From Mild to Severe: The Varying Degrees of Cerebellar Hypoplasia
Unlike the kitties to the left, the degree of cerebellar hypoplasia a cat can have is hardly black or white.
In fact, one of the more interesting characteristics about CH is how differently it can impact cats, even those from the same litter. Some may be born with severe cases, while siblings may exhibit mild symptoms, if any at all.
Since there’s such a range when it comes to this condition, many owners classify their cat’s CH severity based on her symptoms and abilities. The degrees are somewhat subjective, but the videos below will help give you an idea of how the severity of CH in a cat can range.
Most mild cats are rather capable. While they may have a funny gait (a high step or waddle), they can usually get around without a problem. Some may even be able to jump up or go up and down stairs. Chances are they’ll still have mild head tremors (when nervous, excited or focusing on something) and random tumbles, but these may not happen often.
Moderate CH cats look even more like little drunken sailors. It often appears as if the ground they’re walking on is unsteady, as they walk in a wide stance to maintain balance. Their movements are even more exaggerated, and it will seem like one end of the cat doesn’t know what the other is doing. They often have spastic movements: They may tumble every few feet or their back legs may slip out from under them, but they can still get around.
Cats with moderate CH will have noticeable head tremors and usually climb, instead of jump, to where they want to go. Some home modifications, like placing area rugs in strategic places and placing bumpers or padding around sharp corners may be helpful.
Below is a fantastic video of Gordon, who was born with moderate CH, but as the video shows, as he grew up he was able to improve quite a bit. This happens often, usually due to building up muscle mass and working on coordination — as well as the brain rewiring itself. Just watch how he runs around when he’s older!
Moderate to Severe
Roxy is a great example of a moderately severe CH kitty. She’s able to get up and walk around a bit, but she usually ends up on her side. Nevertheless, these kitties can become quite capable as they often accomplish what they put their minds to.
Most severe CH kitties cannot walk or stand. Instead, many may flip-flop around. Shinju, Roxy’s adopted sister, shows how she gets around by propelling herself forward. These kitties may have a bit more trouble getting to where they need to go and when, since they have less control over their movements, but as you can see, it doesn’t make her any less loveable!
Severe cats may have frequent head tremors and require extra care. They may need assistance using the litter box or getting to where they need to go.
Severe CH Cat in a Walker
Here’s where this gets cool. As stated earlier, some CH kitties can improve with age. Usually this happens if they can exercise, build muscle mass and move around. Since that can be especially difficult for severely impacted kitties (since they can’t really get up or move too much), their owners have created walkers for them. By slipping them into a harness, the kitty can move around without the fear of falling. This helps severe kitties work on their motor control and also slowly build up their muscles.
There are many types of walkers out there, but here’s one example:
For more information on the different degrees of cerebellar hypoplasia, check out these great educational materials! If you can, please print a few out and share it with your local shelters and veterinarians.
How would you classify your CH cat? Has your cat’s CH improved over time? Have you tried using a walker with your kitty? Please share!