Runt Pucktholomew

Runt Pucktholomew

Runt mothing the shelter foster kitten, Mermista

‘Uncle’ Runt mothing Mermista

Born: 8/23/2007

Rescued: 8/27/2007

Lost the FIP Battle: 9/2/2011

Runt was the most adoring cat I could have ever asked for.  He loved everyone unconditionally, ‘mothering’ rescued kittens alongside me in Japan, where I rescued him from underneath a BBQ grill.  He will be missed more than words and tears can express.

Runt’s Story

I’ve volunteered for a lot of shelters and hand raised many neo-nate kittens rescued from various locations in the USA and in Japan.  While volunteering as a board member at a shelter on a military base in Japan, I came across a cat that we had to quarantine as her friend died of FIP and she was a potential carrier.  I spoke with other board members, researched online and with the base vet, and eventually wrote an article about this wonderful animal who needed a one-cat family home.  She went from being the cat no visitor would touch, to having a list of applicants.  I couldn’t have been more proud of my work.  But even after my article on FIP, I still didn’t really understand just what it really meant, having never lost a pet to really anything other than old age.

Just a few long, tear-filled months ago, I lost my baby to Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP).  He was only a few days past his fourth birthday.  I rescued him when a family found him with his two sisters under a BBQ grill on their patio.  As I did with all of my litters, I named the helpless, 3-day-old babies as a group; Kingsford, Ash, and Briquette.  I always gave my fosters a theme.  Never did I imagine that wriggling, white worm of a cat was my soul mate.  As a baby, he was constantly sick, so I called him my Runt.  I nursed him around the clock, force feeding him when necessary, and soothing his chapped little bottom any way I could.  As he began to walk and talk, he became the poster child for the shelter.  I used images of him in my marketing, and people started calling in for him immediately, but he wasn’t old enough to leave me yet.  Then I started taking him to shelter promotional events and fundraisers.  Everyone wanted to hold him, but I just couldn’t let go.  I thought I was a pro at raising and releasing, but that world came crashing down.  He was my baby and I was his mother.  His only mother.  Neither of us wanted it any other way.

He followed me from room to room, and marked me with his cheeks on every one of my toes each day.  After deciding to keep him, I wanted to give him a regal name to fit his majestic face, but his dumb-as-a-bring, big hearted personality wouldn’t let me call him anything but Runt.  Runt became my second in command when raising kittens.  He never left the quarantine bathroom door unattended as he patiently waited for the day he was allowed contact with a new litter.  Then, it was game on.  He would gather the babies into a bed, and curl up around them like a mother cat.  When I brought terrified, skittish kittens into my home (as I have no children, I always got these kittens), he showed them the ropes of the domestic life.  Always wary of new people and place, kittens were different.  Runt immediately loved every kitten he came in contact with, and mourned them when they left.  I did everything I could to protect him, though he sometimes still found his way into the quarantine room when I wasn’t home.

When the shelter took the cat with FIP in, I made a vow to prevent any contamination of my home.  I wore a special outfit to the shelter when I needed to interact with the potential carrier, and would then shed my clothing and hop into a hot shower before Runt or any other kitty could come in contact with me.  I knew FIP was fatal.  I also knew it is a very common disease in Japan.  Still, I didn’t want to risk it.

I survived my shelter days and moved back to the States with three Japanese cats.  Mika (a Japanese Mikeneko), Runt (a Japanese Bob), and Akiko (a mutt, through-and-through with stunted growth).  We settled into our lives, made regular visits to the vet, and life was good.  After a short vacation, I came home to notice Runt was thin.  Concerned it was just stress, he got lots of extra treats and love for the next few weeks, but he continued to lose his muscle mass, but kept a slightly distended belly.  We went to the vet, to whom I apologized for likely overreacting, but told that I was genuinely concerned he may have eaten something harmful while I was away.  We started testing, put him on a high calorie diet, and I was asked to bring him in every few days for an official weight in.  Two more weeks went by and he continued to lose weight.  On that next appointment, my vet was unavailable and another vet filled-in.  She said at this point they really weren’t sure, but that It could likely be something very serious or nothing at all.  Getting no help from her, I lead the conversation to cover the two illnesses I was suspecting.  She drew fluid out of his abdomen and the rest is tragic history.  She actually suggested I put him down right there on the spot while I was hyperventilating through my tears and clutching my baby tightly to my chest.  I needed to talk to MY vet.   It was a Friday.  I was advised Runt might not last the weekend.

Runt started vomiting regularly and started to turn away from food after one or two mouthfuls.  I got in to see my vet, who did a fluid tap, and told me he wanted to call around and see what we could do.  He knew a lot about FIP from working in highly populated areas, but as it had been a while for him, he didn’t know what was new for treatment options.  We started with something to stop nausea, then steroids to help his appetite, paired with antibiotics to keep his immune system as strong as possible.  After calling two experts on FIP, my vet returned with treatment options, but concluded that even the FIP experts agree the plan we were on was going to be the best.  Other treatments would be very disruptive to an already stressed-out cat.  I wanted him comfortable and happy.  As long as he still wanted to sit on my lap and purr without any sign of pain, I was going to do everything I could to keep him happy.  I bought us three months.

Runt and His Kitten, Akiko

Kingsford, Ash, and Briquette

3 Days Old

Bright and Alert Baby

Japanese spotted tabby bobtail Runt as a kitten

Growing Up Cute!

Mama Runt Hard at Work

Manekineko Japanese Bobtail

Manekineko – Runt the Japanese Happy Cat

Runt loved strawberries and pretzels

Runt Japanese Bobtail Cleaning his Paws

Always a Clean Cat

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  1. Michelle Nichols

    Hello. I wonder if comfort options were discussed by your vet, versus treatment options. Look into animal hospice and palliative care, a growing field across the country that leaves you with more than time; it leaves you both in a place of qualtiy of life, peace and dignity. I don’t see that in your story and it made me sad. Maybe you could share more of your story; maybe reflections on how it went for you and for Runt? See our website and our Facebook page at AHELP Project. Thank you for sharing and best wishes in your healing.

  2. I am so, so sorry that you lost beautiful Runt. Your post seems to imply, though, that he somehow “caught” FIP, but FIP is not contagious but rather is a mutation of the corona virus in an individual cat’s gut. Sadly, it is not known yet why the virus mutates in some cats and not others. I just do not want anyone reading this to assume that Runt actually “caught” FIP – cats with FIP can live safely for the last of their (tragically too short) lives with other cats, and do not need to be isolated. Again, my heart goes out to you – this disease is terrible and I hope to see a cure ASAP.

    • I was very upset when a vet (not mine) told me to put Runt down to ‘protect’ my other cats from catching FIP. But while FIP is not contagious, the Corona Virus is. The easiest way it was explained to me was that the virus is ‘shed’ with the stool by a carrier cat, but not all cats are carriers; some cats will catch the virus but not become a carrier. This is part of why developing testing is so difficult; both cats would show the antibodies to the Corona Virus, but there is no way to know which one is a carrier or if either cat might have the virus mutate into FIP. FIP is more common in areas with dense feral cat populations (like Japan and Los Angeles) because of the higher likelihood that a cat might contact the stool of another cat. Shelters can face the same problem, which is often why cats with known exposure to FIP (and therefore the Corona Virus) are isolated from other cats. Thank you for your comment. I didn’t mean to mislead anyone about ‘catching’ FIP. I’ve lost 2 babies now to it and will never recover from the pain.

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