A bit like humans, not all cats are lucky enough to be born with all their brain faculties perfectly developed: this is the case, for example, of feline cerebellar hypoplasia, a condition little known by the non-veterinary staff and sometimes, given the tendency to put the affected cats to sleep because mistaken for other pathologies, also by those who manage the shelters.
Feline cerebellar hypoplasia is a non-progressive and noncontagious neurological condition in which the cerebellum, which controls motor coordination, is underdeveloped at birth. It tends to occur when the mother has suffered some kind of belly trauma during pregnancy or if she has contracted, while “expectant”, feline panleukopenia or feline infectious gastroenteritis, a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral disease caused by a parvovirus. The most susceptible to infection are unvaccinated young cats.
Symptoms concern the digestive tract (vomiting and diarrhea, often with blood), fever, poor appetite and deep slaughter. In addition, cats quickly become dehydrated and anaemic. Vaccination helps to prevent it, but if carried out during pregnancy it is better to avoid a live vaccine because similarly to the disease increases the risk of cerebellar hypoplasia. If, therefore, you know the mother cat and you have seen her displaying symptoms such as those described, it is possible that her puppies may be born with this condition; in any case, not all members of a litter are necessarily affected and even if this were the case, hypoplasia may occur at more or less marked levels depending on the puppy. What is important to underline from the beginning is that it is not a disease, nor something that causes physical suffering to the affected kitten: it is, simply, lack of coordination.
But what does this neurological condition entail? There are three main symptoms that can be identified in the behavior of the cat:
- a typical drunken sailor’s gait and difficulty walking;
- difficulty jumping;
- occasional head tremors when the cat tries to concentrate on something;
- sometimes vision problems.
The first thought in front of this list of symptoms is that, even if not physically, the kitten suffering from hypoplasia suffers psychologically from his condition: nothing more false, because nothing and nobody ever told him that he has something different from other kittens. And in fact, he has the same desire to live and play as any other feline, as this video and this photo show.
In any case, where bodily mobility does not arrive, creativity is pushed: it is not unusual for a cat unable to jump to be clever and become a skilled climber, for example.
Another important factor to remember is that since it is a non-progressive condition the mobility skills will never get worse, and indeed it is not uncommon that they improve with time.
Cats with hypoplasia, according to their humans, also seem to have another trait in common: an extremely sweet character. Several people who have welcomed one of these cats into their home and in their arms report how sweet, affectionate and accommodating they are, and how they have managed to forge extremely deep and moving bonds with them. This is perhaps due to their motor condition, which prevents them from moving as easily as other cats and pushes them to spend more time with their humans.
These mici, therefore, have nothing less than others on an emotional and joy of life level: of course, they need patient and present humans, ready to help them where they need it, but after all, who ever said that love is an easy matter? Don’t condemn them: they are not to blame, and like all of us, they just want to live. They deserve a chance. Those of you who are good with English can find here several real testimonies to confirm what is stated here.