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Failure to Thrive in Kittens
( Fading Kitten Syndrome )

cute kitten

Fading kitten syndrome refers to a failure to thrive in certain litters. Sometimes no matter your best efforts there are kittens that just do not thrive. Often these “faders” will just lose strength but sometimes with luck and observation you can save some of them. Of particular note is watching for the ‘runt’ in the litter, typically much smaller than the rest of his or her littermates.

Some queens have a type B blood rather than the normal Type A. When this happens and the kittens nurse the immunities in the colostrum attack their red blood cells and can result in a healthy kitten at birth that stops nursing or suddenly dies.

At times it could happen to the whole litter. kittens starts dying one by one ( fading kitten syndrome ) If you think this might be an issue it’s wise to have your queen blood typed to check as this can save your kittens. If you can get the kittens through the first couple of days until the colostrum levels of the queen go down the kittens can sometimes survive.

Unfortunately the trade off is that without colostrum the kitten has no immunity at all and a higher risk of respiratory or other diseases. Selective breeding can reduce the mating of these type B carriers. By not breeding type B females to type A males the offspring aren’t inheriting the B blood type. Of course breeding those to type B males insures more type B kittens are born. If this is a factor it’s even more important to keep excellent records .

The colostrum is very important to kitten survival so those with a blood type issue are facing an uphill battle for survival. Kittens typically nurse several times per day at first as nature prepares them to gain quickly, open their eyes and get out into the world. In an ideal world this happens without issue but for some kittens life isn’t so normal.

Proper temperature and keeping the litter from getting too cold or too warm can help. Chilled babies don’t digest food well and can quickly become life threatening. Overweight queens can have a higher loss rate than those that are fit.

Special attention to toxins should be noted, with avoiding pine oils and other things generally safe in many other cases. The thin skin of babies can result in absorbing more than adults. There are also the chances of congenital and genetic factors and thymic dysfunction. Normal birth weight is a factor and often special care must be taken with the ‘runt’ kittens.

Infections are another thing that can affect kittens and in young litters as well as parasites. Viruses can ‘move in’ on kittens during that first week and sometimes before birth, when it hits kittens the hardest, thus the fading kitten syndrome.

Overcrowding, temperature extremes and not enough milk can all affect kittens and result in loss of weight. Any animal including people are more prone to illness when stressed by living conditions and other factors.

With the wide range of possibilities it seems sometimes a process of elimination as to the real cause of the kitten’s illness and death. Prevention is much better than the cure. It absolutely pays big dividends to have clean, sanitary homes for the queens.

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