A new policy of euthanizing (in this instance better described as killing) newborn kittens that weigh less than 100 grams has been implemented at Greenville County Care Services (GCACS). This page analyses the policy to see if it is accurate and decent.
I presume we are talking about newborn kittens who happen to be born while their mother is at the Greenville shelter.
The reason for this new policy is because the shelter’s veterinary surgeon decided that kittens with a birth weight of less than 100 gram will probably not survive because it is not…”a normal, healthy birth weight.”
The question that springs to mind immediately is whether they are correct in their assertion about newborn kitten birth weights.
I’ll quote a good book1 on the subject:
A healthy kitten weighs about 3 to 4 ounces at birth (110 to 125 g)…
In an interesting study, the summary of which which is published online at ncbi.com (PubMed) records the birth weight and postnatal growth of purebred kittens. Purebred kittens are exactly the same as random road kittens in general in terms, although there is a great variety of weights and purebred cats.
The results were as follows:
Maine Coon 115 grams, Norwegian Forest Cat 106 grams, Birman 97 grams, Siamese 92 grams. Persian 82 grams.
ASPCA says that:
“an average birth weight for kittens is about 3 1/2 depending on breed and litter size”. 3.5 ounces is 99.22 grams.
I won’t quote any more weights from websites because they can to copy each other. Another well-respected book, The Cat, Its Behaviour, Nutrition and Health, states as follows:
At birth, kittens weigh between 100 and 110 grams (3.5 to 4 ounces).
The Kitten Rescue website states that:
A full-term newborn kitten weighs 3.3-3.7 ounces (91-105 grams).
Conclusion On Newborn Kitten Weight
The policy of the Greenville shelter is simply inaccurate and also far too strict as can be seen from my research. A newborn kitten that weighs 100 grams might be said to be slightly underweight by some people but not much, if at all. I would have thought that it was certainly within reasonable limits in terms of prospects for survival.
As for kitten survival, a well-respected book states that:
Kittens with a birth weight of 3 ounces (90 g) or less have a higher risk of early death.
Once again this supports my conclusion that the Greenville policy is incorrect because the cut-off point is 90 g not 100 g. Even then were talking about a higher risk of early death. Risk does not always translate to actual fact.
Without wishing to be overcritical, it appears that the Greenville policy with respect to the weight of kittens is biased towards euthanasia or reducing the burden on the shelter of caring for newborn kittens.
If I’m correct, it would not be a surprise because Elisa Black-Taylor describes GCACS as a high kill shelter.
Note: 1. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.