What is fading kitten syndrome?

Fading kitten syndrome, also called FKS, is a somewhat mysterious illness that seems to suddenly affect kittens who had previously appeared to be healthy. It can happen even after they are a couple of months old, and it affects anywhere from one kitten to the entire litter. The kittens will suddenly stop eating, and they die after three or four days from dehydration.


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FKS is not well understood by vets - it is something that breeders of cats report amongst themselves as suddenly happening, and they often have difficulty getting the kittens to survive. I have found two drastically conflicting suggested solutions. One person here has suggested that giving the kittens certain kinds of antibiotics produces sudden recovery. Another here has suggested the exact opposite. Her theory is that fading kitten syndrome happens when the mother is given antibiotics for an illness during pregnancy, and that those antibiotics then kill off bacteria that are normally in the kitten's digestive tracts and passed through the milk. These beneficial bacteria are important to the digestive process. Her solution was to actually give bacteria to the kittens instead of medicine.

Why the different experiences? FKS is probably not actually one disease. It is more likely common SYMPTOMS that happen to kittens who get very sick from a number of different causes. Among the other suggested causes have been bacterial infections, viral infections, problems with antibodies from the mother's milk, and premature birth. Your vet may or may not be able to diagnose the cause, but if you see symptoms such as sudden weakening or loss of appetite, your kitten is fading and needs to go to the vet. 

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