Fading Kitten Syndrome (FKS) is similar to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in humans and may be blamed when kittens under 12 weeks of age fail to thrive and grow. Like SIDS, FKS is a fatal “mystery illness” in which the exact cause of death is often not known.
In general, FKS affects kittens born to weak mothers or born into unhealthy surroundings. Proper care of the expectant mother during pregnancy can minimize causes of FKS during pregnancy. It is important to provide the pregnant mother cat an adequate and nutritious diet. Ensure the mother cat is free from illness, including health problems associated with obesity, because many illnesses can be passed on to the kittens.
Be alert after birth for the presence of birth defects, which may not always be immediately apparent. Be alert during birth for extended labor that may injure kittens and for neglect on the part of the mother. Do not abandon the mother cat during birth. Remain nearby to offer assistance if needed, especially if appears that the mother cat may engage in behaviors such as cannibalism of the newborn kittens.
Problems may arise even after a successful birth. A rare situation in which the blood type of one or more kittens differs from that of the mother can result in death. The condition affects pure-bred cats more often than mixed breeds. There is no known cure. A more frequent occurrence is that one kitten will be crowded out by his litter mates and will not be able to nurse enough to get adequate nutrition. If the mother cat rejects the litter and refuses to nurse the kittens, it is up to the owner to hand-rear the kittens.
Not all causes of FKS are related specifically to pregnancy and birth. Environmental causes also play a part. Newborn kittens cannot keep themselves warm and rely on their mother to stay warm. Hypothermia, dehydration, and environmental diseases related to parasites, bacteria, and viruses are likely to cause FKS.
Although it is not always possible to reverse FKS, there are some precautions that can be taken to minimize the chance that it will occur. Providing the mother cat with a healthy diet during and after pregnancy and ensuring a warm clean environment for the birth will go a long way toward preventing FKS. Watch kittens carefully after birth and be alert for the early signs of bacterial or viral infection. Be alert, too, for signs that the mother cat is neglecting or failing to nurse her kittens.
Knowing the probable causes of FKS will help you treat it properly. FKS is often fatal, but the earlier it is detected the greater the chances for survival. Pay attention to factors during pregnancy, birth, and weaning that may lead to FKS. Remember that healthy cats are more likely to give birth to healthy kittens.