ISSN 2398-2950      

Feline coronavirus: FIP


Synonym(s): Feline coronavirus, FCoV, feline enteric coronavirus, FECV, feline infectious peritonitis virus, FIPV



  • Feline coronavirus (FCoV) is a highly infectious enteric virus which causes subclinical infection or diarrhea in the majority of infected cats, but potentially a lethal monocyte-associated immune-mediated granulomatous perivasculitis, known as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), in around 5-10% of infected cats.   
  • This page concerns the majority of FCoV infection only. For FIP information see Feline infectious peritonitis and FCoV/FIP tests FIP/FCoV tests
  • FCoV is highly prevalent in multicat environments such as found in breeding catteries and rescue shelters. FCoV can cause disease in large, as well as domestic, cats. 
  • Feline enteric coronavirus (FECV) and feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV) are sometimes used interchangeably with FCoV, but the proper scientific name, as determined by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, is FCoV.  However, in databases such as Genbank, early strains of FCoV may be named “FIPV-etc” or “FECV-etc” as indicators of whether they originated from a cat with or without FIP.   
  • Being an RNA virus, FCoV is highly prone to mutation, deletion and recombination. There are two types of FCoV: type I is wholly feline; type II arises by recombination events between type I FCoV, which is essentially feline, and canine coronavirus (CCoV).   
  • FCoV does not infect humans. However, one of the seven known human coronaviruses - SARS-CoV2 - can infect cats. 


  • Order: Nidovirales.
  • Genus: Coronavirus. 
  • Family: Coronaviridae. 
  • Subfamily: Alpha Coronavirus. 
  • Species: Feline coronavirus. 


  • Corona is Latin for crown.
  • The coronavirus has a halo of peplomer (glycoprotein spikes) visible on electron microscopy.

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Clinical Effects



  • Epithelial cells of the small and large intestines.
  • Monocytes/macrophages.


  • Virus is shed in the feces and vary rarely the saliva.
  • Mainly indirect, especially using shared litter trays, but also via contaminated fomites.
  • Direct, by cat-to-cat contact, eg nose to nose, mutual grooming and contaminated coat, is not a major route of virus transmission.
  • Transplacental transmission extremely rare.

Pathological effects

  • FCoV is ingested or possibly inhaled.
  • Oronasal infection with FCoV → replication in intestinal epithelial cells:
    • May cause mild enteric +/- respiratory signs.
    • Shedding of FCoV in feces begins from 2 days post infection and may continue for days (type II FCoV) to months (type I FCoV).
    • Intestinal macrophages uptake FCoV → regional lymph nodes → transient, very brief, monocyte-associated viremia.
    • In most cats, mucosal immunity (IgA) and cell-mediated immunity develops and infection ceases.  
  • Type I FCoV shedding usually lasts 2-3 months, but can last longer: if a cat is still shedding virus 9 months post-exposure (without opportunity to have been re-infected) then he or she is deemed to be a persistently infected carrier cat. 
  • 13% of cats infected with type I FCoV become long-term carriers: no carrier status has yet been identified for type II FCoV.  
  • However, cats can be re-infected with the same, or a different strain, of coronavirus and it is important not to confuse re-infection with carrier status. 
  • Some cats exhibit severe diarrhea which may be refractory to treatment and last for months. Some have diarrhea and third eyelid syndrome.
  • FCoV infection can cause stunting: one hall-mark of endemic FCoV infection in breeding catteries is that littermates are of variable size, with runty kittens.
  • Effectiveness of cat's cell-mediated immune (CMI) response correlates with disease: good CMI → clear virus, poor CMI → disease.
  • In a small number of cats an aberrant pro-inflammatory immune-mediated response leads to vasculitis and perivascular /pyogranuloma formation (FIP) with effusions in acute cases.


Control via chemotherapies

  • Orally administered nucleoside analogues that specifically interfere with the activity of RNA-dependent RNA polymerases may stop FCoV shedding by carrier / transiently infected cats. However, their use in mildly affected / subclinical cats is controversial, and actively discouraged by most feline specialists, as they select for resistant strains. While the legality of their provenance is also variable.
  • Feline interferon omega Interferon was shown to reduce, but not abrogate, FCoV shedding. 
  • Cats with FCoV-associated diarrhea can be treated supportively (eg nutritional assistance, fluid therapy, probiotics if required). 
  • For treatment of cats with FIP see Feline infectious peritonitis.

Control via environment

  • Control of FCoV infection is based on reducing environmental viral levels by reducing factors that increase viral load and shedding by individuals, and clearing of virus from the environment:
    • Reducing the number of cats kept in any small area.
    • Avoiding the introduction of FCoV-infected cats to naïve cats.
    • Avoiding transmitting virus to uninfected cats via contaminated litter trays, cages, etc.
    • Excellent hygiene: remove feces from litter trays as soon as possible after use as feces is major source of virus, regularly disinfect trays using sodium hypochlorite, and steam cleaning.
    • Use of clumping, bentonite-based, cat litters has been shown to reduce, but not abrogate, FCoV transmission.
    • Keeping cats in good health, especially with arginine-rich food.
    • Reducing stress on cats.
  • For control of FCoV under specific circumstances (eg breeding cattery) see Feline infectious peritonitis.
  • Some cat breeders are now FCoV-free.


  • An intra-nasal vaccine (Felocell FIP) is available in the USA and in parts of mainland Europe, but is not considered a core vaccine by consensus panels of American or European Feline Specialists other than in FCoV antibody negative cats about to enter high-risk environments, such as boarding or rescue catteries.
  • This vaccine is a temperature-sensitive, type 2, mutant FCoV which is administered intra-nasally.
  • The vaccine is administered at >16 weeks of age by which time many pedigree kittens will already have been infected. 
  • The vaccine is reported to be safe and has efficacy of approx. 50-75% as a preventable fraction for FIP development.
  • However, the virus does not prevent virus shedding if the cat is exposed to infection, ie it is not a sterilizing vaccine.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Addie D D  Curran S, Bellini F, Crowe B, Sheehan E,  Ukrainchuk L, Decaro N (2020) Oral Mutian® X stopped faecal feline coronavirus shedding by naturally infected cats. Res Vet Sci 130, 222-229 PubMed
  • Addie D D, Covell-Ritchie J, Jarrett O, Fosbery M (2020) Rapid Resolution of Non-Effusive Feline Infectious Peritonitis Uveitis with an Oral Adenosine Nucleoside Analogue and Feline Interferon Omega. Viruses 12, 1216 PubMed
  • Addie D, Houe L, Maitland K, Passantino G, Decaro N (2020) Effect of cat litters on feline coronavirus infection of cell culture and cats. J Feline Med Surg 22(4), 350-357 PubMed
  • Barker E N, Tasker S (2020) Advances in molecular diagnostics and treatment of feline infectious peritonitis. Advances in Small Animal Care 1, 161-188.
  • Tekes G, Ehmann R, Boulant S, Stanifer M L (2020) Development of Feline Ileum- and Colon-Derived Organoids and Their Potential Use to Support Feline Coronavirus Infection. Cells 9(9), E2085 PubMed.
  • Felten S, Hartmann K (2019) Diagnosis of Feline Infectious Peritonitis: A Review of the Current Literature. Viruses 11 (11),1068 PubMed
  • Pearson M, LaVoy A, Evans S, Vilander A, Webb C, Graham B, Musselman E, LeCureux J, VandeWoude S, Dean G A (2019) Mucosal Immune Response to Feline Enteric Coronavirus Infection.  Viruses 11(10), 906 PubMed
  • Takano T, Akiyama M, Doki T et al (2019) Antiviral activity of itraconazole against type I feline coronavirus infection. Vet Res 50 (1), 5 PubMed
  • Shirato K, Chang H W, Rottier P J M (2018) Differential susceptibility of macrophages to serotype II feline coronaviruses correlates with differences in the viral spike protein. Virus Res 255, 14-23 PubMed.
  • Tasker S (2018) Diagnosis of feline infectious peritonitis: Update on evidence supporting available tests. J Feline Med Surg 20 (3), 228-243 PubMed.
  • Barker E N, Stranieri A, Helps C R et al (2017) Limitations of using feline coronavirus spike protein gene mutations to diagnose feline infectious peritonitis. Vet Res 48 (1), 60 PubMed.
  • Addie D D, le Poder S,  Burr P, Decaro N, Graham E, Hofmann-Lehmann R, Jarrett O, McDonald M, Meli M L (2015) Utility of feline coronavirus antibody tests. J Feline Med Surg 17(2), 152-162 PubMed.  
  • Borschensky C M, Reinacher M (2014) Mutations in the 3c and 7b genes of feline coronavirus in spontaneously affected FIP cats. Res Vet Sci 97 (2), 333-340 PubMed.
  • Paris J K, Wills S, Balzer H-J, Shaw D J, Gunn-Moore D A (2014) Enteropathogen co-infection in UK cats with diarrhoea. BMC Vet Res 10, 13 PubMed
  • Porter E, Tasker S, Day M J, Harley R, Kipar A, Siddell S G, Helps C R (2014) Amino acid changes in the spike protein of feline coronavirus correlate with systemic spread of virus from the intestine and not with feline infectious peritonitis. Vet Res 45(1), 49 PubMed 
  • Terada Y, Matsui N, Noguchi K, Kuwata R, Shimoda H, Soma T, Mochizuki M, Maeda K (2014)  Emergence of pathogenic coronaviruses in cats by homologous recombination between feline and canine coronaviruses. PLoS One9(9), e106534 PubMed.  
  • Gil S, Leal R O, Duarte A, McGahie D, Sepúlveda N, Siborro I, Cravo J, Cartaxeiro C, Tavares L M (2013) Relevance of feline interferon omega for clinical improvement and reduction of concurrent viral excretion in retrovirus infected cats from a rescue shelter. Res Vet Sci 94(3), 753-763 PubMed.  
  • Golovko L, Lyons L A, Liu H et al (2013) Genetic susceptibility to feline infectious peritonitis in Birman cats. Virus Res 175 (1), 58-63 PubMed.
  • Chang H W, Egberink H F, Halpin R et al (2012) Spike protein fusion peptide and feline coronavirus virulence. Emerg Inf Dis 18 (7), 1089-1095 PubMed.
  • Terada Y, Shiozaki Y, Shimoda H, Mahmoud H Y, Noguchi K, Nagao Y, Shimojima M, Iwata H, Mizuno T, Okuda M, Morimoto M, Hayashi T, Tanaka Y, Mochizuki M, Maeda K (2012) Feline infectious peritonitis virus with a large deletion in the 5'-terminal region of the spike gene retains its virulence for cats.  J Gen Virol 93(9), 1930-1934 PubMed.  
  • Addie D, Belák S, Boucraut-Baralon C et al (2009) Feline infectious peritonitis. ABCD guidelines on prevention and management. J Feline Med Surg 11 (7), 594-604 PubMed.
  • Regan A D, Shraybman R, Cohen R D et al (2008) Differential role for low pH and cathepsin-mediated cleavage of the viral spike protein during entry of serotype II feline coronaviruses. Vet Microbiol 132 (3-4), 235-248 PubMed.
  • Kipar A, Baptiste K, Barth A, Reinacher M (2006) Natural FCoV infection: cats with FIP exhibit significantly higher viral loads than healthy infected cats. J Feline Med Surg 8, 69-72 PubMed.  
  • Addie D D, Schaap I A T, Nicolson L, Jarrett O (2003) Persistence and transmission of natural type I feline coronavirus infection. J Gen Virol 84 (10), 2735-2744 PubMed.  
  • Addie D D & Jarrett J O (2001) Use of a reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction for monitoring feline coronavirus shedding by healthy cats. Vet Rec 148, 649-653 PubMed
  • Gonon V, Duquesne V, Klonjkowski B, Monteil M, Aubert A, Eloit M (1999) Clearance of infection in cats naturally infected with feline coronaviruses is associated with an anti-S glycoprotein antibody response. J Gen Virol 80, 2315-2317 PubMed.  
  • Herrewegh A A P M,  Smeenk I, Horzinek M C, Rottier P J M, de Groot R J (1998) Feline coronavirus type II strains 79-1683 and 79-1146 originate from a double recombination between feline coronavirus type I and canine coronavirus. J Virol 72(5), 4508-4514 PubMed.  
  • Kipar A, Kremendahl J, Addie D D, Leukert W, Grant C K, Reinacher M (1998) Fatal enteritis associated with coronavirus infection in cats. J Comp Pathol 119, 1-14 PubMed.   
  • Herrewegh  A A P M,  Mahler M, Hedrich H J, Haagmans B L, Egberink H F, Horzinek M C, Rottier P J M, de Groot R J (1997) Persistence and evolution of feline coronavirus in a closed cat-breeding colony. Virology 234, 349-363 PubMed.  
  • Harvey C J, Lopez J W, Hendrick J M (1996) An uncommon intestinal manifestation of feline infectious peritonitis: 26 cases (1986-1993). JAVMA 209 (6), 1117-1120 PubMed.  
  • Gonon V, Eloit M, Monteil M (1995)  Evolution de la prevalence de l'infection a coronavirus felin dans deux effectifs adoptant des conduites d'elevage differentes. Recueil De Medecine Veterinaire 171 (1),33-38.
  • Herrewegh A A P M, de Groot R J, Cepica A, Egberink H F, Horzinek M C, Rottier P J M (1995)  Detection of feline coronavirus RNA in feces, tissue, and body fluids of naturally infected cats by reverse transcriptase PCR. J Clin Microbiol 33, 684-689 PubMed.  
  • Hohdatsu T, Okada S, Ishizuka Y, Yamada H, Koyama H (1992) The prevalence of types I and II feline coronavirus infections in cats. J Vet Med Sci 54 (3), 557-562 PubMed.   
  • Sparkes A H, Gruffydd-Jones T J, Howard P E, Harbour D A (1992) Coronavirus serology in healthy pedigree cats. Vet Rec 131, 35-36 PubMed.
  • Van Kruiningen H J, Ryan M J, Shindel N M (1983) The classification of feline colitis.  J Comp Path 93, 275-294 PubMed.

Other sources of information


  • International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) (formerly the European Society of Feline Medicine) Place Farm, Tisbury, Wiltshire, SP3 6LW, UK. Tel: + 44 1747 871872. Website:   

Laboratories experienced in FCoV / FIP testing / histopathology 

  • Veterinary Diagnostics Services Laboratory, Department of Veterinary Pathology, University of Glasgow, Bearsden Road, Glasgow G61 1QH, Scotland. Tel: + 44 141 330 5777; Fax: + 44 141 330 5748; Website:  
  • Bristol Veterinary School, Bristol University, Langford House, Langford, Bristol, BS18 7DU. Website:
  • Biobest Laboratory, 6 Charles Darwin House, The Edinburgh Technopole, Milton Bridge, Nr Penicuik,  EH26 0PY.  Tel: +44 (0)131 440 2628. Fax: +44 (0)131 440 9587.  Website: 
  • Finn Pathologists, Unit 3C-3D, Mayflower way, Harleston, Norfolk, IP20 9EB.  Tel: 01379 854180. Website :  
  • Scanelis Laboratory,  9 allée Charles Cros., CS 70006 31771, Colomiers Cedex, FRANCE. Fax : +33(0)5 34 50 40 38. Website:   

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