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Is It Fair To Keep Cats With Severe Cerebellar Hypoplasia Alive?

June 5, 2013

Cerebellar hypoplasia cats come in all sizes, shapes, and of course, degrees of wobbliness.

While some may only walk a little funny, others – specifically those who have severe CH – may not be able to walk at all.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia EllieConsequently, an ethical dilemma may form in some folks’ minds: Is it fair to keep a cat with severe cerebellar hypoplasia alive?

It’s an understandable question. And as more and more people become aware of cerebellar hypoplasia, it is increasingly important to answer questions like this one – so we don’t simply spread awareness, but understanding, too.

So is it fair to keep a severe CH cat alive?

I believe it is, yes.

The main reason is because we have the power to help them.

In the wild, severe cerebellar hypoplasia is a death sentence. But when these special cats come in contact with people, their futures can change. I believe it is our responsibility to see these cats’ potential and to help them as we can. We have the power to improve their quality of life. It’s simply up to us to do our part.

While some may see that as a huge or unneccessary hurdle, other folks, like CH cat parent Suzanne, view the situation very simply.

“She’s disabled,” she said about her CH cat. “That’s all there is to it. You learn to help them and deal with it. You just get used to it.”

Ms Flipper Walker If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to helping a CH cat (of any severity), read through some of the posts on this blog, especially this post. Here you’ll find all sorts of creative ideas that we’ve come up with to improve our cats’ quality of life from diapering to providing a walker.

Basically, the idea is to find creative ways to make life easier for you and your cat.

“Lyra has a good quality of life because her environment has been modified to be accessible to her, and because I assist her with the things she needs help with,” Emily said. “The same as if a human had Lyra’s needs: modify the environment, have a personal care attendant as needed. If I insisted that Lyra do things in the same way as my other cats, she wouldn’t have any quality of life.”

Emily makes a great point here: We all have different needs. We find different ways to accommodate those needs, from purchasing glasses so we can see clearly to making our communities handicapped accessible. Since we have the power to accommodate those needs, we do.

And sometimes that means the lifestyle of one person – or cat – is different from another. Here’s Lynda’s take on evaluating a severe CH cat’s quality of life:

“Do they eat? Do they enjoy their food? Are they sociable? Do they show an interest in what is going on around them? Do they play (that depends on age, of course)? Do they sleep soundly?” Lynda asked. “The answer to all these questions for my own severe Tiger is YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! Sure it takes him a while to get to his bowl of wet food, and he falls backward so often while trying to propel himself forward that you wonder whether he will make it, but he does and the journey doesn’t faze him at all, he just copes with it. And there is nothing like seeing the smug look on a severe CH cat’s face when he’s overcome a big hurdle, like getting to the next level of a climber after numerous struggles and falls.”

Photo courtesy docoverachiever

While the power to change a cat’s environment is important, it certainly isn’t the only factor. Another equally necessary quality is to have the heart for it.

Fortunately, there are people out there (myself included!) who find cerebellar hypoplasia cats to be some of the most special pets in the world. We dedicate our time and hearts to these cats, just as other folks dedicate their time toward other hobbies or professions.

Kim’s testimony about her moderately severe CH boy Max was especially touching:

“People often ask if it’s fair to him to let him live like that, and those even less sensitive, suggest euthanizing him,” she said. “My response: Max is a very happy little boy who loves to snuggle and snooze with me, but also has the strength and determination to overcome every obstacle that comes along. He inspires me because he never gives up – he just keeps trying, no matter how hard things are for him or how many times he falls. Per the vet’s standards he has a great quality of life – he eats, is sociable, is aware of his surroundings, plays with me and our other cats, and sleeps like a baby. Per my standards – he’s amazing! I also have another CH boy, Gabriel, who is moderately CH and the difference between the two is huge. The thing they have in common is that determination and courage that has helped them accomplish so much.”

Still not sure why we love cerebellar hypoplasia cats? Check out these 10 reasons.

So all of the above is to say this: Cats born with severe cerebellar hypoplasia face many challenges, but that doesn’t mean that their lives are any less valuable. If we can improve their quality of life – or find someone who can and wants to, I think it’s our responsibility to help them.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. ELIZABETH HAWKINS permalink
    March 26, 2016 7:54 pm

    Thank you for addressing this topic! As someone who knew nothing about CH before my cat began falling over, I’ve tried to find every bit of information I can about what she’s going through to better understand how to do what’s best for her. My cat has severe CH and her neurologist said it was basically up to me whether to put her down or not. I couldn’t even imagine euthanizing my baby, but I felt there was a stigma associated with caring for a severe CH cat. So thank for for reaffirming that I’ve made the right choice for her 🙂

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