Can A Cat’s Cerebellar Hypoplasia Worsen?
Can CH get worse? This is a question that I’ve seen pop up a number of times lately, so I wanted to address it plain and simple.
Cerebellar hypoplasia cannot worsen.
Literally, cerebellar hypoplasia means the underdevelopment of the brain’s cerebellum. This underdevelopment is a congenital condition that occurs usually while the kittens are still in the womb (learn more about the causes here), although sometimes the cerebellum’s growth can be stunted in the first few weeks after a kitten’s birth.
That said, once the cerebellum’s growth is stunted/underdeveloped, that’s it. It’s not a degenerative disease. Once the cat has the condition, he has it. It will not progress.
The trouble with CH is that many vets are unfamiliar with it. Consequently, there are some false assumptions that vets make. For example, some vets believe that it’s impossible for a CH cat to have any sort of quality of life, so they believe CH cats should be euthanized.
Similarly, they may not be familiar enough with the condition to diagnose it properly. In fact, they may misdiagnose another condition as CH.
This is not impossible to do, since cerebellar hypoplasia is known for two prominent characteristics: wobbly walking and head tremors. However, there are many other reasons why a cat may wobble. Sometimes the cat’s wobbly walking may be another condition, sometimes it can be cerebellar hypoplasia *plus* another condition. If your cat’s CH is worsening, or if your cat has another health issue, you’ll want your vet (you may want to get a second opinion) to officially diagnose the CH (if it does turn out to be CH) and check for other health issues and conditions.
If you’re looking for a vet who is familiar with CH, check out this map. You may be able to find a CH friendly vet close to you.
Some cats do have more severe cases of the condition than others, but that’s not because the cat’s CH has worsened. Cerebellar hypoplasia does not impact every cat in the same way. Some have mild cases of the condition, others have it to a more severe degree. Learn more about the varying degrees here. The CH severity can usually be identified in the first few weeks to months of a kitten’s life.
I said above that the condition will not progress, and that’s true. In fact, some CH cat parents – myself included – have found that our CH cats have become more capable and mobile over the years thanks to exercise.
We’ve also learned that a cat’s brain can rewire itself much like a person’s brain. Like the human brain, even if the cerebellum (which controls fine motor movement) is damaged, physical therapy, exercise and the like can help the muscles, while the movements and motions help rewire the brain.