Best Practices for Preventing Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a serious disease in cats, and preventing and managing this condition is crucial for pet owners, breeding catteries, and rescue and rehoming facilities. This article explores effective preventive measures and management strategies to reduce the risk of FIP.

    Use of Commercial Vaccines

    A commercial vaccine is available in some countries to help protect against FIP. However, this vaccine can only be administered to kittens over 16 weeks of age and has limited efficacy. Since most kittens are likely to have been exposed to Feline Coronavirus (FCoV) by 16 weeks, the vaccine’s actual value may be minimal. The primary indication for using this vaccine would be in breeding households with a history of FIP.

    Reducing Risk in Breeding Households

    FIP is less common in household pets. The risk can be minimized by following these measures:

    • Obtain Cats from Smaller Sources: Choose cats from sources with relatively few cats to reduce the risk of infection.
    • Maintain Small, Stable Groups: Keep cats in small, stable groups (fewer than five cats per household).

    In breeding catteries, eradicating coronavirus infections is extremely difficult due to the virus’s ubiquity. A more practical approach is to reduce the risk of FIP while recognizing that it may occasionally occur even in well-managed catteries. Best practices include:

    • Avoid Large Groups and Multiple Litters: Control the size of cat groups and the frequency of litters.
    • Small Isolated Groups: Keep cats in small isolated groups (ideally no more than four cats per group) to reduce the risk of endemic FCoV infection.
    • Adequate Litter Boxes: Provide at least one litter box for every two cats, located in easy-to-clean and disinfect areas.
    • Keep Litter Boxes Away from Food and Water: Place litter boxes away from food and water bowls and clean/disinfect them regularly (at least daily).
    • Avoid Stress and Maintain Good Hygiene: Reduce stress and maintain good hygiene and preventive healthcare for all cats.

    If FIP occurs in a breeding group, consider the following measures:

    • Preferential Breeding from Older Cats: Older cats are less likely to shed FCoV.
    • Isolate Queens and Kittens: Isolate queens just before they give birth and keep them and their kittens isolated from other cats until the kittens are homed to reduce the risk of FCoV spread.
    • Stop Breeding from Problematic Cats: Stop breeding from queens or tomcats that repeatedly produce litters with FIP, as they may be passing on FCoV infection or genetic susceptibility to the disease.
    • Review Management and Hygiene Policies: Carefully review existing management and hygiene policies.
    • Cease Breeding During Outbreaks: Stop all breeding activities for several months if faced with an FIP outbreak.

    Reducing Risk in Rescue and Rehoming Facilities

    Good hygiene and avoiding overcrowding are essential strategies for minimizing the risk of FIP in rescue and rehoming facilities. Ideally, cats should be housed individually, or if this is not possible, they should be kept in small stable groups. Litter boxes and cleaning/disinfection should be managed as in breeding households.

    By implementing these best practices, the risk of FIP can be significantly reduced, ensuring the health and well-being of cats.

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