What is Fading Kitten Syndrome?
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What is Fading Kitten Syndrome?

Cats
Health & Safety

Fading Kitten Syndrome can be heart breaking because sometimes there is nothing anyone can do to save a kitten with the condition. FKS, as it is known is not a disease but rather a variety of symptoms with the first being the death of a kitten for no apparent reason.

Owners or breeders who are extremely aware of the symptoms might be able to do all that's necessary to save kittens with the condition, but this does rather depend on the causes of it. Many people who make it their mission to rescue and foster nursing or pregnant cats and who regularly foster kittens, get to know the symptoms. Feral cats are especially prone to FKS which is why rescue centres tend to spay all cats in their care and this includes pregnant females.

This is deemed the safest route with some vets referring to the procedure as “Feline abortion – an unnerving necessity”. It's the first six to eight weeks that kittens are at most serious risk of being the victims of Fading Kitten Syndrome, although some vets believe people should use twelve weeks as a guideline to when kittens are most at risk.

The Symptoms To Look Out For

  • Kittens are extremely light at birth which means it is often the runt of the litter that will become the “Fader”.
  • Kittens are unable to nurse properly whereas a healthy kitten will nurse pretty quickly. Very often the “fader” in the litter just does not have enough strength to grasp hold of mum's nipple. The kitten does not get the necessary colostrum within the first 72 hours which is the all important first milk that mum produces. This milk gives kittens the antibodies they need to combat many illnesses and is known as giving “passive immunity” to the newborns. Luckily, in these modern times there are a few companies that manufacture colostrum for kittens – one of which is Just Born Milk Replacer Colostrum.
  • Mum abandons the kitten/kittens because instinctively, she knows that they are weak – this is very much the case of the “survival of the fittest”.
  • Kittens suffer from hypothermia because they are not able to regulate their own body heat and temperatures and as such rely totally on mum. Should mum abandon a kitten, they will very rapidly develop hypothermia. Kittens become lethargic with their gums and mouth turning a bluish colour instead of nice healthy pink colour. Sadly, kittens die soon after unless you are there to intervene and provide the necessary warmth. This will revive the little creature but then you will need to feed them the right type of food so they can build up their strength again.

What Causes Fading Kitten Syndrome?

When it comes to what causes this condition, it gets a little complicated because you have to look at the cause or causes of why it first happens, and then offer the right sort of treatment in an attempt to save any kittens with the condition. However, below are a few of the most common causes of FKS:

  • Mum suffered some sort of disease or malnutrition during gestation. This can be the cause of the condition in her kittens when they are born. When mum has a first litter during the “kitten season”, the kittens are usually strong because she is in good condition. The problem arises if mum is allowed to have more than one litter in the course of a year – cats are able to have up to five litters over the course of 12 months! If mum has more than one litter, the chances are her kittens won't get all they need during the embryo stage and therefore risk being “Faders” simply because mum might be weaker or she may not have been given enough food to support her pregnancy.
  • Infectious diseases of which they are several. can very rapidly take hold and kittens will suffer the consequences. If you have rescued a pregnant feral cat it is really important to keep her away from any other domestic cats you may have in your home. Everything you use for the feral mum must be thoroughly sterilised so that no infection can be transmitted to any other cats.
  • Fleas and other parasites can really do a lot of damage if a kitten or kittens become infested. The kittens will very rapidly become anaemic or suffer from hemobartonella – both conditions are very dangerous for young kittens and death is normally the outcome.

Some kittens may appear perfectly normal and healthy when they are first born which can be very confusing when they suddenly die for no apparent reason. However, the kittens were born with what is known as an “occult disease” at birth which brings on Fading Kitten Syndrome and unless you spot there is something wrong and act quickly, kittens usually die pretty quickly.

How To Treat The Condition

Good husbandry and nursing care is essential if you think a kitten or kittens may have Fading Kitten Syndrome. It takes a lot to notice there is something wrong with the youngster, but then constant care is needed if the kitten is to survive. However, the prognosis should always be guarded. A healthy kitten should weigh in at around 100g when they are first born and then put on around 10-15g a day thereafter – if you are worried, you will have to carefully monitor the kitten's weight on a daily basis and then decide how to proceed with the help of your vet.

If you notice one or more of the kittens doesn't seem keen to fight for their food, then you will need to feed them the correct colostrum within the first 72 hours and then continue feeding them a replacement kitten milk in order for them to gain strength and survive. Kittens that are too quiet should cause concern too, because this could be an indication there is a problem.

You will also need to make sure the kitten or kittens are kept warm so that hypothermia does not set in. If the mother cat is suffering from mastitis, then you would need to get her to the vet as soon as possible. You would also need to ask the vet for a food supplement to feed the kittens. However, vets always remain guarded as to whether kittens will survive after becoming “Faders”, but this never means every effort should not be made to save them.

If you are thinking about rescuing a nursing mum and are not sure about her past or how she has been treated or vaccinated, then you should always keep her away from any of your existing cats. When the kittens are born, you would need to keep a close eye on them from the word go. The first 72 hours are crucial for kittens because this is when they take mum's first milk known as colostrum. If a kitten does not get this first milk, you would have to supplement it as previously mentioned so you give the kitten a chance of survival.

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