HELP! Sudden Kitten Death!

Lilo when we rescued her

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Lilo when we rescued her

Lilo when we rescued her Day before she died R.I.P Lilo & Sugar

I don't know if I've titled this correctly, but I certainly need help. Let me explain what's going on.

We adopted little Lilo on June 6th. Here's the full story on her rescue. As you can see, she was a very sick kitten. I took her straight from the shelter to the vet where she was prescribed liquid Clavamox.

Garfield and Stitch were also seen by the vet and put on the same antibiotic. They were diagnosed with URI's. Lilo and Stitch had been so ill they were lucky to have lived long enough to be rescued.

Lilo appeared to be all better after completing the round of antibiotics. Then very early Tuesday morning (June 20) her nose stuffed up and her eye looked irritated. We started her on another round of Clavamox. She wasn't strong enough to survive whatever this is and died Wednesday night.

One of the feral kittens, Sugar, looked healthy yet died early Thursday morning. She suddenly got the snotty dried up nose thing. I'm very shocked at her death as she looked perfectly healthy a few days before.

Garfield had completed his round of antibiotics and looked as though he was about to relapse, so we started him on Zeniquin 25 mg half a pill a day. He is now completely well.

After learning Sugar had died, I scooped Vine up and rushed her to the vet. Vine was getting the nose caked up thing and I didn't want to take any chances. The vet diagnosed a URI and I was given a lot of Zeniquin to treat the sick kittens.

This is only affecting the kittens. Very few of our adults have come down with this. Jane had to see the vet last week and Furby has a bit of a cold but that's just how he is.

I'm really worried because whatever this is hits fast and hard. It's immune to the Clavamox, at least for the round given, as it comes back when the treatment is over. The cats have no diarrhea, no vomiting, no strange behavior. At the very end they seem to have trouble getting their breath and begin gasping. Then their body temperature plunges and they die.

The vet feels certain we're treating something bacterial. I agree as bacterial infections hit hard and fast whereas viral infections come on more slowly. A lot of people don't realize this when a vet asks how long a pet has been sick. And the color of the secretions coming out of their little noses points to bacterial.

I'm very worried about Bella and Vine. They both looked a little "off" earlier in the day. Just hoping the antibiotic will save them. Poor Lilo. It was impossible to get whatever was around her mouth to come clean. She always looked as though she'd just surfaced from putting her head in a plate of food.

The day I rescued the ferals there had been a few unexpected deaths in the same room Vine was being housed. With over 100 cats and kittens (perhaps more) and only one sick room I'm not surprised by a few deaths.

I've heard from two of my fellow rescuers who also have lost kittens from this shelter. My friend Anna went to bed the other night and when she woke up she found a foster kitten dead.

I don't know what I'm really wanting an answer to here. Your thoughts on this would be appreciated. We're hopeful the new antibiotic will do the trick as it saved Garfield. I feel he would have died if we hadn't switched meds on him. I also purchased saline nose drops to help them breathe.

I'm extremely tense in writing this as I fear I'll hear of more kittens from the shelter dying while in foster care or rescue. This is beginning to sound like a Robin Cook medical mystery. I don't want it to stop people from pulling from the shelter but I'm really nervous at this point. We're not going to pull any more until we figure this out.

HELP! Reader's and Michael both! HELP!


Comments for
HELP! Sudden Kitten Death!

Average Rating

Click here to add your own comments

Nov 09, 2011
Sick Stray Kitten
by: Lisa

I rescued a kitten yesterday and took him straight to the vet who put him on Clavamax. He seemed to be a little slow moving but i just figured it was his sickness. I was lucky enough to find someone who wanted to adopt him so we both decided to wait until i go back to the vet friday for a check-up befoe i give him to anyone. Tonight, i noticed he wasnt moving much after the last does of Clavamax and shortly after that he died. I ahve been so upset. This little guy was lucky enough to get saved from a life on the streets, but never even made it. I started to blame myself and thought i had given him too much Clavamax but after reading these stories i'm starting to think that he was just sicker than i thought, Poor little guy never had a chance.

Jul 12, 2011
Thursday update
by: Elisa

I'll have one ready to go online Thursday. We lost Lilo, Sugar and then Sweetie had to be euthanized last Friday. He had whatever killed Sugar. If you go the Flickr under furbyshouse I have tons of pics of the rescued kittens.

Jul 12, 2011
by: Gail (Boston, MA, USA)

Elisa, is there an update on your kitties? How are they doing?

Jul 02, 2011
So sorry
by: Dez

So sorry you are going through this. I too have lost a lot of kits this year to the same thing. I foster for the shelter where I volunteer and have lost around 30 kits (out of 64 fosters)this year. They all did the same thing. They seemed perfectly healthy and then just dropped over dead. One or two may have had the snotty nose but it only showed up a day or even an hour before the poor baby died. Often though they did not have any symptoms at all. Our vet seems to think it is a form of viral pneumonia or a mutated form of panleukopenia. The kittens have been de-wormed, given flea baths, given L-Lysine supplements, and vaccinated, yet still they will suddenly die. Some of them have marginally responded to doxycycline and syringe feeding, while others do not respond to it at all. I wish I knew what to tell you but I too am at a loss. Yes, all of my fosters are kept separated and in their own cages that are sanitized daily but even that does not appear to be helping stop this stuff. The shelter director thought it was something I was doing until she lost two litters at the shelter to the very same thing. Bless you for the work you do and I am sorry. This is the hardest and most awful part of fostering. Just remember that we do save some of them and the ones we lose were much loved during their short time on Earth.

Jun 26, 2011
kitty illness
by: sharon collette

HI i pulled my foster kitties from barrow county in GA they had the usual URI 's when I brought them home but then they all suddenly started getting open sores , abscesses and the like after one died the vets started giving mine stronger and stronger antibiotic but nothing seemed to work in the meantime we had our poor buster necropsy and found out he had a nasty bug called Mycoplasma we started treating them all for it and they are healthy we had to give them doxycycline a very strong antibiotic maybe the vet could check them for that !good luck hope they get better 🙂 <3

Jun 24, 2011
Sudden Kitten Death - use of chloramphenicol
by: carocats

Chloramphenicol CAN affect cats' bone marrow, and for this reason is seldom used by vets nowadays - if used at all, be very careful.

Jun 24, 2011
Kittens born of malnourished mamas and more
by: Kathy Novelli

Hi Elisa. I just read PawPaw John's comment and I agree with him completely. These poor little babies have hardly a chance because they are the babies of mothers who are probably malnourished and cannot provide milk to their kittens that contains all the essential immune developing and strengthening attributes. And, then, there is the situation with the kittens being taken from their mother too early and dumped in the "shelter" to die. Either way, their immune systems are deficient. Do ask your Veterinarian(s) about the medicine I suggested earlier though, it saved our Pretty Girl when nothing else touched her URI...ALSO..we fed her for almost a week, twice a day, using a syringe w/out the needle...and dripped her, too so that she'd stay hydrated. It was quite a battle but, today, she's well and it is in her past. Hopefully, she has developed a healthy immune response should she be exposed to this or another type of URI, again....good luck and my prayers are with you. Kathy

Jun 24, 2011
Poor Sick Kitties!
by: Ann (Mama to 3 adoptees)

Hi Elisa,

I am so sorry that the kitties are getting sick. Having just completed Microbiology, I wonder if there is any way your vet could do a culture of the nasal secretions from the sick ones to determine exactly what organism you are dealing with? Once you know exactly what it is, you can figure out what antibiotic they need. I know this might not help, as they might not be able to do it, and cultures can take several days to grow. It might be worth suggesting to the vet to see what he thinks though. You also mentioned colostrum in something else I read. I wonder if it might help them too, since the colostrum is the part of the mother's milk that contains her antibodies that will be passed to the kittens to protect them. You might ask the vet if that would be worth trying to get. I wish you and Laura and all the kitties good health and you will all be in my prayers!

Jun 24, 2011
Sudden Kitten Death
by: Carocats

Elisa, so sorry you're losing kittens, but kittens from different sources need to be isolated from each other in separate rooms or in cages several feet apart. I know you don't like cages, but it could make difference between life and death.

Every kitten with no mama to test must be treated as if it could have leuk or FIV - another reason not to mix. Leuk would be main concern - more likely contagious to small kittens without an immune system. Testing under 12 weeks is not reliable - leuk can take up to 60 days after exposure to show up in blood so if exposed by mother or another positive cat they may not yet be showing positive. If you mix, a positive kitty may spread disease to healthy one. Also, are all your other kitties twice tested for leuk/FIV? If not tested twice with at least 60 days between tests you mau have one that has something, especially if they were only tested as young kittens. We always isolate newcomers and test and retest, or wait out the 60 days and then test before introducing them to our other cats.

Kittens lose protection they have from mother's milk once weaned and do not fully develop their own immune system until about 5 months old. Meanwhile they are very vulnerable to viruses and bacterial infections, which you can carry from kitten to kitten on your clothing, shoes and hands, not to mention the various intestinal and blood parasites.

You can't absolutely rule out FIP. No test can determine definitively whether or not a cat has FIP - it can only be diagnosed upon necropsy. However, FIP only rarely strikes more than one cat at a time, is not generally believed to be contagious, and the symptoms don't really sound like FIP. Best way to prevent FIP is wean kittens by 6 weeks and separate from mother and other cats while they don't have good immune systems and are vulnerable. We've done this p
for years and never had an FIP kitty, have lost only about half a dozen kittens, mostly under 4 weeks bottle-feds who came to us beyond help, and in past several years have lost none. Isolation really, really helps keep tiny, vulnerable kittens healthy. For further info see, Dr. Addie is world authority on FIP.

When you get new kittens vaccinate immediately for upper resp and distemper. We use Heska intranasal vaccine - easy to administer (nose drops), gives immediate protection (injectables take up to 10 days and may cause injection-site fibrosarcoma).

Fleas can cause bartonella/anemia; coccidea can cause anemia, but my guess is your kittens had upper resp. that caused pneumonia, which can get them very fast. There is a combination of antibiotics some breeders use successfully - I can look it up as I can't recall it right now, but I think it it is antirobe plus amoxy.

Hope you can get the kittens well soon and that this is is helpful to prevent problems in the future.

Jun 24, 2011
Sudden Kitten Deaths
by: Paw-Paw John

I have experienced this with my own cats, not just the kits but with immune compromised adults as well.

I'm no vet, but what I think what you are experiencing is a reaction wherein the kittens immune systems are too immature or are compromised in some way to effectively fight against the infections they have caught. If a kitten or cat also gets a particularly strong strain of URI, you will see this kind of thing happen in healthy kits and cats as well.

In such cases, the infections progress quickly and overpower whatever immune response the cat can mount, which is not much to begin with. Once, I pulled two cats out a trailer where the AC had failed. These cats had been isolated from other cats and people. When they came to my home, they were exposed to all the germs that no longer affected my cats. One cat caught a URI and died despite all our efforts. The other got the infection in her eye and the eye had to be removed.

What we figured was that the cat's immune systems had become compromised because they were never before exposed to the various cat germs and therefore could not mount a response. Another one of my adult cats had a fragile immune system. She was always fighting something and finally died when she caught a URI that her body could not fight.

I should tell you that antibiotics are not very effective in situations like this. They are worth a try, but in most cases they only seem to buy us time. Only through an autopsy could you confirm an immune system problem in most cases, and even then this does not always yield a certain result.

As sad as this is, what you hope for is that this is a result of a normal strain of URI overcoming a cat with a compromised immune system. Other wise, you have an aggressive strain that can infect your other cats. I suggest that until you know for sure, keep your other cats away from the kits. Thoroughly clean all surface areas and spray air sanitizers. You may also want to start any cat with signs of illnesses on antibiotics.

I am so sorry this is happening. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

Jun 24, 2011
Here's a possible medical intervention
by: Kathy Novelli

Chloramphenicol for Dogs, Cats and Horses

Elisa, first of all, I'm so very very sorry for what you're going through. It seems that this horrible uppern respiratory/infection is cycling among kittens all over the place. We've rescued several kittens who all exhibited the same type of and furious. Our Veterinarian prescribed a very exotic medication (above)...look it up and share w/your vet. You must be very careful w/this because it effects the bone marrow of we humans (not cats) and so, wash immediately after dispensing it....but, first...see what your Veterinarian(s) saved our kitties who did not respond to Amoxi, Clavamox, Exenol or Baytril...good luck and, again, I am so sorry for these babies and for you, their loving mom.

Jun 24, 2011
Kitten Death
by: Anna, Foster Mama

This has me a bit rattled as all of my fosters are from the same shelter. I have managed to finally get all of my "big" kittens healthy. I picked up 3 new ones last Saturday and they all appeared healthy. I call them the Lil Bits. The smallest of the 3 died Thursday morning (6-23), with no apparent symptoms. The other 2 have been perfectly spunky. I even wondered if mine was neurological, but he was gasping like Elisa described. I'm keeping a close eye on everybody and keeping the Lil Bits quarantined just in case.

Jun 24, 2011
Sudden kitten death
by: Paula Amos

Yes i have had this to happen to me!!! I know there is something called fadeing puppy syndrome!!one day they are fine the next they are gone!! but i know the kittens found happines with youif only for a short time!!

Jun 24, 2011
FIP ruled out
by: Elisa

Thank GOD! He believes its a respiratory bacterial infection. It's just got us really rattled. It's just progressing so fast. I didn't know if anyone else out there had dealt with anything like this. I've been told to add some homeopathic remedies to the antibiotic treatment. Hopefully the readers can offer some tips.

Jun 24, 2011
Immediate thought
by: Michael

Sorry to hear this. I am just a layperson as you know and this is a guess but did the vet mention FIP - Feline Infectious Peritonitis? If so and if he/she has said that it is not FIP then ignore this. Please leave a comment to tell me.

It sounds like it to me. This is a disease that is contagious and so will affect cats in close confinement spreading between them.

Incubation: 2-3 weeks. Most cats show no signs of infection but signs are mild respiratory infection: runny nose.

Less than one percent of exposed cats develop the fatal disease called FIP, the secondary disease. It is a common disease.

It most often affect kittens and young cats and older cats.

There is a higher rate of infection in catteries and such places.

The secondary disease is always fatal and cannot be treated to save life - treatment just makes the cat more comfortable. In the wet form fluid builds up in the chest that causes labored breathing. Other signs are dehydration, anemia, vomiting and diarrhea.

If it was FIP get advice from vet because it may spread within your home. New cats entering your home should or could be tested for FIP and isolated for two weeks (vet advice needed).

"FIP presents its greatest hazard in multicat families, shelters...." etc. (Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook).

If it is FIP it may be that the mother had FIP and passed it to her kittens (I have forgotten if these kittens are related). Kittens who receive FIP from mother die quickly and can experience sudden difficulty breathing and die within hours.

I would check this out and other contagious diseases, Elisa.

Best of luck. I'll work on this a bit more as this is just my initial thought.

Read more: Feline FIP


1 thought on “HELP! Sudden Kitten Death!”

  1. It’s one of 2 sickness #1 contaminated water it takes expecially kittens..3 inch long horsehair worms or meds don’t work. Thay sergery to get out or contagious anemia..vets miss dionose it as FIV +


Leave a Comment

follow it link and logo