Can A Mother Cat’s Milk Kill a Kitten?


A percentage of kittens are born with a different blood type than their mother and because of that may be doomed to die when they take their first meal of mother's milk.

Feline blood types are important for nursing because kittens can develop neonatal isoerythrolysis (NI) if they nurse from a queen with a different blood type.

NI occurs when a kitten that is type A or AB nurses from a type B queen during the first day of life.

The kitten receives anti-A antibodies from the queen's colostrum, which bind to and destroy the kitten's red blood cells.

In cats, the presence of naturally occurring alloantibodies in type A and in type B cats requires that blood typing must be performed prior to blood transfusion to avoid an acute haemolytic transfusion reaction, and in breedings to prevent neonatal isoerythrolysis. Blood can be taken directly from the umbilical cord for the blood typing test.

Orphan kittens older than one day who are accepted by a nursing mother cat may also have a different blood type than the mother and their symptoms may vary.

Given the nature of the NI phenomenon, it is possible that cases of Failure to Thrive and possibly even some cases designated as Fading Kitten Syndrome could be driven by blood type mismatch between nursing mom and kitten. However, it is very rare to find NI listed as a possible cause in articles about Fading Kitten Syndrome.

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