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Are you aiming to adopt a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia? Find out more about how to care for wobbly kittens or cats in our guide.

What is cerebellar hypoplasia?

Have you noticed that some kittens appear to have issues with their balance? They may have problems walking, running, jumping or even locating items around them. These kittens may have cerebellar hypoplasia. Often referred to as ‘wobbly kittens’ or ‘wobbly cats’, cerebellar hypoplasia is an unusual neurological disorder as a result of interrupted development of the brain, leading to uncoordinated movement or ataxia. There can be many causes of ataxia, a disorder affecting co-ordination, balance and speech, but Cerebellar hypoplasia is one of the most common.

What causes cerebellar hypoplasia?

Cerebellar hypoplasia usually occurs in kittens as a result of their mother being infected with feline parvovirus during pregnancy.

On occasion, it can also occur if the kitten is infected in the first few weeks after birth. Some or all of the kittens in the litter can be affected, with some more so than others. The virus affects the kitten’s brain during development, resulting in a lack of coordination.

Find out more about Feline Infectious Enteritis

What are the signs of cerebellar hypoplasia?

If your kitten has cerebellar hypoplasia, you might notice that they are a little ‘wobbly’ as they begin to move, usually at a few weeks of age. As cerebellar hypoplasia is a non-progressive disorder, this will not worsen over time but cats are generally affected for the rest of their lives. Luckily, cats will learn to cope with their condition and generally live full and happy lives, albeit with some extra care.

Cats with cerebellar hypoplasia are likely to:

  • stand with their legs far apart
  • sway when they move
  • lift their legs high when walking
  • nod, or have head tremors, which may worsen when they try to eat or focus
  • lose their balance

How is cerebellar hypoplasia diagnosed in kittens?

If you suspect your kitten may have cerebellar hypoplasia, it is important to visit your vet as soon as possible to determine a diagnosis. Your vet will likely examine your cat and aim to rule out any conditions with similar neurological symptoms. Epilepsy and some infectious diseases may mimic the symptoms of cerebellar hypoplasia, so it is important to get your kitten properly diagnosed.

If you do have a thorough medical history of your cat, take this along with you. Particularly important is any information about your cat’s mother, especially if it is known that she contracted Feline Parvovirus when she was pregnant.

To properly diagnose your kitten, your vet will likely need a CT or MRI scan of your cat’s brain, although some vets familiar with the condition may be able to diagnose without this test. To undergo the scan, your cat will usually need to be sedated so they can remain still and quiet. The procedure is painless for your cat and not invasive.

Find out more about finding a vet

How can I look after a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia?

If you have a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia in your care, there are a number of ways to make life comfortable and easy for them. Here are a few tips.

  1. Set your cat up with a deep litter tray with high sides – they can use the support for balance when toileting. A larger tray ensures the cat has plenty of space and ensures it can’t be tipped up.
  2. Affected cats can be messy eaters so it is best to feed in an easily cleaned area, such as a kitchen, and use sturdy food and water bowls that cannot be turned over.
  3. Provide easy ways for your cat to access its favourite high spots. Cushions and rugs under windowsills provide great makeshift crash mats for cats that find it difficult to land after jumping.
  4. Carpets and rugs are often easier for cats with cerebellar hypoplasia to walk on than slippery floors.

Is there any treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia?

Once the brain has been damaged, it cannot be repaired so there is no treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia. However, most cats learn to adapt to their limit of fine motor skills.

Do cats with cerebellar hypoplasia need to go to the vet more often?

Although cats with cerebellar hypoplasia require a little extra care, they are likely to live full lives. In fact, they often live the same length of time as cats that are not affected. Additionally, they will have no behavioural issues or health problems as a result and will not need to go to the vet more often than the average cat.

Can cats with cerebellar hypoplasia go outside?

Cats with cerebellar hypoplasia should ideally be kept indoors, or if necessary, have access to a safely-fenced garden or run. Outside fences and gates can be difficult for them to manoeuvre and can result in injury. Make sure they are microchipped so that they can be easily identified if they escape too. If your cat is kept solely indoors, keeping them occupied with toys and puzzle feeders will keep boredom at bay.

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