Birth and queen related factors. Hypoxia (lack of oxygen), trauma, hypothermia – Kittens born after a difficult birth (dystocia) are at higher risk of death and this may be the leading cause of early deaths. This results from lack of oxygen (hypoxia) and/or trauma.
Cats die suddenly from conditions such as sepsis, shock, kidney failure, poisoning, urinary tract obstruction, stroke, heart failure, suffocation, poisoning, heartworm disease, hypoglycemia, and hereditary diseases.
Kittens that die between birth and weaning are often referred to as ‘fading kittens’. Newborn kittens may die suddenly or present themselves as “bad doers” and “fade away” within a few days. Unfortunately, the clinical signs of many newborn diseases are very similar and vague.
Symptoms: Hypothermia/low body temperature (<99°F) – Cool or cold feeling to the touch, especially in the limbs/extremities. Lethargy – Inability to stand or respond to touch. Labored Breathing – Exaggerated breathing, often with an open mouth.
The most common causes of sudden death in cats are heart disease and related conditions. Feline cardiomyopathy or “heart muscle disease” and feline heartworm disease are the most common causes of sudden death in apparently healthy cats. Both conditions often do not give a warning.
Infectious organisms are often responsible for fading kitten syndrome. Kittens are at risk of sepsis from bacterial infections. Viral infections with organisms such as feline herpesvirus, calicivirus, panleukopenia, FIV/feline AIDS, and feline leukemia virus can cause the syndrome.
When a cat loses a companion, whether animal or human, they are sure to grieve and respond to the changes in their life. Cats change their behavior when they are grieving, much like humans do: They can become depressed and listless.
Your kitten may have had a virus, may have missed a meal and be overly dehydrated because she was so small, missed a meal and her glucose levels got too low, or even have a condition known as Fading Kitten Syndrome, where young kittens practically just disappear.
Only in incredibly rare cases, when a kitten is stillborn, is a mother cat able to accommodate the remains for hygienic reasons. Again, while this is a confrontation, this is normal behavior. She will not eat live, healthy, viable kittens.
Your veterinarian can arrange for your cat’s cremation, or you may wish to take them to the pet crematorium yourself. Your cat can be part of a shared cremation, after which her ashes will be scattered with others in the Garden of Tranquility.
Wrap the kitten in a towel or blanket and add a heat source. A heating pad is an effective option, or alternatively, place rice in a sock or cloth bag and microwave for a few minutes to heat. Put a few drops of Karo syrup or sugar dissolved in water in your cat’s mouth every three minutes.
Fading Kitten Syndrome is not a single disease. It can have many underlying causes, many of which lead to rapid decline in health or even death without immediate intervention. Carers can help kittens with Fading Kitten Syndrome by being alert for signs and acting quickly when treatment is needed.
Cats seem to have the ability to know they’re going to die. A sick cat often looks for places where it is comfortable but away from its owners.