Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Kittens & Cats

Thumper (a special needs cat) above and Julie (a CH cat) below

Every Life Deserves A Chance - EVERY LIFE

Cerebellar Hypoplasia is a disorder where the cerebellum of the brain has not fully formed. There are various causes such as bacterial infections and viral infections, feline panleukopenia, caused by feline parvovirus, but can also be caused by poisoning, injury or malnutrition.  Some common symptoms are jerky movement, wobbly uncoordinated walking and head bobbing.

There is no cure for CH, it doesn’t get better but it doesn’t get worse.  A kitten will learn to compensate for his/her condition and have a normal lifespan.  These cats should not be allowed outside as they have no defense against predators.

There are many cats and kittens with this condition that are being put down because it is thought that their quality of life is less than perfect.  This should never be an option because if these cats survive this condition, they are equally as amazing as other cats.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia, aka Cerebral Hypoplasia, is a condition often caused in the uterus of a pregnant cat, either by the mother cat contracting panleukopenia (feline distemper), or receiving panleukopenia vaccines (considered "core vaccines) during pregnancy. Other congenital causes include injury or poisoning. Some kittens who survive birth will show almost immediate signs of CH, first with "bobbly" or jerky heads as they attempt to feed, then later, with wobble or spastic-like movements when they try to walk. A kitten may fall to its side while trying to walk, then roll back and forth in an effort to right itself, only to fall over again. These videos from the CH Kitty Club give a more visual explanation of their underdeveloped motor skills. The cause of these kinds of physical reactions lies in the root of the name:

Refers to the cerebellum, the part of the brain which regulates motor (movement) activity to help maintain balance and equilibrium.

Decreased or arrested development of an organ (the cerebellum, in this case.

The bad news is that a majority of young kittens who are born with panleukopenia do not survive, as the death rate may be as high as 90%. Fortunately, once a kitten does survive, as long as it receives good care at home and both routine and urgent veterinary care, the kitten should grow to enjoy a normal life span. By the same token, an adult cat who survives feline distemper, is considered immune to that virus for life.

Dogs can also develop Cerebellar Hypoplasia,and a common cause is canine herpes 1.

About Panleukopenia
Since panleukopenia and cerebellar hypoplasia often go hand-in-hand, it is difficult to separate the two for a thorough understanding of CH cats, therefor the information is almost interchangeable.

Panleukopenia is a parvovirus, which causes a disease in dogs, commonly known as "Parvo." Interestingly, according to Janet Crosby, About.com Guide to Veterinary Medicine, "Canine Parvovirus is thought to be a mutation from the feline Parvovirus, also known as Feline Distemper virus."

Kittens who survive the initial panleukopenia virus will probably remain immune to a new virus infection. However, they may shed the virus to other cats and kittens that haven't been immunized against it. (Kittens under eight weeks old should not be given the panleukopenia vaccine.) The virus is a virulent one, and can be transmitted by shared food or dishes, bedding, mutual grooming, or even by human handling, as the virus can live on clothing, footwear or hands. Panleukopenia is also a long-lasting parvovirus, with a possible life span of up to a year in carpets, crevices, and furniture.

The management and care of CH kittens and cats requires patience, creativity, and a great deal of love. It has been my experience that the kind of people who undertake their care already have all these qualities. Since they are the hands-on experts with these special needs cats, we can all learn from their advice.

Tips From Suellend
Julie, the CH cat pictured here, is a year old now, and has lived with Suellend since she was four weeks old. Her foster mom is a volunteer for the animal shelter that rescued Julie, along with 33 other cats and kittens who were the victims of a cat hoarding situation. All of them had contracted panleukopenia from their mother cat. They all had varying degrees of disability, but Julie's is severe.

Since Julie needs to be "pottied" three times a day and can't manage a regular litter box, Suellend uses what she calls a "boot tray," with has a low edge and little nubs all around. Suellend lifts Julie into the tray, then holds her under her belly until she "gets the message," then lifts her out of the tray and gives her a treat for reward.

Julie has difficulty ambulating around the house, so she spends most of her time on Suellend's bed. Her front legs are very strong so she can claw her way up to the bed. There are stacks of blankets, pillows, and quilts on the floor all around the bed, to help soften the landing in case she falls. Suellend writes, "She is a real inspiration to all of us as she is a happy girl and well adjusted to her severe disability." Read Julie's full story.

Advice From Cindy Davis
Thumper, the cat pictured on page one, lives with Cindy Davis and Lucy, a two year old CH kitty. Lucy stays on the main floor, as she instinctivly knows she can't handle stairs. To help both of them reach higher furniture, Cindy has eight "doggie steps" throught the downstairs area to help them climb.
Lucy is a "bobby-head" cat and is unable to eat out of a regular bowl, so Cindy has a carpet where she scatters kibble.

Cindy's greatest advice is to never let CH cats go outside unattended, advice which applies to all cats. Some of them can ambulate quite rapidly and find themselves in precarious positions. Read more about Thumper and Lucy.

The CH Kitty Club
If you either have a CH cat or are thinking of adopting one, a good place to find advice is the CH Kitty Club. Its members can share helpful information and advice, and you will find yourself in the company of others who are caring for these very lovable and loving cats.

Article taken from: http://cats.about.com/od/felineinfectiousdiseases/ss/Profile-of-Feline-Cerebellar-Hypoplasia.htm