Eye discharge. It is normal for kittens to have some discharge from their eyes when they wake up. But if a kitten has yellow or green discharge or swelling around the eyes (making it hard for him to open his eyes), or the third eyelid is showing, you need to contact the Vetting Department to schedule a vet appointment.
Loss of appetite. Your foster kittens may be stressed after arriving in your home, and
stress can cause lack of appetite. Unwillingness to eat in kittens can be very serious, so pay close attention to whether the kittens are eating. Kittens should eat on a four- to eight-hour schedule, depending on their age. If a kitten under four weeks old misses two meals or a kitten over four weeks of age goes more than 12 hours without eating, your Coordinator and the Vetting Department should be made aware. With a kitten who is not eating, please do not change the kitten’s diet. An abrupt change in diet can cause
diarrhea, which will lead to dehydration.
Dehydration. Dehydration is usually associated with diarrhea, vomiting and/or loss of appetite. To test for dehydration, gently pinch the kitten’s skin around the scruff area. If the skin stays taut, the kitten is dehydrated. Please contact the Vetting Department immediately so we can direct you to urgent/emergency care, as dehydration can be fatal in kittens.
Diarrhea. In kittens, it can be tricky to determine if diarrhea is a problem. Soft stool diarrhea, most likely caused by stress, is normal for the first two days after you take kittens home. Kittens who are nursing tend to have loose stool, but if it is watery or very large in volume, that’s a concern. By the time kittens are five weeks old and are eating consistently on their own, they should have firm, normal stool. If your foster kittens have liquid stool, please contact us so that a vet appointment can be scheduled; the kittens may need medication. Once your kittens are using a litter box, please monitor the box daily. Remember that diarrhea will dehydrate your kittens, so be proactive about contacting us if you notice any diarrhea. If a kitten has bloody or mucousy diarrhea, this should be considered urgent.
Hair loss. It is normal for cats to have thin fur around the lips, eyelids and in front of the ears, but clumpy patches of hair loss or thinning hair can indicate ringworm or
dermatitis. It is important to check your foster kittens’ coats every day.
Vomiting. If a foster kitten has thrown up two or more times in one day, please notify
the the Vetting Department. If there is bile or blood in the vomit, please call right away
Sneezing and nasal discharge. Occasional sneezing is common in kittens. If the sneezing becomes more frequent, examine the discharge coming from the sneeze. If the discharge is clear, the infection is probably viral, and medication may not be necessary. But it is important to monitor the kittens in case the problem becomes worse. If the discharge becomes colored, contact the Vetting Department to schedule a vet appointment because the kittens may have a bacterial infection. Be sure to monitor the kittens’ breathing. If they start to breathe with an open mouth or wheeze, call your Coordinator immediately so we can assess, with the Vetting Department, if it is an emergency. Also, once you notice nasal discharge, monitor the kittens’ eating habits more closely to ensure that they are still eating. And of course, continue to weigh them daily.
Lethargy. The activity level of your kittens will vary with each kitten in your litter and
with age. Sick kittens may have lower energy levels and just want to sit in your lap or on the floor and not move much or play. If you notice a drop in your foster kittens’ energy level, please contact the Vetting Department to make a medical appointment. If a kitten cannot be roused or seems weak and unable to stand, this is an emergency. Note: Some undersocialized kittens will move less because they are frightened. If you have a fearful group of kittens, it can be more difficult to determine if their energy levels are low. But tracking all behaviors in your journal will help you decide whether you should contact
your Coordinator and/or Vetting Department to schedule a vet appointment.
Pain or strain while urinating. When kittens first go into a foster home, they may not urinate due to stress. If a kitten hasn’t urinated in more than 24 hours, however, please make your Coordinator aware. Also, if you notice the kitten straining to urinate with little or no results, or crying out when urinating, the Vetting Department should be made aware immediately because it may be indicative of an infection or a urethral obstruction, which can be life-threatening.
Frequent ear scratching. A foster kitten may have ear mites if she scratches her ears
often and/or shakes her head frequently, or if you see a dark discharge that resembles
coffee grounds when you look in her ears. We can provide preliminary treatment for
mites, so please make the Vetting Department aware so the necessary medication can be provided.