Today’s CH kitty profile comes all the way from Saskatoon, Canada, where Daniel lives with his nearly 10-year-old CH cat, Groove!
How severe is his CH?
I believe he is moderate- to high-functioning. He started out as a kitten severe and with training and patience he and I succeeded in improving his balance and core strength sufficiently that he can now run quickly and turn on a dime. He still cannot stop though, so the end result of most runs is a thud against a wall or a piece of furniture or an out of control cartwheel. The shortest distance between two points for Groove is every point in between.
Does he have certain limitations?
Like most CH cats he is not confident in jumping. I’ve seen him do it, but he gets scared in the middle of the jump. He flies into the air and suddenly he thrusts his front legs out with the paws down (like a stereotypical human zombie walk) and starts emitting this escalating ‘eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ noise until he lands. As a result he prefers to try to climb onto something instead. To get onto the couch he doesn’t try from the front of the couch, but from the side. He climbs over the arm of the couch and heaves himself over. This is impressive as the couch arms extend out from the couch body so he actually has to hold his entire body weight with just his claws while climbing essentially up, backward and then over. He’s pretty chubby so this is always impressive.
How does he manage the litter box? Eating and drinking? Do you do anything special to help?
I have a special litter setup as a result of his CH. He has a bad habit of waiting to pee until he had a very full bladder and then emptying it all at once. This has two problems: one, he eliminates so much that it pools and sometimes he steps in it when getting out. Two, he gets tired standing in one place and sometimes adjusts his stance… into his pee. It’s gross, but rare.
The solution has been unique and I recommend it for all cat owners, CH or otherwise. I clean the litter 1-2 times a day (I have two cats, one litter box). The litter box sits in a larger cardboard box that I removed a ‘side’ of so it is open air. Then I cut out a small doorway near the front. The litter box is open air, Groove does not like covered litter boxes at all. So, we have a litter pan inside of a big box, the front of which is cut down so he can step over it and into the litter. I lay down shammies (absorbent cloth) so he has to not only lift his paws, but has to set them down on the shammy.
In the event he steps in his pee and I’m not around, he will walk over the absorbent shammy and because he has to step up and over to out of the box, he knocks off extra litter and it stays in the larger box and doesn’t get spread around the room. I also use airtight containers to store the used litter as I never like walking into someone’s home and my having my nose tell they have cats well before my eyes and ears can.
What’s one funny story about him (related to CH)? Or share a story about how he figured out how to do something CH cats “can’t” do.
One time my roommate left the front door ajar and unlatched. It looked closed, but it was not. Groove was running during his once per day feline freakout (I think all cats celebrate a crazy hour once per day) and he smashed into the front door, which swung open wildly. Suddenly he was outside, free, man about town. He was almost instantly defeated by the humans who quickly gathered him up, checked him for any sore bits and brought him back into the house. Naturally we normally leave the door latched, but a kitty just won’t think that way. The result is that for the next year that I lived there he regularly charged the front door full speed trying to open it. Did I mention he is chubby? He is. Quite a regular ‘WHOMPthump’ could be heard anywhere in the house.
Most cats wouldn’t be capable of applying as much physical force into movement as he does. This is because he can gain inertia but cannot apply it like a normal cat. When he was a small kitten he stumbled into the living room, got startled, kicked out his back legs which sped him up and he launched himself right into the bottom woofer of a very large speaker I owned. He tore it completely apart just from the force. No injuries, but like always, he got inspected closely. The speaker was instantly garbage.
Has he ever hurt herself because of his CH?
I think so, but I need to give a little background. Groove has a very diminished pain sensitivity compared to most cats and compared to other CH cats. This means that when he gets a bump, he might not be able to tell he hurt himself. A vet taught me to gently squeeze the end of his tail until he squeaks, which allows me to confirm he will be vocal if uncomfortable. Very often I give him slow massage and check his ribs, his legs, neck, head etc. I move his legs through range of motion to ensure there aren’t any problems and I watch his face for any signs of discomfort.
One time Groove had a bladder blockage that is common with male cats. The problem with Groove is that since he does not suffer pain in the same way there was little suspicion of a problem until he suffered a rupture between his bladder and his urethra (cringe in pain fellow men, my cat is tougher than all of us.) He did not look comfortable but he had his appetite and thirst.
I was not in town at this time so I was not inspecting the litter for output, something I think all cat owners need to do to verify the health of their pets. When blood was noticed on Groove it was very clear it was vet time. One week, $2,000 and THREE forced decatheterisations on his part he was ready to come home. He has a prescription for Diazepam to relax him and his urethra so he could pee comfortably. One side effect of Diazepam? Ataxia. Bad combo for a CH cat. For a couple of days I had to hold him up while he was in the litter.
Since I know he is prone to this condition I have changed his diet on the vet’s recommendation, I only allow competent cat sitters to care for him if I need to be away for a few days. I get very, very anxious when I suspect he isn’t peeing. If he doesn’t drink enough, he gets a meal of soggy crunchies. For the most part though since I put him on the food he is, he drinks probably 10-15 times more. He literally hated water before his blockage and loves it now. Sometimes I stare at him and tell him “You. You owe me a pee. I told you to get a job, you didn’t. I told you to make the bed. You didn’t. You owe me a pee.” Talking to cats is the sign of a healthy mind right?
Each animal is special in his own way. How is he special?
Well, despite being the first CH cat I met, Groove has another interesting quality. He is the most affectionate cat I’ve ever met. He needs human contact everyday or he gets depressed. In this way he is more like some personality traits we attribute to dogs. He greets me at the door, he inspects noises in the house, he offers his belly to me for pets or for prostration. He licks anything human that is close to him such as feet or fingers.
Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up in pain because he started to chew on my big toe and his sharp teeth hit the cuticle. Little savage. I think most companions of CH cats will find them special. I guess his only really obvious other power is that he has a perfect 100% success rate turning cat haters into cat lovers. He has converted a few dozen people mildly and half a dozen concretely.
Have you found ways to help him with CH? How?
Well, the litter box is one method. Regularly massaging him and checking him over is another. Since it is hard to exercise CH cats I’ve done tricky things like feeding him on a different floor, putting the litter on one floor, his bed on another, etc., to force him up and down the stairs a few times a day. Getting a second cat was great for this as they wrestle for at least an hour a day and this is great for his coordination and strength.
When he was a kitten and I first got him he lived with my Spaniel and myself. Within six weeks it was time to put my Spaniel down (he was not a kitten, no he was not. Not even a puppy was he. ) and so it was now just Groove and me. He was small, underweight and unhealthy. He was six weeks or so when I adopted him, but I was his third or fourth companion already. Each previous person had the best intentions, but could not care for him. The lady I got him from was a day away from taking him to the shelter where he inevitably would have been put down.
He was on a poor diet, had some sores from poor nutrition and he was very weak and clearly the runt of his litter. I got him some good food and since I had some time off work, for the next three months I spent every day, all day with him. He slept on my lap while I used the computer, slept next to me in the bed. He came to the store in the front pouch of my jacket (it’s a nifty jacket.) I think he was not weaned 100% when he left his mother as he had never lost the need to knead and suckle. Every night at bedtime he would climb into the space between my arm and body and start kneading and trying to suckle my armpit. Yes it hurt but it never lasted long, he’d fall asleep quickly, purring very loudly.
I mentioned earlier his CH severe when I first got him. He could not stand for more than a few seconds. He could not walk. He traveled by dragging himself along the carpet with his forelegs. This means for a small cat he developed ridiculously strong front legs. Big pipes if you would.
At the time I was living in a basement suite. Upstairs there were other cats and I would socialize them. Because Groove could only stand but could not walk I started to train him to walk better by supporting him under his belly with one hand. Not enough to have all his weight, but just enough that he had to support about 80% of his weight himself. Then I when he had all four limbs in place I would slowly move my hand out of the way so he had to stand himself. After this went well I would do the same thing, but I would slowly move my hand forward which forced him to adjust his standing in a forward manner. Us bipeds call this “walking.” Naturally he approached that with trepidation (that was not a bad pun, seriously.) Eventually he could stand, then walk. Shortly afterward he learned how to climb the carpeted stairs upstairs to visit the other cats. My reward for all of this was the aforementioned destroyed woofer. He also once ran behind the amp that powered that woofer he’d killed and statically shorted out the cords, destroying the amp as well. I loved that amp. I’d been using it with the one remaining speaker but that was the end of the whole stereo.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other CH parents?
The litter box trick is a good one I recommend for all cat owners. You keep ‘litter spray’ contained when they spastically try to cover up their litter and inevitably spray the wall with poop (this happens to all of us I think.) Massage is important I think. Learning what your animal likes will help them learn to trust your hands and touch. When they trust you, you can do much better for them as you can tell if they are in pain or uncomfortable. An affectionate cat that avoids your touch is a red flag that would not be there if you did not socialize your kitten to love cuddles and to trust the human hand.
One other, possibly more painful word of advice I would like to mention. You love your cat. I know you do. One day in the future, and possibly quite suddenly, they will be gone. I don’t think Groove will go out like an old cat, slowly getting weaker until I determine it is time. I expect it will be more sudden. He’ll get an injury that cannot be repaired correctly or without months of suffering or he’ll be diagnosed with some horrible affliction that would only made his life hell. When he had his bladder blockage I fended off literally dozens of people asking why I would not just put him down. The answer was given by Groove himself, he wasn’t ready for that. He was a fighter and he’ll be allowed to be a fighter until that Fateful Day. I take peace from realizing that everyday we get is awesome and that for the rest of my life I’ll be thinking of him and the joy he brought me and the lessons of perseverance (and ignorance) he taught me.
What do you think people need to know about CH?
When I took Groove to be neutered the vet asked me “So what are we doing here? Putting him down?” Not everyone will think keeping a CH cat is a good idea. Many people incorrectly assume the cat is suffering and that the people wanting to keep them are doing it out of some twisted sense of schadenfreude. The best thing people can know is how to explain it to others. It is not cruel. The cat has no idea they are different. I always tell people that as long as he can feed himself, use the litter and is not in pain, why would I do anything other than share my home? People erroneously often assume the worst of situations they do not understand. With patience and education we can open their eyes. This website is a wonderful resource.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about his having CH?
I love having a cat but I think that is a bit moot. I really like that he cannot jump up on anything. I guess my favorite quality is how soothing he is to anyone who doesn’t like cats. I’m also really fond of the way that when he sees a human, he stretches out his paw as far as possible while looking at you with seductive “Pet me. You know you want to.” glance.
He teaches me to be patient with those of lesser physical capability. All of us were babies and children and were dependent on others. Often people in peak physical health fail to realize their strengths are not universally shared by all. Groove reinforces the humility and compassion we all should have when it comes to others whose needs are different than our own.
Groove is also quite famous among Daniel’s friends and on Facebook! He has his own video explaining cerebellar hypoplasia. Click here to watch it!