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Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats
I first became aware of cerebellar hypoplasia about two years ago, when I encountered the video that you will be able to watch below. I have owned cats my entire life but have never encountered a cat who exhibited the behavior that I saw in the video. I was shocked, I was amazed, and I spent a lot of time crying as I watched the video over and over again. Like many cat lovers who have seen the video in question, I wanted to take that baby into my home and love him.
I learned a lot about myself and the people around me from that video of Charley. I learned that the human heart has a capacity to understand and to forgive flaws. I learned that there are still things that we don't yet know, and I learned that a heart of compassion can change the world for a lost soul.
I started to discover a bit more about cerebellar hypoplasia as a result of Charlie's video, and I want to share some of that information with you. Please take the time to watch the video: Charlie might very well change your point of view too!
Charley is a Cat with Cerebellar Hypoplasia
What is Cerebellar Hypoplasia?
Simply put, cerebellar hypoplasia is a neurological disorder that affects the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls coordination and balance. This occurs when an unvaccinated female cat contracts distemper while her kittens are still in her uterus. Distemper damages the cerebellum and the kittens are born with cerebellar hypoplasia.
Cats with cerebellar hypoplasia generally have trouble with their motor skills but can live relatively normal lives.
Gordon also has Cerebellar Hypoplasia
Kitties with Cerebellar Hypoplasia Need Understanding.
For quite some time, cats with cerebellar hypoplasia were put to sleep as soon as the disorder was discovered. As understanding of cerebellar hypoplasia has grown, the kittens are more and more often put up for adoption or kept by their owners. While the disorder is by no means common (and is usually avoidable), there are kittens with this disorder to wind up in shelters.
Human kindness is amazing. They are very often met with a waiting list to take them in, because people have seen the wonderful Charlie.
Living with a Cat with Cerebellar Hypoplasia
While I have never lived with a cat who had cerebellar hypoplasia, I have learned a great deal from researching on the internet and exploring forums. I have considered putting my name on a shelter waiting list, and have come to better understand the limitations of these beautiful and sweet cats.
You must understand that living with a family member or pet who has physical limitations will change your life. You will need to go beyond "kitten proofing" and prepare your home to handle the specific physical needs of these cats. Please consider the following tips and make sure to check out the links below if you have a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia or are considering bringing one into your home!
- Make Your Home Safe for Your Cat This might mean making sure that there is a cushioned surface under any window that the cat might like to sit in or that there aren't any sharp corners where your cat could get injured if he or she falls.
- Make the Litterbox and Food Bowls Convenient In our house, the litterboxes are in the basement. This wouldn't work for a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia
- Be Prepared for Lots of Love! Everything I have heard and experienced says that these cats are remarkably loving. Be prepared for a cat that might demand some extra attention, though they are well worth it!
Choosing to Adopt a Cat with Cerebellar Hypoplasia
It's very likely that if you encounter a kitten with cerebellar hypoplasia it is because you were kind enough to take a feral animal into your home, and then discovered that she was pregnant. If, on the other hand, you have learneda bout these wonderful animals and have decided to adopt, you need to make some considerations.
- Are there other cats in the home? Other cats don't always get along with these special kitties because the cats with cerebellar hypoplasia fall over their buddies.
- Are you prepared to "kitten proof" your home? Do you have the time and resources to provide a safe environment for your new pet?
- Are you able to give the animal the attention it deserves? Your special kitty might need special attention. Are you able to give it?
- Are you prepared to wait? My experience is that shelters rarely have cats with cerebellar hypoplasia. As it is (thankfully) an uncommon ailment and because more and more people are looking to offer these cats good homes, they are sometimes "difficult to find." Are you willing to put your name on a shelter waiting list and to wait for your new addition?
Can Other Animals have Cerebellar Hypoplasia?
Cerebellar Hypoplasia can occur in dogs as well, and occurs when a puppy develops an infection while still in the uterus (much the same as with cats). In many cases, the source of the disease is unknown or can also be genetic.
Breeds that show the genetic form of the disease are: Irish Setters, Airedales, and Chows.
In dogs, the disease appears to be connected to the herpes virus and may develop similarly to cats with distemper.
How can Cerebellar Hypoplasia be Prevented?
The simpliest answer to this question is: vaccinate your pet. By obtaining proper veterinary care for your pet, you are reducing the risk that your animal will bear a litter of kittens with cerebellar hypoplasia. Even better, have your cat spayed so that she won't bring more unwanted kittens into the world.
Unfortunately things aren't always that simple. There are many, many unwanted (feral and stray) cats who don't have homes. These cats are rarely spayed and almost never vaccinated. A human who really wants to make a difference will become involved with a TNR (trap, neuter, release) program and will make an effort to ensure that these animals are altered and receive their shots. There are low-cost neutering organizations in most major cities that can help you to get this job done.
Another Kitty with Cerebellar Hypoplasia
Kitties with Cerebellar Hypoplasia
- Moki\'s Story
Moki is another of the kitties who I found early on in my search. He is like so many cats who are found in shelters by those who are caring for them, and who suddenly realize the amazing discovery they have made. Give Moki a visit!
- Wobbles The Lighthouse Kitty
Wobbles has his own Facebook and Myspace pages in addition to his website. His is a really great and heartwarming story and one of the first that I found when doing my research for this article. Take the time to check out his cuteness!
- Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary -- Claire
Claire's story well and truly touched me. It was from this page that I learned that many able-bodied cats are slow to accept a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia. Very interesting and sweet kitty! Touching story!
Wobbles the Lighthouse Kitty -- Cerebellar Hypoplasia
Resources about Feline Cerebellar Hypoplasia
- Welcome to the CH Kitty Club
This is a really great page that I found several years ago but am just now revisiting. This site brings together owners of cats with cerebellar hypoplasia so that they can share stories and advice on how to best care for their special kitties.
- LIVING WITH A DISABLED CAT
This page offers advice and help for living with a cat who has a disability and covers other disabilities other than just cerebellar hypoplasia. It's definitely worth checking out if you have a cat with this disorder or are considering adopting one!
Pet Forums of Interest
- Handicapped Pets
This forum offers a resource for people who are the owners of pets who have a disability, regardless of the species of the animal. I ran into this site in my research and found it to be incredibly helpful! Covers a variety of different disabilities.
- TheCatSite.com - It's all about cats cats cats
The Cat Site offers a wealth of information about cats, cat health and cat breeding. This is an amazing site and there have been several discussions there about Cerebellar Hypoplasia. If you are a cat lover, you need to check out this site!