My Cat Was Just Diagnosed with Cerebellar Hypoplasia. What Now?
While some of us choose to be pet parents to cerebellar hypoplasia cats, others have become CH cat parents by chance. So what should you do if the cat you just found or adopted was just diagnosed with CH?
Well, first you can relax.
Cerebellar hypoplasia is a non-painful, non-progressive condition that means the kitten has an underdeveloped cerebellum – that’s the part of the brain that coordinates fine motor skills. Cats who are born with CH are often called “wobbly cats” because their underdeveloped motor skills cause them to walk like little drunken sailors. That said, CH cats make wonderful pets and can live as long as any “normal” cat.
Cerebellar hypoplasia, or CH, can impact each cat to a different degree. Some cats may have very mild cases of CH and be only slightly unsteady, others may have the condition to such a severe degree that they can’t walk. This holds true within litters, too – cats of the same litter may have varying degrees of CH. You can learn more about the different degrees of CH here. You can learn more about feline cerebellar hypoplasia here.
While CH has become more well known over the past decade, unfortunately, some vets are still unfamiliar with it. Even if they may have heard of CH, they may have never actually seen a cat with CH. Consequently, some question the quality of life that these cats can have, and opt to euthanize them. That said, there really is no need for that drastic measure, as many CH cats, even those with severe CH, can live fulfilling lives with assistance.
Some folks have joined the CH community and have asked if it’s selfish to keep a CH kitten alive. I’m sure many current CH cat pet parents would agree that so long as the cat is healthy otherwise, euthanasia is not necessary. Trust your gut and don’t let a vet scare you or bully you into making a life-or-death decision.
That said, you may want to look for another vet in your area (here’s a list that may help), who has a more optimistic view when it comes to your cat. If that’s not an option, then you’re put in a special position: By helping your cat live the best life possible, you can show your vet that cerebellar hypoplasia cats do have a high quality of life. Perhaps you’ll even change your vet’s opinion of them!
Uncertain Diagnoses & Other Complications
Now, here’s the not-so-fun part.
Some vets who are not especially familiar with CH or other similar conditions may accidentally misdiagnose your cat. Here are some things to keep in mind, just in case:
- Cerebellar hypoplasia’s symptoms are noticeable at or a few weeks after the kitten’s birth.
- Cerebellar hypoplasia can not be contracted later in life.
- Cerebellar hypoplasia-like symptoms that come on suddenly or even develop over time when your cat is older are not related to CH. (Consider cerebellar abiotrophy.)
- Cerebellar hypoplasia cannot worsen.
A misdiagnosis could mean serious consequences.
It’s also important to remember that some CH cats may have been born with additional issues too. It shouldn’t be a surprise that if there was damage to the cerebellum while in the womb, there could have been other factors that may have impacted the kitten in other ways, too. There are other conditions that have characteristics similar to cerebellar hypoplasia, or it may be an issue in addition to CH, like a tendency to have seizures.
This is not true with all cats, but it is something to keep in mind and watch for. Consequently, brush up on cerebellar hypoplasia basics. If something unusual happens, notify your vet. Either way, this isn’t meant to scare you, rather to prepare you just in case.
Giving Your Cat The Best Life Possible
OK, so now that we have that established, let’s move on to the day-to-day things you’ll need to know! As you’ll see, CH cats, especially when they’re little, may need some extra assistance. As they grow up, many become stronger, more coordinated and able. But before your cat reaches that point, if he does, you’ll likely need a few tips to help you along the way!
When you have a moment, please read this post for New CH Cat Parents. In it I highlight a number of posts that will give you a better idea of what CH is, how it impacts cats, and the many ways you can assist your cat. I know it may seem a little overwhelming at first, but bookmark it and save it as a reference so you can come back to it any time you have a question.
CH cats can live wonderful lives. If you ever need a little inspiration, you can read some readers’ stories here.
Best of luck, and welcome to the CH cat community!