Keeping Kittens - Kitten Care
Keeping Kittens - Guide to Caring for Kittens

Kitten Care > Kitten Health > Causes of Fading Kitten Syndrome

What is Fading Kitten Syndrome?
And Should I Be Concerned?

Approximately 20 - 40 % of kittens don't grow older than 12 weeks old. Most of these deaths are chalked up to Fading Kitten Syndrome (FKS). FKS sometimes get referred to as the "mystery illness". From time to time it is obvious what the cause of a kitten death is. However, more often than not it is not possible to determine the exact reason for a dead kitten. FKS refers to a variety of factors that result in stunted kitten development and growth.



You should be concerned about Fading Kitten Syndrome, if you have kittens under 12 weeks old or have an expecting mother cat.

Common Causes of Fading Kitten Syndrome

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Twin kitten names.
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FKS happens to newborn baby kittens who are born into inferior circumstances - whether it is to do with the mother cat or environment factors. Kittens rely on their mother (or a surrogate) to provide a safe, healthy area. Newborn kittens care very fragile and being exposed to congenital or environmental factors can cause them to become a sick kitten, which can lead to a kitten death.

Lets look at some of the different causes of FKS and when they occur.

During Pregnancy

Some cases of Fading Kitten Syndrome start before the kittens are even born. Make sure your mother cat is well looked after.

  • Uterine Malnutrition. In laymans terms this means before the affected kitten was born he was competing inside the womb for food. With large litters this can be a problem. The affected kitten is born weak and with a low birth weight.

  • Birth defects. Sometimes these can be obvious at birth, the easiest to detect are head, limbs, genitals or anal area that are not formed properly. It is also wise to check the inside of a newborn kittens mouth. Sometimes the defect is not known until an autopsy on the dead kitten is carried out.

  • Sick mother cat. Any infections the mother has can be passed onto her fetuses. Feline infectious peritonitis and feline distemper can both be passed from mother to offspring.

  • Mother cat on bad diet. The Queen not eating properly can contribute to sick kittens. A mother cat should be on a healthy diet throughout pregnancy and weaning.

  • Obese mother cat. Often an obese cat will have more health issues including diabetes. A mother cat that is not in full health does not offer her offspring the best chance. Obese cats are also more likely to have birth complications.

    During Birth

    Birth can be a traumatic experience for some kittens. Keep an eye on your pregnant cat, so that is she needs assistance during birth you can be there for her and her kittens.

  • Extended labor can result in injuries to kittens.
  • Cannibalism results in dead kittens.
  • Neglectful mother cat. New mothers or a cat that has been recently ill might not take to being a mother so well.

    During Weaning

    Even during these early days with mother cat - kittens can get sick. Look out for these signs of Fading Kitten Syndrome.

  • Kittens blood type being different to mother cat. This is actually quite rare, but it can happen. Not matching blood types happen more often in pure-breeds. Other kittens that haven't shown signs of being affected should be taken away from queen and orphan-raised. There is no treatment for the afflicted kitten.

  • Kitten getting crowded out at feeding time. Sometimes a baby kittens will get crowded out by his brothers and sisters and not get enough to eat. This results in a poor diet and this kitten not developing as he should.

  • Mother not nursing. Sometimes a mother cat can reject her whole litter, other times just one kitten. This is when the owner needs to step in and orphan-raise the kitten or kittens that have been rejected by the Queen.

    Environmental Causes

    It is worthwhile to note that newborn kittens are more like reptiles in their first few weeks. Baby kittens need mother to keep them warm as they cannot regulate their own temperatures. They can catch a chill easily, which leads to hypothermia quickly.

  • Viral disease.
  • Bacterial disease.
  • Parasites.
  • Hypothermia.
  • Dehydration.

    Treatment and Prevention of Fading Kitten Syndrome

    Unfortunately, not all cases of FKS can be prevented or treated. However, there are things you can do to give your kittens the best possible chance at beating Fading Kitten Syndrome. Ensure that the mother cat is eating a healthy diet during pregnancy and nursing. Keep a close eye on your kittens for signs of Fading Kittens Syndrome.

    Ask Our Veterinarian a Question About FKS And We Will nswer it for Free!

    Do you have a FKS (fading kitten syndrome) related or other kitten care question you'd like our Vet? We will answer it for free. Include important information such as your kittens age, sex, breed, medical history and any recent changes in diet, grooming routine or behavior.

    Just enter your question below. It might take several days to respond. If you have an urgent question, we suggest using this 24 hour online veterinary service that has Vets standing by to answer your questions (there is a small fee for the service).

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    Where to Next?

  • Identifying and Caring for a Sick Kitten
  • Fading Kitten Syndrome - Treatment and Preventive Measures



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