had to work that next day and I was a total wreck. I couldn’t focus on anything I was doing. When I got home, I picked up my precious Huck and took him to Grayson for their final goodbye. I could tell Grayson sensed something was going on. He gave a sniff and a kiss to Huck. I drove my Hucky to the Affiliated Emergency Veterinary Service. We had an amazing and compassionate vet, Dr. Beth Galles. She examined Huck and we discussed the situation. It was the hardest day ever. I knew this wasn’t my Huck anymore. I didn’t want him to suffer any longer. I wanted him to pass with dignity. Huck passed away on December 21, 2013. He was 8 months old.
I know that on that August day Huck chose ME as his mama. We were meant to be family. He filled this house with so much joy. We never know how much time any of us have here on Earth. I’ve learned to live for the moment and count my blessings. I am forever changed by knowing Huck, by losing him. Huck will forever live in my heart.
Dr. Gary Whittaker’s lab at Cornell University is making great strides in FIP research. I hope that someday there will be a cure for FIP and no one else has to go through what Grayson and I did.