Clinical data from 488 cats (1979-2000) with histopathologically confirmed feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and 620 comparable controls were evaluated retrospectively to assess the value of several diagnostic tests frequently used in the evaluation of cats with suspected FIP. Diagnostic utility of serum albumin to globulin ratio for the diagnosis of FIP was greater than of the utility of serum total protein and gamma-globulin concentrations. Diagnostic utility of these variables was higher when performed on effusion. On effusion, positive and negative predictive values of Rivalta's test, a test that distinguishes between exudates and transudates (0.86 and 0.97), anti-coronavirus antibody detection (0.90 and 0.79), and immunofluorescence staining of coronavirus antigen in macrophages (1.00 and 0.57) were investigated. The positive and negative predictive values of presence of anti-coronavirus antibodies were 0.44 and 0.90, respectively, antibody concentrations (1:1,600) were 0.94 and 0.88. presence of immune complexes measured by a competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay were 0.67 and 0.84, and detection of viral RNA by serum reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) were 0.90 and 0.47. Effusion RT-PCR was performed in 6 cats; it was positive in all 5 cats with FIP and negative in the cat with another disease. Diagnostic assays on the fluid in cats with body effusion had good predictive values. Definitive diagnosis of FIP on the basis of measurement of various variables in serum was not possible. Serum tests can only be used to facilitate the decision for more invasive diagnostic methods.