If you’re not familiar with JillyBean, odds are you have heard of her pet parent, Lisa, who (among many other things) started the Cerebellar Hypoplasia Cats and Kittens Facebook page. Lisa has contributed so much time, effort and love to helping CH kitties, and I’m honored to finally share her story of how she came to love CH kitties! So it’s time to meet JillyBean, Lisa’s 3 1/2-years-old mild-to-moderate CH cat.
I adopted JillyBean from my vet where she had been for over a month. When she was surrendered to the shelter as a young kitten, the shelter sent her to be evaluated at my vet’s office where she was diagnosed with cerebellar hypoplasia or CH. They felt she could be adopted out to the right home so they kept her there waiting for someone who could not only provide her an indoor home, but someone who wasn’t afraid of taking of a cat with a neurological condition.
The first time I saw her, she was curled up in a kitty bed behind the counter looking so adorable and sweet. When I asked about her they told me she had a neurological condition, and at that point I had no idea about CH so my immediate thought was sadness and thinking that she had little chance of being adopted due to her condition. I had just adopted my little boy kitty Mr. Bumper VanStowaway, which was the reason I was in there so I went about my business to get his appointment to be neutered.
When I got home, I started researching CH and found the Charley video which tugged at my heartstrings. How could anyone not love a cat let alone one so endearing as Charley? After much research, I knew what I needed to do, but it was then a matter of convincing my husband.
I contacted the vet the day before taking Bumper in for his appointment to see if the little CH kitten was still there and asked if it were possible that I could borrow her during Bumper’s appointment to which they agreed. So in with Bumper and out with the little calico kitten that unbeknownst to me would soon become JillyBean.
When I walked in the door at home with the kitty crate my husband was in the kitchen as I held up my hand and said “I need you to look at something in the office, and if you say no I will take her right back without arguing.” We walked back to the office; I opened the door of the crate and out walked the most adorable little wobbly calico kitten we had ever seen. She took about two steps before he reached out, picked her up, snuggled her a bit and looked up at me saying “OK, if I say yes, do you promise this is the last one?” Of course I promised it would be the last one we “kept.”
I have never regretted the decision to adopt a CH cat and neither has my husband. As he says to me jokingly of course, if anything happens between us and we split up, he gets custody of JillyBean. Of course a huge pretend argument ensues and we end up agreeing to stay together for the cats.
JillyBean has been such a huge part of our life as well as friends and family. She is loved beyond belief and has been such an inspiration for me to reach out and educate the world about this condition. She is the reason I started the Cerebellar Hypoplasia Cats & Kittens Facebook page. I am so grateful to my vet for choosing me to be JillyBean’s mom.
She cannot jump on counters unless there is a chair left pulled out that she can scale to the top. She can climb up to the top of the kitty tree which is about 5′ but getting down is a bit more challenging. She has mastered the giant leap onto the huge padded recliner though.
How does she manage the litter box? Eating and drinking? Do you do anything special to help?
JillyBean uses the little box faithfully without any falling over. She initially when younger would take a tumble, but has now mastered the art of staying upright. I use Rubbermaid tubs and cut a hole in the side for her to go in which makes it easier but I know she would have no problem climbing into any litter box. Her eating and drinking is great, she has a slight peck but not as bad as when she was younger. We have a food bin dispenser-type dish and when the dish part is empty, she will paw at the food in the dispenser part to knock the food down into the dish. She is quite the clever one.
What’s one funny story about her (related to CH)? Or share a story about how she figured out how to do something CH cats “can’t” do.
One day we got home from the store only to find JillyBean sitting on top of the table with a plant knocked over curled up in the basket we use for fruit. I cringed thinking my husband was going to freak out. After about a minute with no words from my husband I asked him “Aren’t you going to get mad and scold her?” to which he replied “No, if she found a way to get up there, far be it from me get mad and take her down.” I got my camera and took a picture to record her big climb onto the huge mountainous table. One other amusing anecdote was when I asked my husband if he has seen JillyBean. A few seconds later we heard a thud on the wall in the hallway. My husband then replied “There she is!”
Has she ever hurt herself because of her CH?
She does have two broken canine teeth from jumping off chairs and such. I’m not sure when this happened, but it was noticed at her last vet check up. Other than that she has no other CH related injuries although there were times I thought she should have by the sound of her hitting something.
Each animal is special in her own way. How is she special?
JillyBean is such a loving kitty. She mountain climbs onto our bed every night and sleeps next to my husband. She loves to snuggle and loves having someone pet her. She will seek out your hand when you are trying to sleep and push her nose into it until you give in. Hiding your hand under the covers sometimes works but if she is determined, she will nudge her nose under the covers to find your hand.
Have you found ways to help her with CH? How?
When we first adopted JillyBean we tried to CH proof our home thinking that she needed to be protected from her condition. As time went on we realized that no matter what we did she was going to find a way to get beyond our safeguarding attempts.
Initially we had carpet throughout the house but last year we put in laminate flooring in all rooms except our bedroom. Amazingly she learned to navigate the floor in no time. We left the carpeting in the bedroom because she does take nose dives off the bed and I can’t stand the thought of her doing that on a regular basis as this is where she spends the majority of time (my side of the bed of course). Other than keeping the chairs on the kitchen table pushed in so she can’t climb up them and onto the table, currently we have no special provisions for her as she has not required any.
They do the same things as other cats, just a little different. If you are able to take your CH cat to the pet store with you without stressing them out, do it. It’s a great way to educate the public about cats with CH.
What do you think people need to know about CH?
I feel the biggest thing people need to know is not to be afraid of the condition. The first thought that went through my head when I saw JillyBean was I could never take care of a cat with a “neurological condition.” Neurological sounds so scary. People need to know that it is just a term, it doesn’t define the kitty. They generally don’t require additional medical care. They may have different needs depending on the severity but everyone can judge what level they can care for. You might just surprise yourself at how you can turn a scary word into a part of your life that brings you such joy and love.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about her having CH?
Since JillyBean is able to accomplish most everything she puts her mind to, I don’t know that I look at her as having anything wrong. If I had to pick my favorite thing, it’s probably the way she prances down the hallway trying to keep up with the other cats only to find herself running into the wall and falling over. Least favorite, which I’m not sure is because of the CH or just because she thinks she is a DIVA.
Also not so favorite: we did put an outdoor enclosure attached to our back sliding door that has a custom-built glass that includes a built-in doggy/kitty door. Because of her CH she has not yet figured out how to get out the door. I’m guessing because when she noses into the rubbery flap, it startles her and she ends up flinging herself backward. I’ve yet to find a way to help her figure that out. At this point we just leave the slider open a bit so she can go into the enclosure. I wish she could figure out the doggy/kitty door.
My life has been blessed with the addition of JillyBean. All three of my kitties, Missy non CH, Mr. Bumper VanStowawy semi-feral rescue, and JillyBean mean the world to me. JillyBean happens to be a special needs kitty that really has no special needs. She doesn’t know there is anything wrong and we don’t tell her she is different. My mission since I adopted her is to spread the word about cerebellar hypoplasia so these little kitties are given a chance at life. I’m so grateful to all who have chosen the same mission.