Kitten's life hangs in the balance due to deadly illness sweeping through UK

When Fio the kitten wouldn’t eat or drink, his owner, Hillary Cannon, 42, knew something was seriously wrong.

She rushed him to the vets, who found that his platelets were low. After being diagnosed with an infection and following a night’s supervision, Fio was sent home.

‘But he still wasn’t right,’ said Hillary. ‘We took him back to the vets the next day for another blood test.’

It’s lucky she did, as this meant the vets figured out what was really wrong.

Fio had a severe, acute form of feline pancytopenia – a deadly illness that is sweeping through the UK’s cat population.

Now, Fio is doing much better and Hillary was able to bring him home, but her kitten is not out the woods yet as they anxiously wait for his platelet count to recover.

She’s now raising funds to help other pet owners cover the costs of treating their cats, and sharing Fio’s story to raise awareness of this dangerous illness.

Hilary, of Fulham in South West London, who rescued Fio after hearing that he was unwanted by his owners, said: ‘He’s like my child. We’ve finally got him home but his platelets are still low and we’re still in limbo about whether he will pull through.

‘I’m just hoping that we have answers soon. I’ve spoken to so many other people that have been affected by this.

‘Our cats are dying and this is causing so much distress. We need to get to the bottom of what’s causing it.’

Some fear that the food cats are given could be the cause of feline pancytopenia, which makes the number of blood cells rapidly decrease.

While no official link has been made, multiple dry cat food products have been pulled from shelves as a precaution, and experts from the Royal Veterinary College have said: ‘Based on the evidence to date, the one aspect of these cases that formed a consistent pattern was the diet of the affected individuals.’

So far, RVC has recorded feline pancytopenia in 394 cats, 67% of which have died from the illness.

With vets normally seeing just one case of feline pancytopenia – which causes severe fatigue, blood in vomit, urine and faeces, low appetite and unexplained bruising – a year in the UK, the sudden surge since April has led to a major RVC investigation.

Symptoms of feline pancytopenia:

Pancytopenia means that your pet has a very low red and white blood cell count. This can be fatal.

Some cats don’t show any symptoms, so it’s important that if you think your pet has come into contact with another feline with the illness, you take them to the vet for a full check-up.

Some cats might show symptoms such as:

  • lethargy
  • restlessness
  • not eating or drinking
  • pale gums
  • blood in their urine
  • bleeding from their mouth
  • blood in their poo
  • vomit containing blood
  • collapsing

A government spokesperson confirmed that a link between certain pet food and the pancytopenia outbreak is being investigated.

Stressing that there is no suggestion of any risk to human health, they said: ‘Working with the Royal Veterinary College, the Animal Plant and Health Agency and other Government departments across all four nations of the UK, local authorities and the pet food supply chain, we are investigating a possible link between specific cat food products and feline pancytopenia.

‘There is no definitive evidence to confirm a link at this stage.

‘No unsafe cat food has been identified but the manufacturer and brand owners affected, based on investigations so far, are taking the precautionary action of recalling and withdrawing cat food products that have been linked to affected cats.’

‘I had no idea what it was at first,’ said Hillary. ‘I’d never heard of it, but when the vet explained it was lethal to cats, I was horrified. I had no idea what had happened.

‘Whatever has caused Fio’s illness, I just hope they identify it soon, before other cat owners have to go through this.

‘I was feeding him with the food that has been recalled, but no one knows what has caused this outbreak yet.

‘I just need answers, as it’s heartbreaking watching the animal you love suffer.’

To help fund other cats’ treatment, you can donate through Hillary’s JustGiving page.

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