“Wait… what? What is this? Why are kittens dying?”
Yes. Google search is not wrong. Kittens do die suddenly and yes, it is very sad.
It is simply the circle of life. Cats have it pretty rough surviving out in the world. From finding food, water, and shelter… staying alive could be challenging to say the least. The brutal winters don’t help either… you’ll find that many cats who aren’t prepared will not make it through the cold seasons.
However, it’s not all depressing! Life is meant to be a gift and for those who are able to hunker down and survive, they get to do what all other animals do during the springtime: get their groove on!
Ah, nature. It’s so beautiful. You will soon find that there are millions upon millions of kittens born each spring. Many of these kittens are rescued by devoted and kindhearted people who will foster these little feral kittens, socialize them, and find forever homes for them. Saving nine lives! Aww yeah!
Many of the kittens you find at your local shelter or pet store usually have kittens who are sprightly and a little mischievous. However, before the kittens could even go to these shelters and adoption centers, they first have to be fostered to a certain maturity age. Many foster parents who have tried their very best to nurture these young kittens may be faced with a tragic problem. It is unfortunate, but many kittens before the age of nine weeks end up losing their lives as they succumb to fading kitten syndrome.
So… What Is Fading Kitten Syndrome?
Fading Kitten Syndrome isn’t a disease or illness, but rather refers to the unfortunate death of a kitten during the early weeks of its life. It essentially means the failure of a kitten to thrive past her infant stage. There could be many underlying causes that lead to the kitten’s health to decline at a rapid pace. Without the proper assistance or treatment, the kitten will ultimately lose its life.
It’s not a disease that is contagious and spread to other cats and animals. However, if there is a kitten that does pass away due to fading kitten syndrome, there may be a higher chance of the other litter members falling ill as well.
What Causes Fading Kitten Syndrome?
There really isn’t just one thing that causes fading kitten syndrome as a lot of factors could play a part. It could be something simple as not eating or dehydration or maybe an infection of some sort. The thing is, since kittens are so small and vulnerable, even the littlest thing could snowball into something very serious. Their body and the immune system simply have not matured enough.
One of the leading cause is due to negligence in caretaking in part of the mother cat or human foster parents. Kittens in its earliest weeks are very fragile creatures and need constant supervision. If a human foster is not well equipped or is unable to nurture a kitten back to optimal health, things can go sideways very quickly. Same goes for a mother cat. Sometimes it will be very hard for mama cat to take care of her young ones… mother cat could be malnourished or too stressed to adequately provide milk. Or perhaps a foster human found frail kittens that were abandoned and could not nurse them back to health in time.
Another leading factor to fading kitten syndrome is hypothermia. If a kitten is not supplied enough warmth and a safe shelter from the environments, it may cause the kitten’s body to go into shock and end in a crisis. A kitten may get separated from her mother, or perhaps the environment is far too cold. A kitten simply cannot regulate her own temperature effectively just yet and needs to monitored closely. Huddle together, little kittens!
Other factors include bacterial or viral infections or maybe even parasitic organisms. Whether it is feline herpesvirus, feline leukemia, the FIV/feline AIDS illness, or a case of roundworms… all these infectious diseases and organisms could trigger the onslaught of fading kitten syndrome. That is why it is very important to have your kittens checked out by a veterinarian to correct any medical concerns.
As you can see, fading kitten syndrome is an umbrella term that could be caused by many things and there could be a variety of reasons why a kitten passes away. Trauma, hypothermia, viral or bacterial infections, or even due to hereditary factors could all play a part. It all really boils down to the kitten’s innate ability to survive and in how she is nurtured. With proper guidance, loving care, and an observing eye, caretakers could lookout for the signs of a fading kitten and intervene immediately and seek treatment.
What Are The Symptoms Of Fading Kitten Syndrome?
The symptoms of fading kitten syndrome are very subtle and sneaky but it is indeed detectable. Caretakers who develop their senses and their observation skills may notice the differences in behavior between a healthy and unhealthy kitten.
One of the biggest and earliest sign is the energy level of the kitten. Kittens should have a little spunk to them so extreme lethargy is not a normal behavior. Kittens who are lethargic will generally have lower energy levels than their siblings and may have no interest in nursing. This lack of interest is a key sign that indicates that the kitten needs to be monitored.
Another telltale sign of fading kitten syndrome is failing to gain adequate amounts of weight. It is even worse if the kitten is losing weight. From birth, kittens should gain a steady amount of weight each and every day. They should always be growing! That is why it is recommended that foster parents weight their kittens each and every day to ensure that they are steadily gaining weight. Also, make sure that the kittens are nursing and to syringe feed them if needed. It is absolutely vital that kittens get their nutrients in the first couple of weeks.
Any sign of infection or disease should immediately be evaluated by a veterinarian. Kittens could be born with internal parasites or they may have some form of infection. If you happen to notice anything strange about your kitten, or maybe they are still unable to open their eyes two weeks after birth, these are all signs of some sort of medical issues that need to be seen by a professional. It is always advised that you let a veterinarian take a look at any newly born kittens. It is advised that you take these kittens regularly for the initial weeks to ensure they also get all their vaccinations.
How Do You Treat Fading Kitten Syndrome?
Since fading kitten syndrome is such a broad term, there are many different treatment options available. It is up to the foster parent to know how to nurture the kittens properly and effectively. However, just know that even with the best assistance and loving care, fading kitten syndrome could still take the lives of many infant cats. This is simply a part of it and you should understand that it is not your fault.
First and foremost, take the kittens to a veterinarian in order for them to get evaluated. A good examination will reveal if the kittens are malnourished or if there are any underlying medical problems. Kittens could also be dewormed in order to remove any existing parasites in their bodily systems. Kittens will need to go regularly to the veterinarian for the first couple of weeks in order to complete the deworming process and other medical procedures. By communicating with your veterinarian effectively, you will be able to raise the probability of preventing the onset of fading kitten syndrome.
Kittens who are unenergetic and fail to nurse may need assistance with obtaining their nutrition. Most kittens under four weeks of age will bottle feed and cry for food. If you notice a kitten who has become uninterested in nursing, she may need to be tube fed. With effective tube feeding, you will be able to bypass the kitten’s mouth and put food directly into her stomach. This will allow the kitten to obtain the nutrients she needs in order to survive.
The truth is, you don’t really treat fading kitten syndrome, but rather you do everything possible to prevent it from ever occurring. There could be many reasons why a kitten fades away and it is the foster parent’s duty to keep an observant eye on the kitten’s health and behavior. The key thing is to maintain communication with your veterinarian and to immediately go to an emergency clinic when you begin to see symptoms of fading kitten syndrome. By understanding the symptoms and taking action right away, the chances of kittens surviving is greatly increased.
The point of this article was to prepare any potential caretaker who may find themselves nurturing kittens. This is to help you emotionally prepare and understand that fading kitten syndrome happens and it is just a natural part of life. There are many things we can do to help prevent the loss of life, but there are also many things that we cannot do. Just know that simply putting in the effort was enough! Learning about this is enough! I have personally gone through moments where I was unable to save the life of a kitten or a cat, and it’s never a good feeling to experience. You tried to save a life, and that is enough. How could anyone ever ask more? As always, I wish you all the best in your endeavors.