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Does Fading Kitten Syndrome Really Exist?



What if I told you there’s actually no such thing as Fading Kitten Syndrome? One of the largest causes of death in neonatal kittens is "Fading Kitten Syndrome", but contrary to what you might think, it's actually not a disease. Instead, it’s a blanket term given to describe a combination of symptoms which can cause a kitten to rapidly deteriorate in health. This can happen within a matter of hours and if not acted upon promptly, can lead to serious illness and even death.


So what signs should you look for when assessing the health of your kitten?


Symptoms to look out for:

Common symptoms associated with a deteriorating kitten include:

  • Reluctance to feed

  • Lethargy/unresponsive

  • Weight loss

  • Vomiting/diarrhoea


Common causes of declining health:

There are many reasons why a kitten might start to deteriorate quickly, and often one symptom can spiral into another. It’s important to identify and treat the symptoms as quickly as possible and closely monitor your kitten to see if their health improves.


Common causes include:

  • Hypothermia - low body temperature

  • Hypoglycaemia - low blood glucose levels

  • Dehydration - e.g. from vomiting/diarrhoea

  • Anaemia - low red blood cell count (e.g. from fleas/intestinal parasites)

  • Congenital defects - e.g. cleft palate/open fontanelles

  • Lack of colostrum - the “first milk” that kittens usually receive from mum within the first 24 hours after birth

  • Infections - upper respiratory infections, sepsis, panleukapaenia (“Cat Parvo”) etc.


What to do when a kitten starts to deteriorate.

When a kitten displays any of the symptoms above, as a carer you must act immediately so the kitten has the best chance of survival. You must first determine the cause by assessing the kitten and then treating the symptoms accordingly, by either taking the kitten to a vet, or providing immediate supportive care at home.


As neonatal carers, using the "Fading Kitten Syndrome" blanket term can be misleading. It's important we start to call these symptoms out for what they are, recognise the underlying causes of why a kitten might be deteriorating, and take action accordingly. By being proactive in this way, we can help reduce the number of neonatal fatalities in our community and provide our kittens with the high quality care they deserve.


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The Kitten Nursery Australia is both a fostering project & educational initiative dedicated to saving the lives of neonatal kittens (those aged 3 weeks & less).

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