Mystery Illness in My Kittens

Caroline Stephens

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I can’t just believe it’s all coincidence anymore… I’m convinced there’s some mystery illness within my cats.

I am new to breeding bengals (and cats in general), and thought maybe someone here with more experience might lead me to some answers.

My first litter was two stillborn and undersized kittens, despite being full term.

Her second litter consisted of three live and one stillborn, with one of the live kittens being super tiny - 60-some grams. She turned out fine but another of the three developed an illness around 8 weeks of age. Super suddenly, she wouldn’t eat or drink, she developed diarrhea, and lost weight. Thankfully, she returned to normal with supportive care.

The next litter from this female was 4 healthy yet small male kittens. There were no big health problems but again - diarrhea between 6 and 8 weeks of age.

Now, I’ve recently had a litter from another female. 4 kittens total. One was stillborn, 47 grams. Another born at 55 grams. The other two around 70-ish grams. The 55 gram kitten was flat-chested, stopped growing, and eventually developed pneumonia and passed.

Fast forward to now, the two remaining kittens are 7 weeks. One suddenly got ill yesterday. Lost weight, dehydrated, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy. Exactly like the other kitten I wrote about. He is currently hospitalized for fluids and treatment.

My adult cats - three bengals - are perfectly healthy. No symptoms whatsoever. Still, my kittens are always born small and always get ill around 6-8 weeks of age, some more severely than others.

Parasites are and always have been negative. Treated for them anyway, no success. Panluekopenia negative. Coccidia negative on every test. No fevers.

I am putting a pause on breeding until I can get to the bottom of this. I cannot keep producing kittens while this is an ongoing, unsolved problem.

Is this all some terrible coincidence, or is there something more to it? If any of you have any answers or even ideas, please please let me know.
 

StefanZ

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I would guess on some parasite or bacteria... The tests arent always fully reliable...

Trichomonas perhaps? In this moment I dont remember how they work, but I know they are tricky... And the bearer is long periods without symptoms, perhaps just an occasional diarrhea.
Altough identyfieing them isnt no big help; it takes a horse cure to get rid of trichomonas, and it seems the fertility becomes lower.
 

Zara12345

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I can’t just believe it’s all coincidence anymore… I’m convinced there’s some mystery illness within my cats.

I am new to breeding bengals (and cats in general), and thought maybe someone here with more experience might lead me to some answers.

My first litter was two stillborn and undersized kittens, despite being full term.

Her second litter consisted of three live and one stillborn, with one of the live kittens being super tiny - 60-some grams. She turned out fine but another of the three developed an illness around 8 weeks of age. Super suddenly, she wouldn’t eat or drink, she developed diarrhea, and lost weight. Thankfully, she returned to normal with supportive care.

The next litter from this female was 4 healthy yet small male kittens. There were no big health problems but again - diarrhea between 6 and 8 weeks of age.

Now, I’ve recently had a litter from another female. 4 kittens total. One was stillborn, 47 grams. Another born at 55 grams. The other two around 70-ish grams. The 55 gram kitten was flat-chested, stopped growing, and eventually developed pneumonia and passed.

Fast forward to now, the two remaining kittens are 7 weeks. One suddenly got ill yesterday. Lost weight, dehydrated, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy. Exactly like the other kitten I wrote about. He is currently hospitalized for fluids and treatment.

My adult cats - three bengals - are perfectly healthy. No symptoms whatsoever. Still, my kittens are always born small and always get ill around 6-8 weeks of age, some more severely than others.

Parasites are and always have been negative. Treated for them anyway, no success. Panluekopenia negative. Coccidia negative on every test. No fevers.

I am putting a pause on breeding until I can get to the bottom of this. I cannot keep producing kittens while this is an ongoing, unsolved problem.

Is this all some terrible coincidence, or is there something more to it? If any of you have any answers or even ideas, please please let me know.
I once came across something like this when I was once in contact with a breeder who stopped breeding because of a similar problem. Her breeder cats overall were healthy but the kittens that were born would either be very small, sickly and not make it past several weeks after birth or they would just drop dead at birth. She eventually found out that it was because of inbreeding.

Yes, inbreeding(!!!) that did not even show up in the pedigree papers! As you may know most pedigrees only show 4 to 5 generations in the papers but this inbreeding was a result of a network of breeders sharing breeder lines WITHOUT adding new bloodlines to the gene pool so no pedigree could actually catch this to document it in the papers (coz generations would pass before breeders would swap/ trade breeder cats). Not even sure the breeders themselves realised how bad this was but the result was very small and sickly kittens with weak immune systems and bad health.

So my advise to you would be to check your pedigrees. You may have to go WAYYY back and contact several breeders to see the pedigrees of their cats as well. I really hope you get to the bottom of this. I understand how frustrating it can be to have a "mystery" illness in your cats and just not knowing what you're doing wrong or how to solve it.

Pls keep us updated!
 
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Caroline Stephens

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I once came across something like this when I was once in contact with a breeder who stopped breeding because of a similar problem. Her breeder cats overall were healthy but the kittens that were born would either be very small, sickly and not make it past several weeks after birth or they would just drop dead at birth. She eventually found out that it was because of inbreeding.

Yes, inbreeding(!!!) that did not even show up in the pedigree papers! As you may know most pedigrees only show 4 to 5 generations in the papers but this inbreeding was a result of a network of breeders sharing breeder lines WITHOUT adding new bloodlines to the gene pool so no pedigree could actually catch this to document it in the papers (coz generations would pass before breeders would swap/ trade breeder cats). Not even sure the breeders themselves realised how bad this was but the result was very small and sickly kittens with weak immune systems and bad health.

So my advise to you would be to check your pedigrees. You may have to go WAYYY back and contact several breeders to see the pedigrees of their cats as well. I really hope you get to the bottom of this. I understand how frustrating it can be to have a "mystery" illness in your cats and just not knowing what you're doing wrong or how to solve it.

Pls keep us updated!
Thank you for this information - I probably would never have thought of that and I really feel like this could be the problem. Now that I think about it, the same few catteries appear a lot on my cats’ 5 generation pedigrees. No obvious inbreeding but like you said, it might not be so obvious just from a glance at the pedigree.

I had my younger female genetically tested very recently, using the optimal selection Feline test. It showed lower-than-average genetic diversity within the bengal breed. Not extremely low but if the sire also has low genetic diversity, this is linked to smaller birth weights and small litter sizes.

I’ve done more thinking and planning this week than I’ve ever done before, regarding my cattery. I came to the decision to breed my younger female to another male - one testing with normal or high genetic diversity - next time. If that litter is normal - healthy birth sizes and good health - I think I will feel I’ve solved this mystery.

It will be a few months but I will be back with an update.
 

Zara12345

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Thank you for this information - I probably would never have thought of that and I really feel like this could be the problem. Now that I think about it, the same few catteries appear a lot on my cats’ 5 generation pedigrees. No obvious inbreeding but like you said, it might not be so obvious just from a glance at the pedigree.

I had my younger female genetically tested very recently, using the optimal selection Feline test. It showed lower-than-average genetic diversity within the bengal breed. Not extremely low but if the sire also has low genetic diversity, this is linked to smaller birth weights and small litter sizes.

I’ve done more thinking and planning this week than I’ve ever done before, regarding my cattery. I came to the decision to breed my younger female to another male - one testing with normal or high genetic diversity - next time. If that litter is normal - healthy birth sizes and good health - I think I will feel I’ve solved this mystery.

It will be a few months but I will be back with an update.
All the best to you. There's just so much to breeding that most breeders only learn through experience. That or an excellent mentor who really cares and is willing to show you and teach you the ways of breeding. Hoping you have better success with your next litter! 🤗
 

StefanZ

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Yes, Im sure inbreeding can often be a problem... Using perhaps a matador; ie a popular stud, too often in too many females... Or at very best, his bro... Which shows a different cat in the pedigree, but its still almost the same genetical individual....
Using the same stud to the same female in several litters is another variation. It may produce excellent pet cats, even some show quality cats; but these are horrible breeding stock; there are lotsa of "genetical copies"...

Nay, one of the tricks of the trade, is to dare to use lesser known studs, whom arent used much... They must be healthy, decent looking, and of reasonable lineage, but they themselves dont need to be of top show quality... So it needs some fingertop feeling, and to be brave... A good mentor does of course help much in such.
 

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I seem to recall that your breed was the first to be diagnosed with tritrichamoas and seem to have a tendency for it. Regular parasite tests will not diagnose it, it needs a special PCR test.
It sounds to me that your problem is multiple fold. I would study extended pedigrees going back many generations as well as having the tritrichamoas test done. I would also suggest typing your cats blood to avoid incompatibilities there, although usually happen much younger than your kittens. One other thing to consider is a possible strep g infection.
 
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Caroline Stephens

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I seem to recall that your breed was the first to be diagnosed with tritrichamoas and seem to have a tendency for it. Regular parasite tests will not diagnose it, it needs a special PCR test.
It sounds to me that your problem is multiple fold. I would study extended pedigrees going back many generations as well as having the tritrichamoas test done. I would also suggest typing your cats blood to avoid incompatibilities there, although usually happen much younger than your kittens. One other thing to consider is a possible strep g infection.
I had the fecal PCR a test on the sick kitten recently. Negative for tritrichomonas, as well as all parasites. I may other cats tested as a precaution but I don’t think this is the problem.

They’ve been blood typed - no incompatibilities.

I think you’re on to something maybe, with looking through the pedigrees.

I am wondering if low genetic diversity might be a factor in the small birth sizes. Also I have wondered about the strep g, but neither of my veterinarians seems to have heard of it.
 

posiepurrs

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That is good about the fecal test. It isn’t surprising your vets haven’t heard of strep g. I asked mine about it when I first started out because we kept losing litters and they had no idea. I was talking to a very experienced breeder afterwards and she mentioned strep g and how it was treated. I treated my girl and stud resulting in a beautiful, successful litter.
 

Zara12345

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I had the fecal PCR a test on the sick kitten recently. Negative for tritrichomonas, as well as all parasites. I may other cats tested as a precaution but I don’t think this is the problem.

They’ve been blood typed - no incompatibilities.

I think you’re on to something maybe, with looking through the pedigrees.

I am wondering if low genetic diversity might be a factor in the small birth sizes. Also I have wondered about the strep g, but neither of my veterinarians seems to have heard of it.
Oh yes, do take your time. I am not a breeder (yet) but I can imagine how tough it is to lose litters especially when breeding queens should not be bred too often. Have you spoken to the breeders that you got your cats from? See if your breeding girls mothers have had any similar problems in their litters in the past? I am don't know much about bengals as my interest is in maine coons but from the numerous breeders that I am in touch with, the ones who KNOW their lines often have an accurate idea of just how well their "graduates" will do in breeding programs. Also wise to rule out the other diseases and infections too.
 

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agree with the pedigree issues. where are you getting your breeding cats from? Probably my first lesson in breeding was reputable breeders that COULD BE VERIFIED!!
 
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