Fading kitten syndrome is a set of symptoms that are associated with a failure to thrive in neonatal kittens. Fading kitten syndrome is not a single disease. It can have many underlying causes, many of which lead to rapidly declining health, or even death, without immediate intervention. Caregivers can help kittens with fading kitten syndrome by monitoring for its signs and acting quickly when treatment is necessary.
Causes of Fading Kitten Syndrome
Fading kitten syndrome can occur for a variety of reasons, including “environmental factors, congenital defects, parasites, bacterial or viral infections, and even human error in hand-raising kittens,” says Ellen Carozza, a licensed veterinary technician and a fading kitten expert from NOVA Cat Clinic in Arlington, Virginia.
Due to the immaturity of a neonatal kitten’s body and immune system, even seemingly small factors can trigger a domino effect. For instance, what might start as a small bout of diarrhea can quickly result in dehydration and hypothermia, causing vital bodily functions to fail. Any number of factors can trigger fading kitten syndrome, but the important thing is to recognize the symptoms and to intervene immediately.
Symptoms of Fading Kitten Syndrome
Early signs that a kitten is fading may include lethargy, lack of interest in nursing, sleeping separately from the litter, and whining. Caregivers may notice that the kitten’s skin is less elastic, which is a symptom of dehydration. The kitten’s face may start to look gaunt and triangular if it is not getting adequate nutrition.
Fading kittens may also fail to gain weight normally (or even worse, lose weight), which can be determined by weighing the kitten at least once a day. Kitten caregivers should not wait until a kitten is in crisis to take action. “With kittens, time is of the essence,” says Carozza, adding “the likelihood of fading kitten syndrome does go up when hand raising kittens because not everyone knows what to look for or when to act fast and get help.”
How you can help fading kittens: immediate action
If you suspect your kitten has fading kitten syndrome, please call C.A.R.E. immediately, then:
Take immediate action, AT HOME:
1.Get them warm
- Immediately wrap the kitten up in a towel like a burrito. Their whole body should be in the towel, with only the face exposed. Do not take the kitten out of the towel to adjust them or check on them. Every time you take them out you will make them cold again, even if only for a second.
- Wrap a heating pad set on low around the burrito towel (to avoid burns) as an extra source
of heat. Secure it around the towel so it stays in place.
- If you don’t have a heating pad, place a towel in your dryer for a few minutes and
wrap that around the burrito to function as a heating pad. Repeat as needed.
- The kitten’s body cannot warm itself with only a towel; you’ll have to apply extra heat. Your
own body heat won’t work because your temperature is lower than what a kitten’s should
2. Raise their blood sugar
- Sugar sources: warm sugar water; Karo Syrup; Nutrical
- Provide 3 drops every 3 minutes
- If kitten isn’t swallowing, try rubbing the sugar on its gums and tongue
- Take care not to contaminate anything by double dipping syringes
Please do not rush your kitten to the shelter. Performing the steps above right away will be their best chance of survival. An emergency veterinarian will not be able to provide this type of attentive care. Once stable, an appointment can be made to bring the kitten in for a temperature check and fluids, if needed.
Keep in mind, it can sometimes take hours for kittens to recover and start acting normally again. Also
know that even if you follow these instructions perfectly and provide all the love and attention possible,
many of them still won’t make it.