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Meet Aiden Grace

July 22, 2012

Soon after beginning to volunteer at a cat rescue, Andrea was asked to take in a litter of kittens to foster. The babies were so tiny they needed to be bottle-fed, and soon it was apparent that one was different from the others.

After all of the kitten’s siblings had been adopted, Andrea just couldn’t let go of this one special kitten. Andrea had bonded with this kitten, named Aiden Grace, and she just couldn’t let her go.

How severe do you consider her CH to be?

Moderate

What is she able to do? What are her limitations?

Aiden can walk and run and play. She just looks different when she is doing it. It almost looks like she has a super model walk. Her front legs cross each other as she moves. She runs, but she isn’t very good at stopping so she tends to run into things and trip over stuff. She is not able to jump high like regular cats, and the little jumping she does is hard for her because she has no balance at all. If she doesn’t land on all four feet she falls.

A big problem she has had in the last few months is getting her paws stuck on things. I keep her claws pretty short, but if she puts her feet on certain things, like pawing a scratching post for example, her claws get stuck and I have to unhook her.

Do you have any funny stories that have happened to her because of her CH? Or perhaps a story about how she figured out how to do something CH kitties may not be able to do?

I had a different experience than many people because I have had her since she was 4-weeks-old. I got to watch her learn things that any kitten would need to learn but to do it in her own way. Every single thing she did took her longer. As mean as it may sound I used to love watching her eat. She would stand on the plate and lay in the food. She was still learning how to accommodate her balance problems so she did what she needed to do to get her food. Of course her face would then be covered in food, but she would run over and I would clean her up.

I also have a full flight of stairs in my house, she saw my cats going up and down them and got curious. I heard crying one day and ran to the stairs and she was sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for me to bring her down. She had figured out how to climb the steps but couldn’t get down, so that was a daily routine for her. She couldn’t get down the steps the same as the others so she almost looks like she is galloping to do it. She uses 2 feet at a time- she acts like they are tied together. It is quite a funny scene but she makes it happen and has gotten much better at it.

Has she ever hurt herself because of her CH?

Aiden has never had what I would consider a serious injury, but she has had some bad falls. They scare her a little if they are bad ones, and it slows her down for a while. She is right back to it within days though. I literally catch her in mid air at least once a day. She likes to sit on the sink and watch me get ready in the morning. She hops from the toilet lid, to the tank and then to the sink. Sometimes she tries to play and she falls off — I am at the point I can catch her with one hand while still using the other for something else. The look she gets on her face is priceless — sometimes I swear she is saying “It took you long enough!”

Every kitty is special in her or his own way. How is she special?

When she was around 4-weeks-old I would take her and the littermates to visit friends and family. It seemed so many people were immediately drawn to her. It may have been due to her walking, but there is just something about her that draws you in.

I foster kittens often and she is always the one at my side cleaning them up and snuggling with them. She is a great mommy to all my fosters. She is most special to me because of what I see in her eyes– she can look right into your soul and you can tell she appreciates everything you do for her. I think she could be a therapy cat because of her little personality and her adorable walk.

Have you found any ways to help her with her condition?

For the most part I just try to make things accessible. She can’t jump onto the windowsill so I will try to find a way to make a step. She needs a litter box with high sides because she has a tendency to kick the litter all the way across the room. I may feed her on a different plate or help her climb onto things that she can’t reach (under strict supervision of course.)

What do you think people need to know about CH?

A cat with CH is still a happy cat that can live a long life. They don’t really know they have limitations since they are born with the condition. They should be able to have the same experiences as other cats as long as you are patient and understanding with them. The gratitude I believe they have is amazing.

What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about her having CH?

Having CH has made her unique and helped develop charisma in a sense. People and animals are drown to her. It seems she makes up for her balance issues with her personality. My least favorite thing is that she will fall and hurt herself one time when I am not there to save her.

Do you have any words of wisdom for other CH parents?

The most important thing I can say is that you need to allow them room for error. My veterinarian explained that sometimes you need to let them learn on their own how to do things. If they fall you can’t run to rescue them all the time or stop them from trying to do new things. Of course we want them to stay safe, but that means learning things so when you are not right there they can do things unassisted.

I refuse to have Aiden completely dependent on me. That would severely limit her independence. It would be unrealistic to assume she is not going to try to do what other cats do. She will try to jump and climb, and she is going to fall. I have heard people say to keep them away from steps and unsafe situations, but I only believe that to a point. When I am home I let her learn on her own what she can’t do and how to work around it. Obviously I am not going to let her roll down the steps, but I deal with her like I would if I kid fell off a bike. I put her back on and expect her to learn from it.

I am sure it sounds harsh in a way, but it actually teaches her how to be safer. There is no way you can always be there to supervise so why not let them learn how to navigate your home in their own way. It is hard to see them when they fall or tip over but in the long run I think it has helped Aiden tremendously.

Click here to read about other readers’ CH cats or tell us about your CH cat!

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