By Amanda Maurer Woodhead
As I read a kitten’s profile on Petfinder.com a few years ago, I was enchanted. His photo was adorable, and he was described as a sweet boy who loved to play with the plastic strips that come off of frozen orange juice containers. He sounded perfect. And as I read on, I realized that he was even more special than I could have imagined.
The kitten had a condition called cerbellar hypoplasia that made him unsteady when he walked. In fact, the shelter said that he moved around like a “drunken sailor.” At that moment, I knew he was the one. If I was going to adopt and love any kitten, it was going to be one who needed love the most.
Since then, my cat’s condition has inspired me to become an advocate for these special “wobbly cats.” I began a blog about CH in 2009, and thanks to the many people I’ve met through the blog, my husband and I adopted a second CH cat in 2011. It’s my goal to educate folks about cerebellar hypoplasia so they don’t feel uneasy about these cats, and so that they understand that the only things these cats need are a few simple accommodations and lots of love. Unfortunately, it’s a rather unknown condition that leads to many euthanizations each year, simply because it’s not well known or understood.
Cerebellar hypoplasia occurs when a cat is born with an underdeveloped cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls fine motor skills and coordination. It results in jerky or wobbly movements and tremors. The degree of the condition can vary greatly from cat to cat -- even those in the same litter. Some may hardly show any signs of the condition, while others may have a difficult time walking, if they can walk at all.
Fortunately, the condition is non-progressive, non-contagious and painless. There aren’t any health complications, and a cat with CH will live as long as any other cat. Nearly all CH cats learn to compensate with their limitations and challenges, and some owners even claim that their cat's CH has lessened in severity over time
One of the best things about CH cats is that most don’t seem to know that they’re any different from other cats. Consequently, it is natural to them to figure out how to overcome their limitations. For example, most CH cats can’t jump, so instead they become incredible climbers.
But they’re not alone in overcoming their challenges. There are many simple things CH cat parents can do to help their cat become more capable and independent. For example, some owners place area rugs in strategic spots so their cat has more traction and stability. Others place step-stools or pet stairs next to their beds so the cat can get up there easily.
There isn’t a treatment for this condition, but if you ask any CH cat parent, they’ll say that there doesn’t need to be one. They’ll claim their CH cat is one of the sweetest, most personable cats you’ve ever met. And if you don’t believe it, you can read some of their stories here.
If you’re interested in adopting a cerebellar hypoplasia cat, or would like to learn more, please visit my blog, Life with CH Cats