How Can You Help Your Cat With Cerebellar Hypoplasia?

Posted on: 23 January 2023


Cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), or wobbly kitten syndrome, is a condition where a part of the brain (the cerebellum) is underdeveloped. Cats with this disorder may experience issues with balance, coordination, and fine motor skills. If you have a cat with CH, they may have a pronounced sway as they walk, and may experience intense tremors. It may be distressing at first to watch a kitten with CH move, but the good news is that CH doesn't cause pain or affect a cat's lifespan. A cat with this condition can have a great quality of life with some at-home modifications. Read on to learn more about this condition and how to help a cat with CH.

What Causes CH and How is it Diagnosed?

Cerebellar hypoplasia isn't an infectious disease and doesn't spread to other cats, but it can be caused by infections while a kitten is developing. For example, if a pregnant cat is infected with the feline panleukopenia virus, she can pass this infection onto her kittens which can lead to CH. During the perinatal period, the cerebellum undergoes rapid growth, so any kind of inflammatory disease of the brain, like toxoplasmosis, could lead to CH.

If you suspect that a kitten has CH, then they need to get an official diagnosis from a vet. A vet will use neuroimaging, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to make a diagnosis.

How is CH Treated?

Because CH is a lifelong condition, treatment involves management techniques, such as physical therapy, and home modifications to help your cat feel comfortable in his or her environment. Your vet might recommend hydrotherapy since it can help your cat strengthen his or her muscles and balance.

Cats with CH should remain as indoor cats since they cannot adequately protect themselves outdoors. Most cats should not be undergoing inhumane declawing, or tendonectomy—except in rare instances, like the removal of cancerous nail tumors—but it's especially important for cats with CH to keep their claws so that they can adequately grip the ground as they move around.

How Can You Modify Your Home Environment for CH Cats?

Some homeowners may be tempted to limit their cat's activity, but play is important to maintain your cat's health and happiness. A blog post on Life with CH Cats says that usual cat toys, like laser pointers, feather wands, etc. can help your cat stay active and help your cat's brain learn to rewire itself. Cats with CH can actually jump quite well despite their condition; so you should make sure that you have carpeting and rugs so that cats can get a good grip on the floor when they descend from vertical places, like cat trees. You may need to place baby gates in potentially dangerous fall areas, like stairs or around slick, tiled surfaces.

Another area where you may need to modify is the litter box and feeding area. Litter boxes should be large and low to the ground so that your cat can easily step in and out of the box without issue. Small food and water bowls can be difficult for CH cats to access, so you may want to resort to larger plates and non-slip mats under dishes. Elevated feeders can be helpful as well.

Reach out to a veterinarian in your area today for more pet care tips on how to manage cerebellar hypoplasia.