Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats

Weeble, along with his sister Catticus Finch, came to me as feral strays when they were about eight weeks old. At first, I assumed their shaking and tentative movements were just normal nervousness and that they would eventually adjust, but after observing them for a few days, it was clear that their wobbles weren’t going away. I did my research (read: googled “wobbly kitten”) and found a description of a condition that fit them perfectly: cerebellar hypoplasia, or CH. These kitties, often called CH’ers or wobbly cats, are born this way. Due to a virus contracted by their mom during pregnancy, Weeble and Catty’s cerebellums are underdeveloped. This leaves them with a fairly noticeable head bob and a lack of gross and fine motor skills. They will always have CH and it will never get either better or worse, though many CH cats develop coping skills and also gain a bit more control as they develop more muscle. Their condition is not contagious and they can live harmoniously with other pets. Another special thing about CH kitties is that, in part due to all the extra care they receive, they are incredibly loving and affectionate cats.

The level of accommodation required by each CH cat will be different, but there are some general guidelines and characteristics that can help you determine how best to equip and care for your CH kitty!

Mild CH

Cats with mild CH are very capable and require little to no extra care.

Symptoms:

  • Unusual gait (high step or waddle)
  • Occasional balance loss
  • May have subtle head tremors when excited or stressed

Abilities:

  • Walk
  • Run
  • Jump
  • Stairs

Special Care:

  • Cannot live outdoors
  • May prefer a modified litter box with high sides
  • Prefer carpet or rugs, but not a necessity

Moderate CH

Cats with moderate CH can get around on their own, but one end of their body may appear to be doing something else than the other end.

Symptoms:

  • Walk with legs splayed in a wide stance
  • Frequent balance loss, falls
  • Noticeable head tremors, especially when excited or stressed

Abilities:

  • Walk short distances
  • Expert climbers

Special Care:

  • Cannot live outdoors
  • Prefer a modified litter box with high sides to support themselves against; can be messier than non-CH cats
  • Have an easier time balancing on carpet or rugs
  • Raised food & water dishes
  • Modified furniture to protect them from getting hurt when they fall (e.g. adding bumpers)

Severe CH

Cats with severe CH cannot walk on their own and require a great deal of special care.

Symptoms:

  • Cannot walk or stand
  • Flip and Flop to get around
  • Constant head tremors

Abilities:

  • Expert climbers

Special Care:

  • Cannot live outdoors
  • May need help using the litter box;  prefer a modified litter box with high sides or pee-pee pads
  • Prefer carpet to help grip and propel themselves forward
  • May need help getting set up at their food dish
  • Modified furniture to protect them from getting hurt when they fall (e.g. adding bumpers)
  • Are ideal candidates for wheelchairs, which can help improve mobility and coordination

Additional Resources

Cerebellar Hypoplasia Cats and Kittens Facebook Group

Life with CH Cats Blog

 

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