The Wobbly Cat
Shelley and her brother were found alone outside, with no sign of their mother. They were brought to a volunteer foster with Kentucky Pets Alive because they needed needed round the clock care and bottle feeding. Both kittens were sick, weak and had fleas. Shelley and her brother needed lots of care and attention, but despite all efforts Shelley's brother wasn't strong enough to survive.
Shelley struggled at first, not quite catching onto bottle feeding and needing tube feeds for a few days, but eventually she caught on and started growing and gaining weight. As Shelley grew older, her foster mother noticed a head wobble and that Shelley wasn't very coordinated. After a couple of weeks it became more clear that Shelley's wobble and struggles to stand or walk straight wasn't due to her age, or small size, but was due to a condition called Cerebellar Hypoplasia.
Cerebellar hypoplasia is a developmental condition in which the cerebellum of the brain fails to develop properly. The cerebellum is the portion of the brain that controls fine motor skills, balance and coordination. The condition is not painful or contagious.
Since the cerebellum is responsible for purposeful movement and coordination, the symptoms of this condition may not become apparent until the kitten starts to try and stand or walk on its own. The severity of the symptoms depends on how much of the cerebellum was affected and at what stage in its development the infection occurred.
The most typical symptoms are jerky or incoordinated walking, swaying from side to side when trying to walk, a goose-stepping walk called hypermetria, mild head tremors, and/or intention tremors. Intention tremors are tremors that occur when the kitten intends to make some sort of movement. Intention tremors may be present to a minor degree when the kitten walks, but will usually become more pronounced when the kitten tries to do something more involved such as playing with a toy or bending over to drink or eat out of a bowl.
It was important to learn that though CH doesn't get better, it also never gets worse.
Cerebellar Hypoplasia Resources:
Shelley's foster mom found a group on facebook filled with people who have adopted kitties with cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) and who were all very helpful in sharing tips and tricks for helping her use the litter box on her own, eat from a bowl and not hurt her teeth and how to help her get stronger through play.
One of the people in the group fell in love with Shelley and asked if she would be up for adoption. The potential adopters lived in Georgia, but were willing to come to Louisville if they were approved to adopt. After putting in an application and talking with adoption counselors and Shelley's foster mom, everyone agreed that Shelley would be a good fit for their family. Shelley's loving new family drove nearly 11 hours to pick her up. She was very excited to meet her new dad and siblings, and she is off to new adventures.