Anae Evangelista was reeling from the deaths of two close friends when she saw Parsnip in a local shelter’s online post.
The 21-year-old college student had been thinking of getting a cat for weeks after accompanying a friend to a local shelter. After checking the shelter’s adoptable pets again, she fell in love with an adorable tabby with a clipped ear and sky blue eyes and immediately made plans to see her in San Diego.
Parsnip took to Evangelista immediately.
“She was so affectionate, pushing her head into my hand for pets, and I knew she was the one,” Evangelista told PITB.
Although many cats take days or weeks to adjust to their forever homes, Parsnip “strutted into my apartment as if she owned it from day one, zooming all over the place [with] enough energy to bounce off the walls,” Evangelista said.
Although she had a rough start to life and was rescued from a hoarding situation, Parsnip was friendly, affectionate and warmed quickly to her new home. As human and kitten became fast friends, Parsnip’s presence was an immediate boost to Evangelista’s mental health.
‘She’s been my rock,” she said, “and although she can’t talk, I feel as if she’s constantly encouraging me to stay strong.”
But after about six weeks Parsnip’s energy level took a distressing dive. She was weak, slept a lot and wouldn’t eat much. A vet visit didn’t yield any answers, and the next day Parsnip displayed more telltale signs of a seriously sick cat — she stopped eating and drinking entirely, and began eliminating outside of her litter box.
After consulting another veterinarian, Evangelista finally had an answer. Little Parsnip was suffering from Feline infectious peritonitis, a more virulent strain of feline coronavirus that infects white blood cells resulting in dangerous inflammation, per the Cornell Feline Health Center.
“An intense inflammatory reaction to FIPV occurs around vessels in the tissues where these infected cells locate, often in the abdomen, kidney, or brain,” according to Cornell. “It is this interaction between the body’s own immune system and the virus that is responsible for the development of FIP.”
The disease is “usually progressive and almost always fatal without therapy.”
But there’s hope for Parsnip: With the help of her veterinarian and an online group for people whose cats have FIPV, Evangelista was able to get her kitty accepted for experimental treatment with GS-441524, a nucleoside analogue antiviral drug that has proven effective at treating all types of FIP in several trials in recent years. (It’s been so effective, in fact, that Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturers have been supplying GS-441524 on the black market to cat caretakers who haven’t been able to get their cats into trials.)
Since starting the treatment, Parsnip’s responded well: She’s eating again, the swelling has been in retreat, and she’s once again interested in play time, exploring and other things cats love to do. She’s even able to hop up on the couch again.
That’s a far cry from her condition just three weeks ago when she had a 105-degree fever, no interest in things around her and couldn’t get up under her own power.
The 84-day treatment, subsequent vet visits, monitoring and blood work is expensive: Evangelista estimates it’ll cost her about $5,000 in total. She’s looking to raise half that amount via a GoFundMe. It’s a huge expense, especially for a college student, but for Evangelista, spending the money is without question.
“She’s been my foundation and she deserves the world,” she said, “so I want to give her the chance to live to see it.”
Follow Parsnip’s progress on Instagram @lilmissparsnip