Just like with eating, drinking can present many challenges for kitties with cerebellar hypoplasia. Their wobbles and head tremors can lead to spills and some “swim” sessions, but there are several things you can do to help.
Helping a Kitten Drink
You may end up playing a large role in helping your kitten drink, depending on the severity of her CH. This could range from initially having her drink from a small animal water bottle to holding her head and body still while she drinks. Either way, if she’s very young, you’ll most likely play a role in her basic needs for the first few weeks.
Once your kitten is a few weeks old, watch her carefully to see if she can get to where she needs to go. Chances are if she’s not making it to the litter box on time or eating often, she’s not drinking enough water. Help your girl out by providing regular drinking sessions.
Since some CH kitties have trouble focusing or aiming while drinking, try to buy wide, heavy bowls. The wide diameter will make it easier for her to drink without bumping her head, and the heaviness will keep her from knocking the water bowl over. Metal bowls are a good option, but heavier ceramic bowls may be a better option.
The trouble with many cat dishes is that they are actually quite small in diameter and volume. Instead of shopping in the cat aisle, I actually suggest heading to the dog aisle, where you can find a wider range of wider products.
In the video below, Dizzy shows how some CH kitties may drink. Notice her wide-legged stance for balance, and how she pecks when she drinks:
Depending on your pet’s ability, it may be helpful to raise the food and water dishes. Your cat will not have to bend down as far, and consequently may not lose her balance as often.
Underneath your water bowl place a mat of some sort. I suggest something with a lip on the edge that has a non-slip texture. While I hate to promote a $10 pet place mat, I actually found one at PetSmart that I’m quite happy with. Martha Stewart’s new line at PetSmart features a pet place mat that fits the bill. It has a slight lipped edge and is made of silicon, which prevents it and the dishes on top of it from scooting around. However, the options for a pet place mat really are endless here. An old hand towel can even do the job nicely.
One last tip: Keep some old towels near your cat’s water dish, just in case. You never know when your kitty will take a tumble and you’ll need to dry her (and your whole floor). It makes the clean-up process just a tad less hectic if you don’t have to leave the scene to grab a towel.
Other best practices
Whether they mean to or not, sometimes you’ll see your CH kitty approach her water bowl from all angles. Keep this in mind when you put down her water bowl and food dish, and instead of placing the two a few inches apart, place them about 18 inches apart. That way, if your kitty tumbles into one, her next flop won’t throw her into the other.
Provide fresh water daily, if not more frequently. The freshness will entice your kitty to drink more, especially if it looks like someone went for a “dip” earlier.