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What is Fading Kitten Syndrome?

Posted: 04/25/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Cat , Health problems , Pet care

There is almost nothing as sweet as a newborn kitten. Taking care of these precious animals is a very rewarding and special experience. But it can also be heartbreaking if a kitten experiences Fading Kitten Syndrome.

In this blog post we’ll discuss what Fading Kitten Syndrome is, the signs and symptoms, what causes it and how it can be treated.

fading kitten syndrome

What is Fading Kitten Syndrome?

This is a condition whereby a kitten fails to thrive. This period lasts for roughly four to five weeks and typically occurs between birth and when they are weaned from their mother. During this period kittens are the most vulnerable to sickness.

Sadly, the condition is usually fatal. But it doesn’t have to be. By paying close attention to your new kitten and recognizing the warning signs early, you can get your fur baby the help she needs to thrive and survive.

Signs and Symptoms of Fading Kitten Syndrome

Like human infants and toddlers, healthy kittens will usually meet specific developmental milestones. Those kittens experiencing Fading Kitten Syndrome will fail to meet common developmental milestones. Some of these include:

  • An ability to turn over from their back 3 days after birth
  • An ability to support themselves on their legs by 2 weeks

Other signs and symptoms for you to watch for:

  • Constant noises that indicate distress (such as whining or crying), even after feeding
  • Gradually worsening lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Poor suckling reflex
  • Weakness
  • Inability to gain weight
  • Labored breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nasal or eye discharge

If not caught and treated in time, the condition can lead to low blood sugar, dehydration, low body temperature, and even death. 

fading kitten syndrome


There are a variety of causes for Fading kitten Syndrome, and usually more than one comes into play. Some of the most common causes are a larger than normal litter, trouble during birth, and poor nutrition during the mother’s pregnancy. 

Genetics may also play a role in the condition. If the mamma cat has a blood type that differs from her kitten, there is a chance her maternal antibodies may attack her own kitten’s red blood cells. This results in anemia that can lead to Fading Kitten Syndrome. 

Some other potential causes:

  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Parasites
  • Malformations present at birth (e.g., heart defects, gastrointestinal defects, brain defects, lung defects, etc.)
  • Low birth weight
  • Trauma
  • Maternal neglect
  • Malnutrition

Treatment Options

If a specific underlying cause can be determined, it is possible that Fading Kitten Syndrome may be treatable. Sadly, many times the underlying cause cannot be determined in time. For example, certain bacterial infections can be treated if caught early enough. However, some congenital defects such as heart or brain defects may not be caught early enough. 

General treatment is supportive care while the underlying cause is investigated. This type of care typically includes fluids, dextrose to support blood sugar levels, antimicrobials, nutritional support, oxygen support, and body temperature support. 

Recovering from Kitten Fading Syndrome

The question most kitten parents want to know is, can my fur baby actually recover from Fading Kitten Syndrome? The answer is yes, if the underlying cause can be discovered in time. Sadly, Fading Kitten Syndrome is fatal more often than not, with the highest rate of mortality occurring in the very first week of the kitten’s life. 

Should the kitten survive this crucial period, and if they can grow a bit more and get stronger, the outlook is good. That is unless there is a congenital or chronic viral infection such as FIV. This can impact the cat’s life expectancy. But if no congenital or chronic infection is detected, the goal is to provide the right support so your kitten can get the right nutrition and gain weight and strength over time. 

Final Thoughts

Fading Kitten Syndrome is a term that refers to a kitten that is failing to thrive. Symptoms usually present within the first four to five weeks of a kitten’s life. The sooner you notice symptoms and bring your kitten into the vet, the better chance your kitten will have for survival.

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  1. “Fading Kitten Syndrome”, Katie Ryan, DVM
  2. “Fading Kitten Syndrome in Cats | Causes, Treatment, and Prevention”
  3. “Fading Kitten Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment” DR. PETE WEDDERBURN, DVM



The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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