Deadly Viruses in Kittens

Kittens are more susceptible to several life-threatening viruses than adult cats are.
i Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Viruses are among the types of infectious diseases that young kittens are especially prone to contracting. Until a kitten is old enough to vaccinated, it should remain with its mother, whose milk provides a base level of protection against disease. Following a strict vaccination schedule will help prevent your kitten from catching a deadly virus.

Feline Distemper

Nearly all cats are exposed to feline distemper in their natural surroundings, yet few pet owners have to deal with the devastating effects of this parvovirus due to effective vaccines. However, unvaccinated kittens in shelters, catteries or other overcrowded situations are more likely to contract this disease. Infected kittens will have fever, vomiting and diarrhea; blood testing will show almost no white blood cells. The disease is fatal.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP, is a potentially deadly disease that manifests in a wet or dry form. The wet form is more common and is characterized by fluid in the chest that causes distention and respiratory distress. The dry form develops slowly; it causes weight loss and anemia. Veterinarians have differing opinions on the safety and effectiveness of the FIP vaccine. If you are worried that your cat may be exposed to FIP, discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccine with your veterinarian.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

In the United States, nearly 3 percent of cats have feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV. The disease is spread when an uninfected feline is bitten by a cat who carries the virus. Healthy kittens who are kept away from cats with unknown health histories are unlikely to contract FIV. The disease attacks the lymph nodes and causes diarrhea, eye conditions, swelling of the gums, weight loss and seizures. The disease is fatal, but you can extend an infected cat's lifespan through proper medications and care.

Feline Leukemia Virus

Feline leukemia virus, or FeLV, is one of the most common causes of death in cats and kittens. Kittens diagnosed with FeLV are more susceptible to cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, and secondary bacterial infections and viruses. There are no symptoms, as the virus itself does not make the cat ill. For a feline-leukemia-infected cat, the secondary conditions the virus invites are usually the cause of death.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

the nest