Sunday, September 13, 2009
Meet Lulu...Court Jester
Lulu is a special needs kitty and a rescue. Lulu has a disease called Cerebellar Hypoplasia. However, she does not allow this to get in the way of her happy life. Lulu is a fully functioning little girl and keeps the royal family laughing and on their toes with her antics. Her only demand is that her human servants pay attention to her at 4:00 am.
What is Cerebellar Hypoplasia?
The cerebellum is the portion of the brain responsible for the control of motion. When a puppy or kitten is born with an underdeveloped cerebellum, the condition is known as congenital cerebellar hypoplasia. There are infectious causes of this condition in both cats (panleukopenia infection prior to birth) and dogs (herpes virus infection prior to birth). Improper development of the cerebellum may occur due to injury, poisoning or just from an accident in development in the uterus. It is generally possible to see signs of this condition almost as soon as the puppy or kitten is born. Affected animals have tremors and unusual jerky movements or may fall down when they try to move.
The symptoms do not get worse as they age. As the kitten or puppy grows it will learn to compensate for its condition but there are usually lifelong signs of a decreased ability to coordinate movement. Almost all dogs and cats with congenital cerebellar hypoplasia can live happily as pets with a little special care to compensate for their disabilities. This condition can be confused with cerebellar abiotrophy, a different disorder in dogs in which the puppy has a normal cerebellum at birth but it gradually dies. Signs of disease identical to cerebellar hypoplasia occur but the timing is different. Puppies with this condition seem normal at birth but usually start to show signs of problems after they are 2 months or more of age.
How do cats cope with it?
In humans, the problems would be significant disabilities. CH cats don't worry over their inability to do things in the same way or at the same speed as other cats. Spastic cats can do everything other cats do and are equally independent - they climb fences, play and performs daredevil feats, though they can be alarming to watch, especially as they teeter along a fence. Occasionally they slip, catch hold with their claws and haul themselves back up again; make sure there are soft plants to cushion any fall! Like disabled humans most won't want to be overprotected, but in the same way that disabled facilities are made available to humans, some thought needs to be given to toilet facilities, access to favorite spots etc to ensure their well-being.
It is not advisable to give a spastic cat free access to outdoors as their mobility problems, perception problems and possible sight problems makes traffic doubly hazardous to them. If you have an enclosed garden or a cat harness and leash they can have access outdoors. Many people are unaware of the condition and people who see these cats twitching on the path outdoors sometimes try to help the 'injured cat', but the cat's crazy zigzag run confuses most pursuers - they simply don't end up in the place they appeared to be heading for (one more reason roads pose such a threat, a driver who tries to avoid the cat cannot compensate for the cat ending up in the wrong place). Even birds are caught unawares by this zigzag approach and I know of spastic cats who are reasonable hunters, exploiting this element of surprise. CH cats are extremely independent and owners report that affected cats usually have "sunny personalities", but some allowances still have to be made.
A caring owner can think of other ways in which to help a disabled feline companion, but beware of being overprotective. A disabled cat still requires some semblance of independence to allow it to fulfill that inner 'catness' that we love in our feline friends. Most seem unaware of their disabilities and they do not expect life to make allowances, but a helping hand and some adjustments to their lifestyle and perhaps your own lifestyle will ensure a disabled cat has a healthy, happy and safe life. (full text available at ---> "Cerebellar Hypoplasia")