Naturally, mother cats give birth to so many kittens but only a few of them survives. In fact, a mother cat is said to be fortunate when their kittens make it to adulthood. Even in a cattery with a properly vetted mother, kittens have a 20% mortality rate. Sadly, the rate is higher with orphan kittens.
We’ve always been instructed by our vet to call or visit them when any medical problems arise. That’s probably because there might be issues that you wouldn’t notice in an adult cat that can quickly lead to the death of the kittens.
Protect your kitten and your pets at all cost. As much as possible, weigh them every morning. Their weight should increase a little every day. Be extra careful in letting them mingle with other pets unless they’re healthy and completely vaccinated. In addition, wash your hands before and after you handle a kitten.
At 3 weeks of age, ask your vets if your kitten needs to be de-wormed or needs to receive vaccinations. Because she can’t benefit from her mother’s immunity from diseases, early (recommended) vaccinations are a MUST.
Signs that your Kitten may be ill
- Fever (or a temperature of over 103°F)
- Hypothermia (or a temperature under 99°F)
- Constant crying
- Repeated vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Pale gums
- Weight loss or failure to thrive
Here are the common health problems that can threaten the health of your kitten:
As a result of dehydration, your kitten can experience constipation. If this happens, add a little more water to your formula. Note that constipation can also be a symptom for intestinal blockage. Thus, if she doesn’t pass stool in approximately 48 hours, you need to have her seen by the vet. If she starts to vomit, take her to the vet immediately.
You should understand that diarrhea is not a disease. It is a symptom used to describe runny or watery stool. It can be caused by bacteria, parasites, or viruses. But simpler causes include diet modification and over-feeding. If she’s having a mild diarrhea but is alert and playful, you might want to add more water to the formula food you feed her.
Note that stress can cause diarrhea in kittens. This happens when there are major life changes in their lives. Examples of these include separation from mother and litter mates; moving to a new home; and meeting new people or animals.
Monitor for signs of dehydration by checking the following:
- Dry and hard poop
- Gums and mouth is sticky to the touch (healthy oral cavity should be moist)
- Darker-colored pee (dark yellow, brown, or red)
- Skin tenting – a more accurate sign in kittens that are more than 6 weeks old. Do this by pulling up the skin at the back of the neck. If it only takes one second to snap back, your kitten should be fine. However, if it takes longer to return to normal, she is most likely dehydrated.
Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
Upper respiratory infections are among the most common infections diagnosed in kittens. Its signs and symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Lack of appetite
- Eye discharge
- Mouth ulcers
- Limping (due to joint pain)
Most upper respiratory infections are highly contagious; it can easily be passed from one kitten to another. While adult cats may be infected, it’s the kittens that experience the most severe symptoms. Thus, if there are animals in your house that are sick with URI, you need to contain them in a bathroom.
Kitten colds, like human colds, must run its course. They are treated by the vets symptomatically. They may receive antibiotics to eliminate bacterial infections, or they may be given subcutaneous fluids. Because kittens may experience nasal congestion, they can’t smell their food. Thus, they won’t have much appetite. Your vet may implement force feeding or tube feeding. You may also be advised to use a vaporizer to loosen up the nasal gunk.
Flea infestation is very common not only in kittens, but in other animals as well. While fleas can affect cats of all ages, it can be very troublesome for kittens. Because of their small size, they are likely to become anemic from blood loss. Fleas can also spread certain diseases to affected kittens, like tapeworms.
Use flea treatments that are labeled safe for the size and age of your kitten. You can remove fleas from kittens that are younger than 8 weeks using very fine-tooth comb.
Fleas can be difficult to find because they are very little and a kitten’s hair can be so dark and dense. But just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not sucking the blood of the kitten. Treatments that are labeled safe for the size and age of your kitten. You can remove fleas from kittens that are younger than 8 weeks using very fine-tooth comb.
Fleas can be difficult to find because they are very little and a kitten’s hair can be so dark and dense. But just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not sucking the blood of the kitten. Give your kitten a bath with a safe cat shampoo. Once you see the fleas against the suds, pull them out with the flea comb.
Ear mites are also very common in kittens, although adult cats can also be infected. The most common manifestation of ear mites is a black or brownish ear discharge that looks similar to a coffee ground. Their ears may become itchy as well, and you may see inflammation in and around their ears.
Intestinal parasites are also common in kittens. This warrants routine de-worming. Roundworms and hookworms are the most common intestinal parasites in kittens. However, there may be other parasite infestations as well. They can be infected by tapeworms, Giardia, as well as coccidian. Aside from routine de-worming, take your kittens to the vet for a fecal examination as well. This test will help the vet recognize any intestinal problems in your pets.