Happy Wednesday Furiends,
It’s been a pretty routine week in our neck of the woods. We’ve been up to our usual shenanigans. Oliver is still deaf to The Human’s pleas to stop burrowing UNDER the sofa cover.
Lily heard that a friend of ours was feeling under the weather so she dressed up like a nurse. Lilly is a nice kitty but trust me, she is no medical purrfesional!
And Oliver thinks he’s some kind of comedian. Please don’t laugh as you’ll only encourage him.,
Well, that was our week….oh wait, there was one other thing. The Human was contacted by the good folks at Chicken Soup and told her story “Miss P and the Turkey” will be in the February release, “Lessons I learned From My Cat”. We are happy for her but would have purferred that the story was about us. Oh well, maybe she’ll get her book finished and published because Oliver and I are in it!
Well, that’s it for news from The Tribe. Now here’s some feline news from the web.
First, let me say that it was a bit disappointing that it took a bunch of scientists to research the meaning of the “slow blink”. Sheesh, anyone who knows cats knows that’s our way of showing affection.
Scientists published a study in 2020 where they observed cat-human interactions and, as the article says, “… were able to confirm that this act of blinking slowly makes cats – both familiar and unfamiliar animals – approach and be receptive to humans.”
They do give humans a nod by saying that this is something many cat owners “suspected”. Many humans know this to be a fact.
The scientists say that our partially closed eyes, accompanied by slow blinking is similar to how human eyes narrow when they smile. In other words, the slow blink is a feline version of a smile.
The researchers then tested to see if humans copied this expression would they communicate friendliness and openness to their feline.
They did two experiments. In the first one, owners slow-blinked at 21 cats from 14 different households. The cats were settled and comfy and the owners were told to sit about a meter away and slow blink when the cat was looking at them. Cameras recorded both the owner’s face and the cat’s face, and the results were compared to how cats blink with no human interaction.
The results showed that cats are more likely to slow-blink at their humans after their humans have slow-blinked at them.
The second experiment included 24 cats from eight different households. This time, it wasn’t the owners doing the blinking but the researchers, who’d had no prior contact with the cat. The researchers performed the same slow-blink process as the first experiment, adding an extended hand towards the cat. And they found that not only were the cats more likely to blink back, but that they were more likely to approach the human’s hand after the human had blinked.
“This study is the first to experimentally investigate the role of slow blinking in cat-human communication,” McComb said.
Folks, you can try this at home and see how your felines respond. Narrow your eyes at your feline as you would in a relaxed smile, followed by closing your eyes for a couple of seconds. You’ll find they respond in the same way themselves and you can start a sort of conversation.”
I’m always happy to hear positive things about our connections with humans. The scientists stated the following:
Cats, for example, respond in kind to humans who are receptive to them – so if you find cats standoffish, that might be a problem with you, not the kitty.
Likewise, cats echo the personality traits of the humans they live with – this may be related to why cats seem to pick up when their humans are sad. They also can recognize their names (although they choose to ignore them a lot of the time). And their bonds with their humans are surprisingly deep.
If you are interested in the more sciency information about this research, you can read about it in Scientific Reports.
This article contains important information and the facts are far beyond this feline brain so I am including this article in it’s entirety.
As veterinary professionals in 2022, few of us would have imagined that we would be diagnosing a fatal disease in young cats and telling our clients we know of a treatment but that we can’t administer, sell, or prescribe it—then suggesting they visit a Facebook page to purchase unmarked vials of a drug from China for thousands of dollars. But that is precisely the scenario in which we find ourselves in the diagnosis and treatment of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) in the United States.
How did we get to a point where our only option is to suggest that our clients meet up with strangers from the internet with no veterinary training in parking lots to buy an unapproved medication to inject into their dying cats?
A brief history on the seemingly miraculous, unapproved treatment for FIP
Gilead Sciences, a US-based global pharmaceutical company, had been studying various anti-viral drugs for years with the goal of finding a treatment for the deadly Ebola virus in humans. Among the drugs they created and patented were GS-441524 and GS-5734—neither of which proved to be successful in treating Ebola.
Meanwhile, Davis Niels Pedersen, DVM, PhD, a professor emeritus of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California Davis, was fervently studying and trying to find a cure for FIP. He reached out to a friend, who was chief medical officer of Gilead Sciences at the time, to inquire about antiviral drugs that might help.
He received about 25 different drugs from their library to try, and two of them showed very promising results: GS-5734, now known as remdesivir, and GS-441524, which is metabolized to remdesivir in the body.
The results were incredible. They saw unheard-of cure rates in both artificially infected and naturally infected cats (between 80% and 100%). It seemed like the problem had been solved. Unfortunately, Gilead Sciences reportedly refused to license GS-441524, the simpler of the two molecules, for use in cats, and they later pursued remdesivir as a treatment for severely ill COVID-19 patients.
The fear was that performing the studies to secure FDA approval for GS-441524 in cats might hamper efforts to approve GS-5734 (now remdesivir) in humans because if studies using GS-441524 to treat cats had any adverse effects or undesirable results, this could influence the analysis of remdesivir for human use.
Remdesivir is now conditionally approved for emergency use in humans to treat severe COVID-19 infections, but without full FDA approval, it can’t legally be used off-label by veterinarians. GS-441524 is not approved at all, so it cannot legally be used either.
As a result, desperate cat owners are left with no choice but to reach out to FIP Warriors, a global network made up of cat lovers, breeders, and rescuers—many of whom have been through treatment with their own cats. They help owners of sick cats get vials quickly, share notes on the best “brands” to purchase, and teach owners how to give daily subcutaneous injections to their cats.
These are all tasks that would normally be performed by veterinary professionals. The other missing part to the current scenario is the drug safety, efficacy, and oversight piece. There are reportedly significant variations in the safety and success rates of products from different manufacturers, with one version even being blamed for killing cats in January 2021.
Promising new research
Researchers at the University of California Davis, where Pederson first discovered the success of those two molecules in treating FIP in cats, are taking up the charge.
Krystle Reagan, PhD, DVM, Dip. ACVIM, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology, is leading several studies to find a treatment that is “readily accessible to treat cats diagnosed with FIP.”
In collaboration with a team at the University of California San Diego, she is using CRISPR technology to develop a rapid test that detects viral genetic material. This study is still ongoing, but researchers hope it will yield a more definitive and rapid test that could replace the diagnosis by circumstantial evidence and exclusion that is currently the norm.
Reagan is also the principal investigator on a clinical trial evaluating the use of GS-441524 and remdesivir in oral formulations to treat FIP. She reports that the efficacy of the oral formulations of both drugs appears to be good, and that this can provide an alternative to the daily GS-441524 injections, which are known to be painful to cats.
Reagan’s colleague, Amir Kol, DVM, PhD, Dip ACVP (Clinical Pathology), associate professor of pathology, microbiology, and immunology, is leading a clinical trial of his own involving the use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) along with GS-441524 in the treatment of FIP.
Regarding the mechanism of action of MSCs in the treatment of FIP, Kol stated, “We still do not know if MSC treatment is effective in FIP. … Nonetheless, based on previous data, we expected MSC treatment to benefit cats with FIP by promoting three critical pathways that: 1) Decrease inflammation; 2) Rejuvenate exhausted T cells; and 3) Regenerate lymphoid tissue post infection.”
This trial may add to our treatment arsenal for a rare, but serious, complication in human children as well. Kol draws parallels between FIP, with its “massive inflammatory response in conjunction … with an exhausted antiviral specific immune response” and MIS-C, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, which can be a severe complication of COVID-19 infection.
MIS-C, he notes, is characterized by “1) Coronavirus-induced systemic hyperinflammatory disease; 2) Young age; and 3) T cell exhaustion.” He hopes that FIP in cats will serve as a good model for MIS-C in children, and that the findings from this study will benefit the treatment of both species. If success is seen in cats, MSCs are easily sourced for clinical trials in humans in the future, marking an “immediate translatable impact on children’s health.”
Seeking FDA approval for cats and humans
While none of these studies guarantee that a drug will be approved for veterinary use, we can hope that, with the preponderance of evidence for the efficacy and safety of GS-441524 and remdesivir in cats, one or both drugs can become licensed and FDA-approved for use in cats.
Even full approval for use in humans would open doors to legal extra-label use in veterinary medicine. The more we learn about these disease models in cats and humans, the better we can refine the treatment and enhance the response rates in both species.
While this story started with treatment needs in animals taking a back seat to treatment needs in humans, the next chapter can include cats, cat owners, and veterinarians finally getting access to lifesaving options for FIP, and better treatments for severe disease in both species.
A Much-Hyped COVID-19 Drug is Almost Identical to a Black-Market Cat Cure
Unlicensed GS-441524-Like Antiviral Therapy Can Be Effective for at-Home Treatment of Feline Infectious Peritonitis
2022 AAFP/EveryCat Feline Infectious Peritonitis Diagnosis Guidelines
UC Davis Launches Clinical Trials to Treat a Deadly Coronavirus Disease in Cats
For Parents: Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19
Angela Eaton was fostering four kittens and when they reached that, “We want to play and we like your keyboard and computer stage” Angela tried to distract them with one of her computer screens. She would put on videos that felines like to watch (my favorites are birds and squirrels). When she saw how much the kittens enjoyed the videos she was inspired to create a videogame for felines.
Eaton’s video game that uses visual stimulation to engage the playful participation of cats and kittens have been branded Cattywhompus. It’s a multi-level game that displays moving targets like frogs, flying saucers, fish-that cats “catch” with a touch. And the cool thing is the game keeps score and your humans can brag about who well you did against the felines in other homes (those humans love to brag about us!) And if your human is a real bragger, they can upload their cat’s score to the Global Scoreboard to compare your cat’s points to cats around the world. Meowza!
The game is available for $2.99 USD and is available for iOS and Android. There are no in-app purchases or ads: pay once, play forever. Also, 10% of all profits from the video game will go to cat rescues throughout the country. Now that’s what this cat calls a “win win”.
Tell your humans to get you the app, we’re telling ours we want it and we’ll report back after we’ve played with it a while.
Many of you have probably seen this story on social media but wait….there’s more. Comedian James Felton shared the story on Twitter, musing on what could be going on and hilarity ensued. People began swapping tales about having the same situation…MOL, Who knew? Do yourself a favor and read the posts on this page, you won’t be sorry.
Times are tough for you humans and when you suffer, sometimes we felines suffer too. Chris Forrest thought he might have to give up his fur kids because he couldn’t afford to feed them any more. Imagine his relief when he discovered that there was a pet food bank in his neighborhood.
Chris loves his cats and said, “I would go without so my boys had food. They are like my children and I don’t know what I would do if I were to lose them. I’m welling up just thinking about it.”
Chris, who lives in Edinburgh, has four male cats – two five-year-old brothers called Galaxy and Shadow, and two four-year-olds called Leo and Sol. Chris is not able to work due to severe anxiety and depression and his cats help with his mental health.
Chris told BBC Scotland, “The cats keep me going – they interact with me and get me up in the morning as they need fed. I’m in a much better place having them, I’m more chilled out and relaxed.
They are so loving and give me cuddles and I burst out laughing watching them play together.”
Chris’ benefits were cut after the Covid pandemic, so he went to the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and they gave him pet food.
There are now 66 pet food banks in community centers across central Scotland, the Lothians and the Scottish Borders. Mike Dougan run the pet food banks who is the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home’s community outreach and development manager.
He started the project when he discovered people were sharing the food they got from food banks with their pets. “A pet is part of the family and every pet we can feed is a pet that can stay in a loving, warm, safe home without fear,” he said.
Pet Food banks are an important part of every community. We have one in our neck of the woods, do you?