COVID Meds Help Cats

11/01/2023
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    An elderly man sits outside a shop next to two cats in Nicosia, Cyprus. (AP/Petros Karadjias)
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    A health worker holds a bottle containing the drug remdesivir. This drug, as well as molnupiravir, can be used to treat both humans with COVID-19 and cats with FIP. (Zsolt Czegledi/MTI via AP)
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    Cats wait in a shelter at a park in Nicosia, Cyprus. Neither FCov nor FIP can be transmitted to humans or to other animals. (AP/Petros Karadjias)
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    Women sit on a bench near three cats in Nicosia, Cyprus. (AP/Petros Karadjias)
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Cats are dying on Cyprus. A mutated virus is killing them. Vets asked the Cypriot government for access to a treatment not intended for felines. They want human coronavirus medicine.

Cats have a long and storied history on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Legend says Helen of Constantinople sent cats there in A.D. 4. The migrated felines hunted venomous snakes at an island monastery.

Ever since their Roman serpent exploits, cats have been beloved in Cyprus. If showing regard for animals were the only thing that made people righteous, (Proverbs 12:10) Cypriots would be exceedingly so.

With about 1.5 million kittens and counting, the country is sometimes called “the island of cats.” Some estimates indicate that feral cats outnumber humans.

However, with that many mousers on the loose, a rampant cat disease could cause big problems.

Feline coronavirus (FCov) is a common cat intestinal virus. FCov is not the same as the virus that causes COVID-19. Symptoms of FCov are often mild. Sometimes a pet owner doesn’t even realize little Simba has FCov.

But in some felines, FCov can mutate into the rare but lethal Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Scientists aren’t sure why certain cats develop FIP from FCov while others don’t. Stress, poor general health, or other medical conditions may increase a cat’s risk for FIP.

At the beginning of the year, Cyprus’ vets noticed an increase in FIP. The island’s Veterinarians Association conducted a survey of 35 clinics. It revealed an island-wide total of about 8,000 feline deaths. That number may be much larger due to the many undocumented strays.

Sadly, the high price of ordinary FIP treatment was more than many cat caregivers could afford. But doctors and pharmacies had supplies of another treatment already on their shelves.

Studies revealed that the human coronavirus medicines remdesivir and molnupiravir could help combat FIP. One finding reported by the National Institutes of Health shows about 88% of cat owners who gave cats remdesivir “reported noticeable improvement . . . within one week.” Some studies indicate even better results.

Cypriot cat owners can now receive FIP-fighting molnupiravir pills at a reasonable price after a vet performs an exam and makes a diagnosis.

Some people expressed concern about using up medicine intended for humans in case of another COVID-19 surge. But pharmacist Costas Himonas assures them that the island has plenty of human coronavirus doses.

In cat-crazy Cyprus, accessible, affordable cat meds might be called “the cat’s meow.”

Why? Finding that a medical treatment intended for humans can also work well in cats or other animal species highlights the beautiful fact that all creatures have a common Designer.

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