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Q: Sudden death in young kittens

October 13, 2008 | By Cindy | 9 answers | Expired: 2123 days ago

Cindy

What are the most common causes of sudden death in young kittens? I have heard of some foster kittens just dropping dead or being found dead, and am wondering what the usual causes are. Thanks.

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Dusty R.
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Oct 15, 2008

Hi Cindy,

I've raised a lot of orphan kittens. I stopped counting at 300. I've been very fortunate. Most of mine survived. But loosing kittens is a painful thing. Just remember, you did the best you could.

In my experience diarrhea is the number one cause of death in kittens. But diarrhea is a catchall term. It's usually caused by parasites or coccidia or some other organism. The dehydration that comes with diarrhea is what kills them. If you can get them wormed and keep them hydrated you've got a good chance.

Upper respiratory infections or kitty colds are my next nemesis. It can take 7 to 10 days for a kitten to gain immunity from an FVRCP vaccination. Even with full immunity, they can still catch feline herpesvirus and calici virus, although it's probably not going to be as severe a case as it would be without the vaccination. Vets usually give antibiotics to fight secondary infections. I put the kitten in a room with a vaporizer to help with congestion. With calici, eating is a problem because they get painful mouth sores. Force-feeding can be very difficult with such a painful mouth. Sometimes feeding tubes are necessary.

Next is the mystery death, failure to thrive, Fading Kitten. Often this is cardiac. Symptoms could be loss of appetite or, sigh, diarrhea. I've had kittens that were fine and eating like a pig. Minutes later limbs stop working and their gone in hours. You really won't be able to tell about this without a necropsy.

FeLV, FIV, FIP. In strays, you always have a danger of one of the big "F" diseases. You'll usually see a fever that won't go away and loss of appetite. These kittens often look gaunt. With FIP there's sometimes swelling in the abdomen.

Panleukopenia or distemper is another huge problem. It's a kitten killer. 90% of kittens who get it don't make it. You'll notice runny pooh and fever. But it's very easy to prevent. That FVRCP vaccination from your vet is highly effective. Again it takes 7 to 10 days to gain immunity and according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners your kitten should get his first shot at 8 weeks and get boosters every three to four weeks until he reaches 16 weeks. This is a very hardy disease. Most household disinfectants won't kill it. And it can live for a year in the environment. You could bring home on a can of cat food that someone else accidentally contaminated at the store. Wash your hands--all the time.

I hope this helped. Let me know if I missed what you were asking about.

Dusty Rainbolt
Member of Cat Writers' Association & International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
Author of Cat Wrangling Made Easy: Maintaining Peace & Sanity in Your Multicat Home, Ghost Cats: Human Encounters with Feline Spirits, Kittens for Dummies, All the Marbles
www.dustyrainbolt.com

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Pdear
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Oct 14, 2008

There has been several kittens in my area die of the
distemper virus. The kittens have diahrea and vomiting
within a few days the kitten will die.

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Debbie S.
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Oct 14, 2008

we have had many of our kittens in the shelter where I volunteer die from distemper or sometimes they die from the vaccanations that they receive. Sometimes there imune system isn't strong enough to survive. Whatever the reason, it is very heart breaking.

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Criscil
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Oct 14, 2008

This is the first time I have heard of Fading Kitten Syndrome. Thanks for informing us of that. Guess I'll surf the net now to learn more about it.

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Poodlemom417
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Oct 13, 2008

I think most have already named the medical causes of sudden kitten deaths, however, I would like to suggest that some kittens die just because they just fail to survive. Some might have some sort of "defect" which causes them to stop nursing or digesting the kitten formula (if they are hand nursed) and sadly, no matter what we do to try to help, nature just decides that it is best if they go on to Rainbow Bridge. Sometimes, this is caused by bad breeding, other times, just because (with because being the unknown).

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Sheltervt
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Oct 13, 2008

well, there are any of a number of diseases and factors leading to kitten mortality. The more we breed cats, the more diluted the genetic health becomes, and the more open to disease they are. Corona and calici are two upper respiratory viruses that can be lethal in weak little kittens, as well as any of a number of other viruses and bacteria. There are several congenital defects internall that could make a seemingly healthy kitten suddenly die. And there is aways Fading Kitten Syndrom, caused by the parent cats having different blood types, and the kitten being born with a different blood type than it's mother, causing antibodies to clash and the kitten to die.

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Bud L.
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Oct 13, 2008

My daughter fosters orphan kittens. Often the mother cat is dead and she may have passed on a disease to the kittens. Sometimes they just are weak because the mother cat wasn't in good health or maybe she died and the kittens weren't found for a day or two. So many things can happen.

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Crystal T.
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Oct 13, 2008

I know here at our shelter it is common for foster kittens to die in foster. They are so weak they can't fight off parasites. They often get coccidia a common parasite and die from dyhydration. Often though they just fail to thrive, they won't eat and pass away from not getting enough nutrients and water.

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Ourstaff
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Oct 13, 2008

I have been told that it is sometimes called Fading Kitten. I lost a couple of kittens because of this. They just seemed to stop eating. When they had missed a couple of meals they got to weak to rebound. I now make sure that I have formula, a bottle and needles for injecting fluids on hand. I check the kittens every couple of hours. If one is not actively nursing I "prime" it with a little formula and place it back with their mother. If they still have problems I use the bottle/needle to get them eating

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