Why did my 10-week-old kitten die?

Our question this week was:

I recently bought a 10-week-old ragdoll kitten and she died within a few days. She became extremely lethargic, refused to eat or drink and just sat quietly alone. There were no other symptoms whatsoever except that she started to smell really foul like a rotting corpse and subsequently died. All within one week. What could have caused this?


Dana M.


Hi – thanks for your email. I’m very sorry to hear about your kitten. You wrote that you recently bought a 10-week-old kitten that suddenly became lethargic and refused to eat and then died. Your questions is “what could have caused this?”

This is a difficult question. Kittens can get viruses, bacterial infections, can be born with problems, and can often suffer from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If they don’t eat – their blood sugar will drop which can make them progressively more lethargic.

Kittens that do not survive beyond 12 weeks of age are sometimes diagnosed with what they call “fading kitten syndrome”. These kittens can slowly deteriorate, stop nursing, and grow profoundly weak and thin. The exact cause of the fading kitten is usually not determined. If more than 20 percent of the litter is affected, submitting a recently expired kitten for post mortem examination to determine the cause of death may be helpful in preventing additional kitten losses.

I’d recommend that you talk to the breeder, see if other kittens are affected, have your veterinarian possibly do an autopsy (necropsy) to help determine the underlying cause if you want an answer.

A couple articles that might be helpful to you are Fading Kitten Syndrome and Hypoglycemia in Cats

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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