Any ideas what's wrong with my feral kittens?

My vet isn’t sure what’s happening so I thought I’d ask if anyone has any experience with this.

I’ve been raising a litter of feral kittens for re-release (once they’re fixed) and a few days ago one of them seemed to quickly get ill. She couldn’t keep food down, walked stiffly, stopped eating and had a very high temperature.

The vet suspected an infection and hospitalized her. She’s been at the vet’s for two days now and seems to be fine when her temp is down but they’re having problems keeping it down.

This morning another kitten started showing the same symptoms. :frowning:

If they aren’t going to get better, I’d rather euthanize than extend the suffering. Obviously I want to give them a chance if it’s possible but I also have to realize that they are ferals and I can’t afford to spend crazy amounts of money on them. I also worry about my own cats and their health.

So, any feedback?

If they are under a vet’s care then you are doing all you can. Sometimes we just can’t come up with a diagnosis because there are so many possibilities and not enough tests to check for all of them. There’s parasites, viral diseases and even bacterial. I’ve never seen tetanus in cats, but it’s not impossible. That’s probably reaching though and it’s more likely viral. There’s not a whole lot that can be done except treat supportively and hope they get over it and that it’s not one of the fatal viruses but if they are not responding you may need to consider euthanasia to end their suffering before too long, especially if the high fever leads to seizures.
As for your own cats, have they been in direct contact with the kittens and are they vaccinated?

Pardon the hijack, but I’ve never heard of re-releasing feral cats into the wild. Having them fixed certainly eliminates many of the issues, but what is the purpose of this?

That sounds like it’s possibly toxoplasmosis, although it could be any number of other things. There are a couple of other kitten diseases that cause neurological problems that cause the kittens to not be able to walk correctly but I can’t remember them off the top of my head. You might ask the vet as they don’t always think to consider toxo.

Just in case, be sure to clean the litter box at least once a day. Toxoplasmosis is harbored in feces but takes 24 hours to become infectious. If you make sure to scoop the box every day, you can cut way down on the possibility of toxo infecting anyone, people included. (People come into contact with toxo all the time and usually are not affected by it, but those with weakened or compromised immune systems - kittens, sick people, sick adult cats, children, the elderly, pregnant women) are much more easily infected than healthy adults.

I had to PTS a kitten last year after she got toxo. The poor baby - she was perfectly fine and within a couple of days she was near death.

Tiramisu - The kittens have escaped a few times and come in direct contact with my adult cats but mine are fully vaccinated. I am keeping a very close eye on them just to be on the safe side.

Telemark - Basically it’s letting the cats live out their life in a colony (with a caretaker) without breeding like rabbits. The colony will shrink over time as the cats age. They also tend to get friendlier over time and chance being adopted.

There’s a study here if you’re interested. (Warning, it’s a PDF.) The local group is also making their own study of a colony at a local fairgrounds.

missbunny - Sorry to hear about your girl. :frowning: I do clean the box every morning and plan on completely sanitizing the room today.

Thanks for the responses. The vet informed me that the kitten I have there is eating like crazy today so that’s a good sign. I will be bringing the rest of the litter in for evaluation this afternoon.

That is what is known as “Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Release.” It is a system whereby feral cats are trapped, neutered, etc. The purpose is to stabilize the feral population by making it impossible for them to breed.

There are arguments for and against TNVR. I have been doing it for many years but I am only in favor of it when the colony is permanently managed: that means there is a regular food source, shelter, and at least visual monitoring to see who is injured or sick.

Some people who do TNVR are, in my opinion, doing it because they cannot bear to put an unowned wild animal to sleep and misguidedly think it’s better off living out there on it’s own. Well, it’s not. However, if a colony is managed then I am usually in favor of it. But it really depends on the area, the cats, and how dedicated the managing group is now and in the future. Most ferals cats are not adoptable so trapping them and adopting them to loving homes is usually not possible.

The other option is to trap them all and kill them. But that never works because it’s virtually impossible to trap ALL of them. And it only takes two to start the whole colony up again.

With kittens though, that have been socialized and are good with humans, it does seem odd to release kittens rather than try to get them into a foster-and-adopt program.

Feral adults are much more of a crapshoot, since they are extremely hard to tame (though my skinny cat and her sister are exceptions having been successfully won over by humans and now live as the ultimate indoor-only pets). But kittens who have had human contact very early on are usually well-suited to adoption programs.

I agree wholeheartedly! However the group I’m working with and the other rescues are not accepting any kittens at this time as they are full to capacity. The kittens I have now would easily be wonderful pets…if anyone wanted them.

Sadly there is a huge overpopulation of cats here and they are completely disposable animals to most of the people I’ve come in contact with. (“Why would you want to help them? Just shoot them.”) I know that what I’m doing is barely a drop in the ocean but at least I’m doing something other than hope the coyotes and cars take care the problem.

I did have a rescuer say that she’d take my kittens as long as they were socialized but she backed out a month after she told me that.

Eats_Crayons, you’ve got a point - I hadn’t realized that part of it.

Gulo, depending on the kittens and how they socialize, lots of shelters will take them for adoption. Not sure if you’ve looked into that but if not, you might want to investigate.

Just one more try hoping that a vet or tech may see this and have an idea or suggestion.

My vet still can’t find out what’s wrong with them and I lost one of them on Friday. :frowning:

Gulo, I’m so sorry about the kitten. I hope the vet can figure out what’s wrong. Have they had their full series of shots? Feline Infections Enteritis aka Feline Panleukopenia aka “distemper” can also cause difficulty in walking. It’s highly infectious and almost always fatal, although I would hope that the vet thought of this one right off. But you never know: as I’ve often said, every vet school had someone who graduated last in the class.

You’re not in New England by any chance, are you? (I wasn’t sure if Cascadia was a real place or not.)

The vet’s sure it’s not distemper.

I should share some good news. The first kitten I hospitalized is back at home and seems to be doing fine. I’m trying to fatten her up and she’s slowly eating more (though I’ve yet to see her drink any water). She is running around and whining constantly for cuddles.

I think her high fever may have affected her brain in some way. She has head tremors when she’s trying to concentrate on an object or noise. This could go away when she’s better for all I know.

She was the only kitten that a rescue would take due to her cute calico-ness but I doubt they’d take her now. I’m being honest with them about what’s happening and will wait and observe her healing a couple of weeks before asking them if they’ll still take her.

Her three surviving siblings aren’t doing too well. I just dropped off another kitten (from an older litter that was about to be fixed and vaccinated) and I got to visit them. I’ve given the vet permission to euthanize if they sink too far. One of them seems to be ok but she’s still not eating.

I’m trying to be optimistic. The vet is doing her best and her and her staff are very supportive. They are glad that I’m doing something about the local cat problem.

(PS I’m in Washington state.)

Glad to hear about the first kitten. Hopefully the others will recover but if not, they are better off being put down.

Unfortunately I don’t have any cat resources in your area. It seems a shame though to release kittens who are socialized. Plus, now that they’ve been inside, they most likely never learned to hunt – I hope they will go to a managed colony. The recovering one, though . . . well, she’s probably not going to make it if you release her if she has neurological problems. You might try the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, UT – perhaps if you write a sad-enough letter they might find room for her. They’ve got a special area for cats with physical problems.

P.S. That disease is called Feline Infectious Enteritis – not “infections” enteritis, for anyone who might want to look it up and then think I’m an idiot who doesn’t know what she’s talking about! :wink:

Don’t worry! I wasn’t just going to dump them in the cow field, say “See ya, critters!” and leave them to their own devices. All the cats I’ve done are now considered a private colony and I’m the caretaker. I feed them and try to medicate them when I can and will also be building a couple of shelters for the winter.

So far I haven’t found any other side effects other than the tremors. She seems be doing everything properly that she should be doing, especially in the cat box. If the tremor is her only setback, the rescue still may take her.

Thanks for the Enteritis suggestion. I’ll ask the vet about it when I talk to her today. The symptoms sound close to what’s happening.

Mmm, could be FIP. It shows as some damn funny symptoms sometimes, and what you’re describing sounds remarkably like a kitten I worked with a few years ago. Unfortunately, poor little Sybil didn’t make it. She seemed better but not well for a week or so, then she just went down like a shot. We’re not sure that’s what she had, but that was my boss’s best guess.