Skip to content

Internet Sensation Cats Lead The Way For All Special Needs Cats

January 16, 2014

The world’s a funny place.

For some reason in the real world there seems to be a general disdain for cats. As far as I’m concerned, cats are the misunderstood underdogs of pets, and just being the caretaker for two — let alone the author of a cat blog — has resulted in a number of comments like “Oh, so you’re a cat person?”

While cats tend to get the short stick in real life, there’s one place where they’re adored — the Internet. In fact, the Internet LOVES cats.

Lil Bub

True, this is nothing new, but within the past couple of months the world has embraced, dare I say, a “new” type of cat: those with special needs.

Perhaps one of the most famous is Lil Bub, a gorgeous little girl who was “born with a multitude of genetic anomalies which all add up to one of nature’s happiest accidents,” according to her Web site. In addition to being a “perma-kitten” who has an extreme case of dwarfism, Lil Bub has short legs and a long body. Her lower jaw is shorter than her upper jaw, and her teeth never grew in which is why her tongue always hangs out. On top of that, Lil Bub’s a polydactyl. (Don’t worry about her, her “dude” says she’s happy and healthy!)

While some of these conditions are certainly precious and in some cases sought after (like polydactyl feet), others really do present some very real challenges that she has to live with on a daily basis. For one, she has some difficulty moving around. So much so, that her “dude” posted a video to her YouTube channel “BUB CLIMBS 15 STAIRS LIKE A CHAMP.” It was a big deal for her and her “dude” since about a year ago she was barely able to move because of her deformities and osteoporosis. And now “thanks to a lot of work and encouragement, special treatments, and BUB’s unflinching determination, BUB is not only able to stand upright and walk normally again, but she has been running and jumping for the first time since she was a kitten.”

I think we can all understand how they feel!

And here’s the cherry on top: Lil Bub, who was rescued as a kitten, is an advocate for homeless and special needs pets. She has raised more than $60,000 for various charities. She’s using her power for good.

Other cats have popped up, too.

Sir Stuffington also has a considerable following on Facebook, which is especially impressive since he was only adopted last September. When he was found as a stray he had a number of health problems including a heart murmur, a missing eye and more. And yet today more than 50,000 people have liked his page on Facebook.

Even little Chase No Face has quite the following. (Warning: Some may think his pictures are disturbing.)

The point is as the Internet loves cats, clever cat parents around the world are finding ways to share their stories of their special needs cats — and the world is embracing them no matter what their condition. I’m hoping that one day the enthusiasm and appreciation people have for cats — let alone those with special needs — become as acceptable offline as online. Thanks to these three little cats and many, many more, I believe we’re working in that direction.

Meet Angelica

January 12, 2014

The other day, Chris reached out and showed me one great way he’s gotten the word out about his CH cat, Angelica: By using Imgur!

In case you don’t know, Imgur is a platform that hosts photos so you can share them online and with your social networks. By uploading different photos and GIFs along with captions, Chris created quite a little resource that the Imgur community enjoyed and that can be shared.

You can check out Chris’s Imgur project here.

Have you done anything creative to get the word out about your CH cat? Please share in the comments!

Should We Not Call Ourselves ‘Pet Parents’?

January 8, 2014

In my time, I’ve heard various titles for the relationships people have with their pets. Perhaps you’re a mom, big brother or caretaker to a cat — I’ve even heard some folks consider themselves their cat’s “servant” or “person.” The titles really are as individual as all of our relationships with our pets, and rightly so. We choose the term that we feel best conveys our relationship — whatever that may be.

That’s why the other day when I read a piece published on Slate, I sat up and took notice. In the post, “I Am Not a Pet Parent,” the author makes the argument that she is — in fact we all are — pet owners, not pet parents.

Do you enjoy pampering or spoiling your cat?

She argues that “Big Pet,” a derogatory term for large pet companies, has perpetuated the term “pet parent” in order for us to spend more money on our pets out of (what I interpret her post to suggest) guilt and societal obligation. She then quotes the American Pet Products Association’s estimate that total U.S. spending on pets will top $55 billion in 2013 — nearly double the amount we spent on our pets in 2001.

“To sell [all of that] apparently requires owners to feel as emotionally and financially invested in their furry cuddlebugs as real parents are in their children,” she writes.

While the author makes a number of valid points in her post, I think she misses the larger picture.

From generation to generation things change — home life, higher education, the age we are getting married. That said, one thing hasn’t changed: our need for companionship. Sometimes that’s a human, but sometimes we find that companionship in an animal. In fact, over the past 40 years, the number of cats and dogs in homes in the U.S. has increased from 67 million to more than 164 million, according to the Humane Society. Pets are becoming more and more a part of our lives.

And while some may think it’s crazy to invest in elaborate cat trees or dog manicures, the point is that we do these things out of love. We don’t do these things simply because Big Pet “makes” us feel this way or because we’re delusional over our nonexistent biological connection to our pets, but because our relationships with our pets are some of the dearest in our lives, and by making them happy (real or perceived), we’re happy.

And honestly, I don’t see why it’s a big deal if we do spend money on our pets. It’s not like the nightly news has revealed stories about people who have gone into financial ruin for buying too many climbing trees for their cats or spending too much on dog manicures. In my opinion, it’s our own business what we spend our money on, and if we choose to spend it on our pet, that’s our choice. (People spend their money on much more dangerous things, that’s for sure!)

That’s why I don’t believe the term “pet parent” is any way delusional, dangerous or dumb. It’s one way to describe our close relationship with our pets — not that they’re human children that we’re raising, but that they’re close family members that need care and love. For me, my cats are my “children.” Yes, I use quotes here and air quotes in real life because I realize they’re not my true biological children, but they’re still family that I cherish. For some, a cat or dog may be like a child. To others, the pet may be more like a brother, sister or friend — or even “master of the household.” The point is, those terms convey an intimacy that isn’t reflected in the term “pet owner.” Because after all, while we all may technically own our pets, no one owns a family member.

So at the end of the day, I’m in the camp that believes you should call yourself whatever you want — within reason. Sure we don’t actually have biological connections to our pets, but that doesn’t make our relationships and emotional ties any less valid.

How do you feel about this? Am I totally off the mark? Or do you proudly wear the title of pet parent, too? Please share in the comments!

Meet Blinky

January 2, 2014

The holidays are officially over, which I think makes it the perfect time to send a little extra cheer your way with this lovely story. A few weeks ago, Brian emailed me about a little kitten, Blinky — who’s now 5-months-old, that he and Denise adopted. To many people, Blinky would appear unadoptable. She pretty much is the amalgamation of all of the factors that make a kitten less adoptable: she is black, blind in one eye, and there’s more to it than that. But Blinky has become a welcomed and loved part of her family for those very reasons!

Here’s her story:


Blinky is an extra-special all black kitten; she came to us as company for another little kitten (Phoebe) we adopted that someone found in the middle of the freeway. We contacted some rescue centers, and when one said they had a kitten who was blind in one eye, we just had to have her. We went to pick her up at the local vet and to fill out the relevant forms. While this was going on, I was giving Blinky some love, and she just fell off my legs, backflipped over my hands. I was mortified.

At this point we didn’t know there was anything else wrong with her, she was only 4-weeks-old tops so her movements were put down to perception issues and regular kittens learning to walk. I noticed that when she was still her head would bobble about a bit, and she fell off the bed which upset me as she was such a small thing.

It was then that I suspected something may have been off and started to research her symptoms. It was Life with CH Cats that helped fill in the blanks and took away a lot of the worry about her condition. She has only a mild case of CH, enough to be cute and wobbly, I can only surmise that her mother didn’t have the nutrients to grow her properly as her left eye and cheek were not properly formed and her coat is very thin (but it is shiny). She is VERY hard to photograph, it’s almost like her coat sucks in all light and distorts the picture. She’s just a little black blob, who is incredibly fun and filled with so much love.

How does she manage the litter box? Eating and drinking? Do you do anything special to help?

She used to fall backward when she pooped, and we would have to watch for her and hold our hands above her shoulders for her to lean onto, now however she has learned a particular stance which means she doesn’t have to be assisted. Read more…

Recovering From the Holidays

December 27, 2013

It’s a Friday night. I’m sitting on the bear couch trying to balance my MacBook on my lap as Ellie clumsily shimmies across me from one side of the couch to the other. Matt’s seated to my left, reading the latest news on his iPad, and CG (as per usual) is sitting on the floor in front of us watching us expectantly. It’s a quiet evening, and I love it.

Tree Cats

CG (left) and Ellie under the tree in the same spot just minutes apart.

It’s also the Friday after Christmas which means all of the presents have been given out, once again opening up the space under our pre-lit Christmas tree. CG couldn’t be happier. He absolutely loves the faux fir tree, and we realized from the very minute that we attached the plastic feet to its base that it would be a problem. Since that moment of putting up the tree, CG has picked at the branches with his claws, scratched on its “trunk,” swatted down ornaments, and of course, used it as a fort.

As semi-dangerous as some of his behaviors have been, Matt and I have conceded to let him have his way (under a watchful eye) because over the past few weeks CG has simply come to life. His darling 5-year-old sometimes-old-grumpy-man cat personality has been put on hold in favor for a goofy goose who just wants to have fun — and he can’t understand why Matt and I first yelled at him every time he tried out his new “scratching post.”

That’s just a tiny glimpse into everything that has been happening the past month. The past few weeks have been crazy, but wonderful — isn’t it always that way? I don’t mean all of the hustle and pressure, all of the family and expectations, but rather those quite moments when it’s just you and your cat staring peacefully at a lit Christmas tree in a darkened room.

And now that my schedule is nearly back to order, I’m happy to finally publish a post (after an unexpected absence) and continue to touch base with all of you.

Until my next post, I hope all of you had an absolutely tremendous holiday season, and I wish you and your families the happiest of New Years!

Two Pet Parents Share Stories About Their Cerebellar Abiotrophy Cats

December 16, 2013

As some of you have learned first hand, sometimes it’s cerebellar hypoplasia, sometimes it’s not. While I obviously focus on CH on this blog, I think it’s equally important to share what I find about similar conditions, in case it can be helpful to any of you.

Photo courtesy zaimoku_woodpile.

Today I wanted to share two stories I found on Facebook about cats with cerebellar abiotrophy. CA cats are sometimes confused as CH cats since they have similar mobility issues. Unlike CH, which is a condition that is present at birth, CA is a condition that develops after a cat is born; it is usually noticeable by 6 months of age.

Here are their stories:

As a kitten, Jonathan’s cat was just like any other goofy kitten who would run, jump and climb. When the kitten was a few months old, some of Jonathan’s relatives mentioned that they thought the cat was walking oddly. About a year after that observation, Jonathan said that his cat is now more like a moderate CH cat.

For the past couple of months, Jonathan said their cat’s condition has stabilized. Since CA in cats is rare, vets may not be familiar with it. Consequently, Jonathan has found others with CA cats to learn more about the condition through their experiences.

Karin also told the group about her CA cat, Tipsy. Here’s Tipsy’s story:

“I had a very mild CH cat in the past, so I didn’t notice the walk was much different. I have two CH foster kittens now, and I definitely see a difference in the walk! Tipsy is slow and kind of glides. Sometimes he gets a little burst and “runs,” but only stays upright about 6-8 feet. He was born normal, started showing symptoms about 6 weeks, then stabilized about 4 months of age. The first year or so, he would get frustrated when he fell or couldn’t play like other cats.

He’s five now and just happy to be around us. He would slide off our very tall bed, so we built him a ramp. He uses it all the time. We have a small ramp for the sofa. Every few months, he would surprise us with something new he figured out how to do, like get on the second level of the cat tree which is about 18″ off the floor. … I think Tipsy has adapted as much as possible. He has a loose knee now, but not enough to cause him pain and not bad enough to surgically repair (yet?).”

Have you met a CA cat? Do you have anything to share? Please tell us in the comments!

Is It Normal For My CH Cat To Lay While Using The Litter Box?

December 13, 2013

It’s one of those questions you’ll likely never think to ask until it happens to you: Is it normal for CH cats to use the litter box while laying on their side?

Jodi reached out to the CH cat Facebook community a while back to find out:

Photo courtesy Shana L. McDanold.

“I am a new owner of a mild CH cat. He seems to want to lay over in the litter box when he poops. Is this common? I have been helping stay upright, and he does stay upright on occasion without my help. He is 9-weeks-old.”

While the experiences vary, the answer was clear: Yes, some CH cats do lay on their side while in the litter box. No matter the reason for their cats’ behavior, everyone who responded shared one of two things: that their cat improved over time to the point where he/she no longer lays in the box, or that they found a way to make using the litter box easier for their CH cat.

Here’s a look at some of their advice. Have something more to add? Please share in the comments!

Roxann: You may have to continue to help for a while, in terms of helping him stand upright when he uses the litter box. My Ozzy learned quickly to lean on the side of the box (I have tall ones). Nine-weeks-old is still pretty young. His legs need to get stronger and he needs to learn to balance better.

Saskia: Mine couldn’t stay up in the box until she was about 4-months-old. As she moved around the house she got stronger and eventually stopped falling over in the box. They get better! The kitten period can be tricky for CH kitties.

Rebecca: My 9-week-old CH does the same. I was just letting her go potty on her side. I am often amazed that she isn’t covered with pee or poop after going. Today I was so proud she pooped leaning against the box. I lifted her before she tried to cover it because for my CH kitties that is where it all goes downhill.

Emily: My mild CH kitty had the same problem. I used to have to give her baths pretty frequently because she would fall over in the litter box all the time. Whenever I would hear her scratching around in the box, I would run in to hold her up while she went to the bathroom. As she got older (she’s a year and a half now), she built up more strength to hold herself up better, and she also figured out that she could lean against the wall. We have two boxes – one with low sides in a corner (so she has the option of two walls to lean against), and the other box is made out of one of those big Rubbermaid storage bins. We cut a square hole out of the side for the cats to get in and out. That one has high walls on all four sides for her to lean against. She hardly ever falls over these days.

Looking for more litter box advice? Here you go!

A Tip For Unsteady, Stair-Climbing CH Cats: Try A Landing Pad

December 10, 2013
tags: ,

A few weeks ago, Alan casually mentioned something in a comment that really made me think:

“One of our CH cats is a burrower, so we got a few old wool blankets, folded them up so he can crawl in, and put them in his favorite places. One night, after he’d fallen down the cat steps leading to the bed, my wife moved one of his “burritos” to the foot of the steps as a landing pad. Anchoring it securely also helped him get a firm stance when reaching for the first step, and he hasn’t fallen from the steps in at least a year.”

Alan, thanks for sharing that tip, because it’s a solution I’ve been searching for!

NomYou see, our downstairs floors are hardwood, but our second floor and stairs are carpeted. Having carpeted stairs is great for Ellie, but she always has a little trouble when she’s transitioning from the carpeted stairs to the hardwood or vice versa.

This trouble became super apparent a few months ago when she had a little accident coming downstairs. As she stepped on to the hardwood, she lost her footing and slipped, falling into her water dish (which was in the area where their plates are in the photo). We immediately reorganized a few things and moved the water dish (and food dishes) in a more appropriate place. Although that solved part of the problem, it didn’t solve the issue of Ellie not having sure footing while transitioning to or from hardwood.

That’s why Alan’s tip is an excellent one. I’m going to look for a carpet or mat that has a grip on the back to lay on the hardwood floor in front of the steps. That way, Ellie can transition to something that has more texture, which will hopefully decrease the number of times she loses her footing — or at least give her a little something to land on!

I realize this seems like an incredibly simply solution — but sometimes the best solutions are the simplest and most obvious. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Have you tried something like this in your home? If so, please share in the comments!

Our Hunt For The Perfect Couch

December 7, 2013

The time has come for our “bear couch” to retire.

Through the years you’ve gotten sneak peeks of it, and I guarantee that it’s been well loved through its “lifetime.”

photo 1

Our old bear couch.

As Matt and I look toward the new year, we decided that would include a new couch. Consequently, that also includes some couch strategy.

While there are certainly some things that I’ve learned to not care too much about when having CH cats, I did want to take our CHers into account when picking the right couch. How so? Glad you asked.

So when couch shopping, so much more needed to be taken into account than just comfort level. We also looked at:

– The back of the couch. Some couch backs were one piece, others had thin backs with separate back cushions. Ellie loves sitting on the back of the couch, so we figured a thicker back would work best for her.

photo 2

The fabric swatch after lots of plucking!

– The height of the couch and the space (or not underneath it). We wanted to make sure the cats could climb onto the couch easily, and if necessary, climb under it.

– And naturally, the fabric is key. Our bear couch had a beautiful, woven almost tapestry-like fabric on it. Unfortunately, those fabric strands and strings were easily snagged, pulled and torn. So when looking for a new couch, we decided to take the fabric into account. We wanted something that (if possible) wouldn’t show wear so quickly.

Thankfully we got a fabric swatch, which I then tested at home with a safety pin. I plucked and plucked away at the fabric, trying to mimic cat claws. I’m happy to say the swatch passed the test (it didn’t show a thing!), so I’m hoping that’s a good preview of what’s to come. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Does Your Cat Climb The Christmas Tree? Here’s A Solution

December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving is now in our rearview mirrors, and as we look forward to Christmas, odds are you may be thinking about putting up your tree.

OK, you can stop laughing. No, really.

CG hiding in my mom's Christmas tree.

CG hiding in my mom’s Christmas tree.

I know, I know, for many of us, Christmas trees are simply huge cat toys. As I’ve learned in the last few days, it’s CG’s most favorite toy in the world. No kidding — he’s been acting very kitten-ish around it. It’s bizarre and adorable. But did I mention I don’t want him electrocuting himself or tipping it over?

Seems I’m not the only one living with this predicament, and fortunately for the rest of us, Patty has found a solution that may help with some of that. Here’s her story:

“I don’t know if any of your other readers have problems with their kitties and their Christmas trees being toppled over, but Spaz has a thing about the tree, and he tries to climb it. It is bad enough for a normal cat to try to climb the tree, but I would come home and find the tree laying on its side at least once a week. I have found a solution for the problem and I have not had the problem since.

You know the outside glass tables with the shade umbrella that the pole goes through the center of the table and into a cement disc stand? The cement base for the shade umbrella is the perfect size for an artificial tree. It keeps the tree standing with all of Spaz’s attempts to climb it. This also works great for normal cats as well. I have found a lot more joy in the Christmas season being able to have a tree and to keep my tree and decorations intact and standing.

I was so afraid that I would find Spaz pined under the fallen tree and injured in some way that I didn’t put one up for a couple years. I was on a mission to make it work for me and my cat, I got a brainstorm when I noticed the stand for my shade umbrella sitting under the glass table. I have been using this technique ever since.”

Thanks for sharing, Patty! Other readers, do you have other tips and tricks when it comes to cat-proofing your Christmas? Please share in the comments!

%d bloggers like this: