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There are few things guaranteed to worry a cat guardian more, than when the vet casually mentions, “Do you know your cat has a heart murmur?”

A thousand thoughts (none of them good) fly through your mind at once. Numb from worry, the only coherent words you can string together are, “Is it serious?”

An Awkward Question

Actually, as a vet the “Is it serious?” question pushes a lot of buttons. You see, it’s often impossible on first hearing to know if the murmur is significant or not. But the answer, “It’s difficult to say,” is not the reassuring response an owner wants.

The trouble is that heart murmurs in cats are complicated, and span the full range of outcomes from innocent murmurs to life-threatening conditions. But to work out the difference often requires tests – such as blood tests, x-rays, and a heart scan – before the vet can say, “Nope, nothing to worry about.” It’s great news to hear your cat is well, but not such great news for your pocket after forking out for the tests.

If you feel the whole situation is unsatisfactory, then it may help to better understand what a murmur is, what causes them, and why some cause problems and others don’t.

Heart Murmur 101

There’s a big difference between a heart murmur and heart failure.

A heart murmur is sound created due to turbulent blood flow in the heart. This can be the result of causes such as:

  • Heart enlargement (dilated cardiomyopathy)
  • Thickening of the heart muscle (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy)
  • Heartworm
  • Stiff valve leaflets
  • Blood abnormalities such as severe anaemia
  • Anatomical abnormalities such as a hole in the heart
  • Bizarre blood vessel plumbing into the heart.

Heart disease or failure is when the heart can no longer function effectively and there is inadequate blood flow to the organs. Symptoms include:

  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Reluctance to move or jump
  • Poor appetite
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Pale or grey gums
  • A swollen belly

The take home message is a murmur indicates turbulent blood flow, and not necessarily that the cat is about to expire. Some murmurs are ‘innocent’ and don’t need treatment or worrying about. However, the problem lies in that some murmurs are serious, and recognizing them isn’t always easy.

Image: Kurt Bauschardt via Flickr

Does My Cat Need Tests?

As a responsible cat owner you want to do the right thing. But, you don’t want to put your cat through unnecessary stress. Be honest with your vet. Good questions to ask are:

  • Are these tests essential or nice-to-know?
  • What happens if I do nothing?
  • Which single test is least stressful and / or best value for money?
  • What would you do if it were your cat? (Always a classic for making your vet think a bit harder!)

Vets put murmurs into categories of loudness, ranked from Grade I (very quiet, only heard via a stethoscope in quiet room) to Grade VI (the murmur is so loud it can be heard with a naked ear near the chest wall.)

In itself, the loudness of a heart murmur in cats isn’t necessarily an indicator of seriousness. That said, vets are more proactive with the louder murmurs because there’s an increased risk of heart disease.

Image: Paul L Dineen via Flickr

Does my Cat Have Heart Disease?

Now we’re cutting to the heart of the matter. Your vet will be alert for signs your cat’s heart is struggling such as an irregular heart rhythm, an abnormal heart rate, congested lungs, and / or general signs of ill health.

To fully answer the question requires tests. A rundown includes:

  • Screening blood tests: This checks for anaemia (indicate numbers of red blood cells makes the blood too thin, which causes turbulent blood flow in the heart) or conditions such as overactive thyroid glands (hyperthyroidism makes the heart work too hard, which can cause a murmur).
  • X-rays: Sometimes the signs of heart disease and respiratory disease are very similar. A chest radiograph can give invaluable information.
  • proBNP blood test: This test measures the levels of a natural protein released from the heart muscle. When the heart is struggling, the levels of proBNP rise. Thus a high result is a strong pointer that heart imaging is required.
  • Cardiac ultrasound: This is the gold standard. The ultrasound gives a real-time image of the heart as it pumps, how well the valves meet together, and the thickness of the heart walls.

Each cat is an individual with their own murmur. Some cats won’t need all the tests. For example, if you skip straight to the gold standard and an ultrasound, you can skip the proBNP test. But if you are worried about sedating your cat for a scan and want to be sure it’s essential, then running the proBNP first can reassure you.

Image: Selmer van Alten via Flickr

What are the Treatment Options?

After all this, is the information just academic or can something be done to treat heart murmurs in cats?

The vast majority of the times a problem is diagnosed, there are treatment options to extend or improve life. This doesn’t mean a cure, but slowing up the deterioration and giving a better quality of life.

As well as excellent heart meds now available, it’s also important to correct any underlying health problems. A great example is the cat with overactive thyroid glands. By bringing the thyroid hormones down to normal, a big strain is removed from the heart. Indeed, not all hyperthyroid cats with struggling hearts need specific heart meds, but do very well just by managing their thyroid levels.

So now you see when you ask “Is it serious?” the vet pauses and a takes a deep breath. The answer “It’s difficult to tell,” isn’t skirting around the issue but being truthful. And yes, getting an answer means spending money. . . regardless of whether there’s a problem at the end of it.

Do your own heart good! Stroke a cat today.

Dr Pippa Elliott BVMS MRCVS is a veterinarian with 27-years’ experience in practice and a special interest in feline medicine and behaviour. Pippa is housekeeping staff to four highly individual cats that conspire to keep her busy opening doors on demand.

The post Heart Murmurs in Cats appeared first on Pawesome Cats.

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Imagine it’s the school holidays, but you have to work. You leave the kids home alone. . . but the TV’s broken, they’re too young to read, and you’ve locked most of their toys away.

When you come home would you expect them to be perched like little angels on the sofa, hands folded in their laps, without a hair out of place?

No! Of course not.

You’d be lucky if the house was still standing. When kids get bored they get up to mischief. . . which isn’t so different to cats.

Causes of Cat Behavioural Issues

Here are examples of the ‘naughtiness’ cats get up to:

  • Over grooming
  • Toileting outside the box
  • Scratching furniture
  • Fighting with other cats in the house
  • Lashing out at people
  • Over eating

Whilst not wishing to over-simplify things, the chances are cat behavioural issues can be attributed to one of the following causes [*Assuming your vet has passed your cat as healthy and there is no medical problem behind her behaviour.]

  1. Lack of socialisation as a kitten
  2. Boredom
  3. Not having the resources to exhibit normal feline behaviour
  4. Her guardian misunderstands cat psychology

The first step to solving cat behavioural issues is to ask: Which of these causes, 1 – 4, is the reason behind my cat’s bad behaviour?

1. Lack of Socialization

Think of a feral cat, which hisses and spits and skulks away when you approach. This cat was not exposed to people as a kitten and therefore acts as if they are a threat.

This can also happen to our pet cats if they came from a breeder who kept the litter in an outdoor run, rather than inside in a home setting. That cat may be friendly most of the time, but may lash out when you try to move her from a chair or attempt to stroke her belly.

2. Boredom

An outdoor cat lives by hunting, which takes considerable patience and concentration. An indoor cat without any means to occupy her time is going to get up to mischief (just like children!)

Some cats resort to activities such as over-grooming. The repetitive natural of licking releases endorphins (the feel-good hormones that are released when we exercise). Cats can get hooked on these endorphins and literally groom themselves bald.

Image: Douglas O’Brien via Flickr

3. Not Able to Exhibit Normal Behaviour

Cats are territorial animals, and scratch with their claws in order to mark territory. When a cat isn’t provided with plenty of the right sort of scratching posts as an outlet for this natural urge, she will claw the furniture, walls, or carpet instead.

4. Cat Guardian Misunderstands Cat

The classic example is a cornered cat that is labelled as aggressive. A fearful cat has limited ways to tell you she’s unhappy. When an anxious animal is cornered, (perhaps when you’re trying to catch her to put in the carrier) a cat without an escape route is liable to lash out as her last means of preventing something awful happening to her.

Other examples of misunderstanding is expecting a group of cats to share one litter tray (ideally they need one each plus one spare) or providing double-dipper bowls for food and water (cats prefer their water to be at a distance from their food.)

Image: Tomi Tapio K via Flickr

Solving Cat Behavioural Issues 1. Appraise the Situation

Think through what’s gone wrong. If you identify that your cat is bored, the answer is to play with your cat and provide ways of keeping her mind busy when you’re out.

2. Put a Plan in Place

Some issues are harder to overcome, such as lack of socialization. In the case of the latter, learn to read your cat’s body language and withdraw your hand immediately you notice the tell-tale signs that her patience is about to snap. Concentrate of having your cat come to you, by sitting still and throwing her treats. Gradually build her confidence and wait to see what happens.

3. Tackle Boredom

Regardless of the cause of a cat behavioural issue, it is a rare cat who won’t appreciate not being bored. Ways to provide mental stimulation include:

  • Play with your cat at least twice a day: For the scratchers and biters, use toys at a distance such as a wing-on-a-string.
  • Use puzzle feeders: Instead of letting your cat chow down from a bowl, use a puzzle feeder. This mimics the thought and concentration that goes into hunting and keeps the cat amused.
  • Provide something to watch: How about putting a bird feeder on the other side of the window to provide a living TV, or leave the actual TV on a nature channel when you’re out.
  • Switch toys around: Leave toys out for your cat, but swap them around every day so she doesn’t get over familiar with them and bored.
  • Grooming sessions: Brush your cat regularly which helps bonding and occupies her time.

Image: Melissa Wiese via Flickr

4. Enable Her to Act like a Cat

Think about what cats like to do in the wild:

  • Climb
  • Hide
  • Hunt
  • Scratch

Provide tall cat trees for your cat to climb, with a high platform on top so she can look down on the world. Make sure she has a hidey hole in each room (especially when she shares the home with other animals or children) even if it’s a simple cardboard box.

Let her pretend to hunt, by hiding small treats or puzzle feeders around the room.

And arguably most important of all, provide scratching posts near her bed and beside entrances and exits. But not just any old scratching post. Work out if your cat is a horizontal or vertical scratcher (does she prefer carpets or walls?) and the surface she loves most (wallpaper, carpet, or wood). Then find scratching posts as close to her purr-sonal preferences as possible.

Image: Myeong mo Koo via Flickr

5. Understand Cat Psychology

This is where you may need to do your homework to better understand how a cat’s mind works.

For example, did you know that most cats prefer separate trays for pee and poop? Cats are also highly territorial and hate sharing toilet facilities. With this knowledge, it’s hardly surprising when you own five cats but offer one tray, that at least one of them toilets outside the box.

Consult Cat Experts

This quick guide to solving cat behavioural issues is not intended as a general fix it. If your cat has bad habits that you’re struggling to resolve (even when you’re read everything you can get your hands on about the issue), then ask your vet to refer you to a qualified animal behaviourist. In the meantime, whilst you’re waiting for an appointment use the strategies suggested above and see what difference it makes for your cat’s behavioural issues.

The post Steps to Solving Cat Behavioural Issues appeared first on Pawesome Cats.

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How much do you know about feline panleukopenia – the disease against which you vaccinate your cat?

You probably have an understanding that these diseases are “bad” and that vaccination is recommended. Even so, it’s easy to become complacent. After all, you have an indoor cat who doesn’t meet other felines, so the risk of infection is low. Right?

Well kind of, but the fact is your cat (even an indoor cat that never sets a paw outdoors) is still potentially at risk from feline panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper or feline parvovirus. Indeed, feline panleukopenia is an important part of the core vaccines given to cats and here’s why

A Success Story

Feline panleukopenia is a great success story when it comes to vaccination, but is also a cautionary tale against becoming complacent.

The feline panleukopenia virus is as tough as old boots. Not only can it survive sunshine and rain, but it can withstand a lot of commonly used disinfectants. Panleukopenia virus happily sticks around approximately a year in the environment, and all that time it poses an infection risk to any cat it comes into contact with.

But worse than that, the virus is tough enough to survive a trip indoors on your shoes, clothing, or other items you bring into the house. This is why even indoor cats are at risk, because though they don’t go to the infection, the infection can come to them.

According the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) virtually all kittens and cats will come into contact with the virus at some point in their life. This is why vaccination can be held up as a great success story. Whereas feline distemper used to be common, it’s now rare to see clinical disease. . . thanks to the preventative power of vaccination.

Image: Lisa Brewster via Flickr

Feline Panleukopenia Virus 101

Why is panleukopenia such an unpleasant infection?

You could almost think of panleukopenia as the viral equivalent of a cancer. . . but in reverse. Whereas cancer causes cells to mutate and grow rapidly, panleukopenia targets rapidly growing cells to invade and kill.

Some parts of the body such as the lining of the gut and the bone marrow are like factories constantly manufacturing new cells in order to replace those damaged in the course of their work. It is these cells that the panleukopenia virus targets.

Indeed, this is where the word panleukopenia comes from: “Pan” meaning ‘all’, leuko” meaning ‘white blood cells’, and “penia” meaning ‘extreme low levels off.’ Thus, feline distemper infects the bone marrow, suppressing blood production (especially the white cells) to cause a severe shortage of these cells so vital to fighting infection. This leaves the body defenceless and weak, leading to a vicious circle of deterioration.

Image: Ken Bosma via Flickr

What are the Signs of Panleukopenia Infection?

Infected cats develop anaemia and a lack of white cells. This makes the cat lethargic and unable to fight infections. In addition, the damage to the gut results in severe vomiting and diarrhoea, which can cause life-threatening dehydration.

The symptoms most commonly seen include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Severe sickness and diarrhoea
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration

The virus will also attack the rapidly dividing cells of a kitten in the womb. The mother cat is likely to lose her litter, but if the kittens do survive to full term, they are born with brain damage due to the virus damaging the rapidly dividing cells of the cerebellum. There is a known link between kittens born with cerebellar hypoplasia and mother cats who were infected with the feline panleukopaenia virus in the later stages of pregnancy.

Image: Vladimer Shioshvili via Flickr

Which Cats are Most at Risk?

Any cat with a weak immune system is at risk, such as the very young, very old, pregnant cats, or those with a concurrent illness.

You could also argue that indoor cats have reduced natural protection to the virus, because of a complete absence of the virus in their environment (until you walk it indoors.) This lack of natural exposure means the immune system is ‘naïve’ to the virus and doesn’t get a chance to do what it should, and slowly build up natural immunity.

When you think about it, because older cats are at increased risk, this makes regular vaccination even more important. . . at a time when many owners are thinking about dropping boosters off because of the cat’s advanced age.

What is the Treatment for Feline Panleukopaenia Virus?

We have antibiotics to fight bacterial infections, but little in the armoury to fight viral infections such as feline distemper. The treatment is largely supportive care. This means intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, drugs to reduce nausea and discomfort, and possibly antibiotics if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected.

Nursing also plays a role, in that it’s important to keep the cat comfortable, nurse them through the fever, and prevent infected skin due to severe diarrhoea and sickness. Unfortunately, even with intensive care, many cats do succumb to this preventable disease.

Image: woozie2010 via Flickr

Look at Things this Way: Prevention is Better than Cure

Imagine a killer infectious disease. If that disease had a scary name such as rabies or Ebola, you’d want to protect your cat, wouldn’t you?

Now know that every cat is likely to come into contact with this virus at least once in their life. Chilling, isn’t it?

In short, why take the risk when there are effective vaccines available. After all, when it comes to feline panleukopenia virus prevention is better than cure.

Dr Pippa Elliott BVMS MRCVS is a veterinarian with 27-years’ experience in practice and a special interest in feline medicine and behaviour. Pippa is housekeeping staff to four highly individual cats that conspire to keep her busy opening doors on demand.

The post Understanding Feline Panleukopenia appeared first on Pawesome Cats.

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Does your cat lick you? Being licked by your cat is a bitter-sweet experience. On the one paw, it’s nice to think the cat loves you, but on the other it’s uncomfortable. . . to say the least!

Indeed, there’s a deal of difference between the sandpaper roughness of a cat’s tongue and the velvet smoothness of her coat. Ironic then that it’s her tongue that keeps the coat silky, along with other things. To discover why cats lick people, let’s brush up on licking in general.

Nature’s Kitty Comb

Before velcro was invented there were cat tongues which are covered in small backwards facing keratin hooks or barbs. It’s the job of these hooks to literally comb through the coat as kitty grooms. This is an amazingly effective way of removing parasites, debris, and dust, to stimulate the circulation to the skin and keep the fur in good order. But it does make for an uncomfortable lick.

The Language of Licking

To understand why a cat licks you, it helps to understand the role licking plays in the cat community. This is because when your cat licks, it means different things in different circumstances. Sometimes licking can be a sign of stress, and it’s important to recognize this so you can help your cat relax.

Image: Kurt Bauschardt via Flickr

9 Reasons Cats Lick

Here are the nine key reasons we came up with as to why cats lick:

1. A Clean Coat

No surprise here. As well as cleaning the fur, licking spreads natural oils to condition the fur and massages the skin to improve circulation.

2. Cleaning Meat off Bones

When a cat licks you, it feels as if she’s stripping away layers of skin. This isn’t so wide of the mark because a feline tongue does scour meat fibres off the bones of her prey.

3. Temperature Regulation

Licking covers her coat in saliva, which then evaporates, helping to cool her in hot weather.

Image: zaimoku_woodpile via Flickr

4. Re-establish a Normal Smell

Cats groom a lot after visiting the vet or being stroked by strangers. This is done to remove the alien scent and replace it with one she’s familiar with.

5. Create a Group Scent

Cats groom each other (amongst other reasons) to create a uniformed scent across the group which acts as a sign of belonging.

6. Social Bonding

Cats may lick each other to keep the peace and redirect tension away from fighting.

Image: Paul Sullivan via Flickr

7. Displacement Activity

Have you ever seen a cat fall off the back of a sofa, to then frantically groom herself? An ‘embarrassed’ cat may groom as a distraction from her faux par and to restore her dignity.

8. Stress Relief

An anxious cat may lick because it releases natural morphine like chemicals into her bloodstream, which helps her feel better. Some cats become so hooked on these endorphins that they groom themselves bald.

9. Parenting

A mother cat licks her new-born kittens to stimulate them to toilet.

Image: Steve Voght via Flickr

Why Cats Lick People?

As you can see from the list above, a lick can mean many things. Even if we discount number 9, this still leaves a lot of reasons for a cat to lick her guardian.

Sometimes the cause may be obvious, such as you’ve just finished stripping the skin off a pack of smoked mackerel and your skin tastes super-scrummy to her. Other times it may be a sign of affection and that she feels comfortable in your presence. The good news is that it can also indicate you are included in the cat’s social group and she’s affording you the same honour she gives to the other cats in the household.

More often than not, licking you is a sign the cat values your companionship and feels comfortable with you. If you want to call that a kiss, then who are we to argue!

Image: Lisa Brewster via Flickr

However, if the licking gets too much, it’s important to rebuff her attentions gently. Never ever punish or scald the cat for licking as she’ll find this deeply upsetting. Instead, try distracting her with a toy or a game to divert her attention elsewhere. If you’re comfortable on the sofa and don’t want to get up, then blow gently on her fur, which should spoil the moment sufficiently to stop her licking.

If your cat licks to the point of obsession then be a little suspicious she’s stressed. Have a good think about her lifestyle and if there’s a possibility she’s bored or feels threatened in some way. Strategies such as using puzzle feeders (for mental stimulation), playtime (for physical exercise to help tire her out), tall cat trees (for her to watch the world) and hiding places (to relieve stress) can make all the difference.

On the whole, be happy about being licked, because if the cat is purring, the chances are she’s giving you a kitty kiss!

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Before the Pawesome Cats entered this world, our previous felines enjoyed an indoor / outdoor life and one in particular – Polly, was known to roam the streets claiming an impressively large territory. Polly’s love of the outdoors meant that she would often go missing for days at a time, and I’d always wonder where she was, what she was up to and most importantly whether she was safe?

That’s why we’re happy to partner with Sure PetCare to share their very clever invention – the world’s first app-controlled Microchip Pet Door.

Using the Microchip Pet Door Connect allows you to gain insight into your cat’s daily activity and how far they venture within your neighbourhood. An app on your mobile phone provides you with notifications on your cat’s whereabouts and you can also control the pet door remotely setting a curfew for outdoor access. Perhaps you want to keep your cat indoors after dark, OR put them under ‘house arrest’ when they’re recuperating from illness or surgery, OR you may just want to prevent other feline intruders. This clever invention is purrfect for all these situations.

I would’ve loved access to this kind of technology and the ‘peace of mind’ it brings when Polly was around. Watch the video below to see how it all works.

Enter the Giveaway

We’re delighted to be able to give away one Microchip Pet Door Connect plus Hub (valued at US$256). Enter via the Rafflecopter entry form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Details
  • The giveaway is open to residents in Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK and Europe.
  • The winner will be announced on this page and contacted by the email provided.
  • If not claimed within 3 days, the prize will be redrawn.
Good luck!!

DISCLOSURE: We received a small fee from Sure PetCare in exchange for hosting this giveaway. We only recommend products and services that we personally love and support.

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Cerebellar hypoplasia: Two long (and baffling) words. Let’s break them up into something understandable.

First, the cerebellum: The cerebellum is the part of the brain which coordinates movement. Think of keeping your balance on the shifting deck of a ship at sea, and it’s your cerebellum (along with other internal mechanisms) taking up the slack to keep you upright.

The cerebellum also helps with fine motor skills (such as opening a tin of cat food) and coordination (spooning the food into the cat’s bowl.) These are all things we take for granted, indeed much like switching on the TV and expecting to see a picture, the cerebellum does its stuff without us giving conscious thought to how.

Now to tackle the other word: Hypoplasia. The ‘hypo’ part means ‘low’, as in hypothermia, which is what happens if you stand out in the cold without warm clothing. The ‘-plasia’ means to mould or form, so throw the two parts together and you get low. . . or under development.

By now you’ve raced ahead and put together that ‘cerebellar hypoplasia’ is an under-development of the brain’s balance centre, the cerebellum. Ta-dah! That’s exactly what it is. You may also have heard cerebellar hypoplasia cats referred to as ‘wobbly cats’ or the condition referred to as ‘wobbly cat syndrome’.

But what does this mean for a cat?

Symptoms of Cerebellar Hypoplasia

What do we know so far and what clues does this give us about the symptoms?

A cat with cerebellar hypoplasia has a brain that hasn’t fully developed its balance and coordination centres. Picture a cat with a drunken walk. These cats may have tremors or shakes; they stagger around and can have difficulty with muscular coordination. They often have what’s called an ‘intention tremor’, which means the harder they focus on doing something the worse the shake becomes.

They also find it difficult to do basic things like eating or going to the litter box. This is because they can see the food and know what they want to eat, but can’t coordinate their muscles to walk over and put their head in the bowl. Think of this like playing on a computer gaming console but with a broken controller: You want the animated character to pick up an energy pack but you’re unable to move him to the right spot.

Image: Emily Hall via Kitty Cat Chronicles

Can any Cat Develop Cerebellar Hypoplasia?

No! Its what’s called a developmental disorder. This means the growth of the brain was interrupted when the kitten was in the womb, and the brain failed to develop properly. So an adult cat that grew normally in the womb and was a healthy kitten is completely in the clear for cerebellar hypoplasia.

Also, an adult cat that was normal but develops a drunken walk doesn’t have cerebellar hypoplasia. The explanation for these symptoms is going to be different, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, toxoplasmosis, poisoning, encephalitis, or a brain tumour.

So yes, this does mean affected kittens are born with the condition. Actually, in a bizarre way, this is good news because this is also a non-progressive disease. This means that things are as bad as they are and won’t deteriorate with time (such as a progressive disease does.)

How Serious is Cerebellar Hypoplasia?

The big picture is that cerebellar hypoplasia is disabling to a kitten, but with a caring owner, they can usually cope. But these kittens don’t have the nimbleness and speed necessary to escape from danger, so it’s essential to raise them as indoor cats.

It’s also important to know that this isn’t an all-or-nothing condition. A kitten may be mildly or severely affected, depending on how much damage was done in the womb. So the signs may vary from a slightly wobbly kitten to one that has difficulty standing.

Whilst a slight wobble is something the kitten can cope with, an extreme case may be severely disabled. However, the good news (if that’s the right choice of words) is the condition isn’t going to deteriorate, so a kitten that’s doing fine right now is likely to keep on that way.

Image: Emily Hall via Kitty Cat Chronicles

Why do Cats get Cerebellar Hypoplasia?

We’ve already mentioned damage to the developing foetus, but how does this damage happen?

The most common cause is the mother cat becomes infected with the feline panleukopaenia virus in the later stages of pregnancy. This virus crosses the placenta to the kittens in the womb and attacks rapidly dividing cells. Unfortunately, late pregnancy is also when the kitten’s brain is growing most rapidly and so the virus hits the equivalent of a jackpot.

However, this isn’t the only cause. Severe malnutrition in the mother will damage her kittens’ development, as will head trauma to new-born kittens.

How is Cerebellar Hypoplasia Diagnosed?

Many vets diagnose this condition based on the clinical signs in a very young kitten. However, when a vet is presented with a stray adult cat that has poor coordination, other health problems causing similar symptoms need to be ruled out. One of these is toxoplasmosis, where the parasite attacks the brain and interferes with motor function.

Ultimately, a definitive diagnosis is made by taking a picture of the brain with an MRI scanner. This enables the technician to see how small the cerebellum is, making the diagnosis a ‘no-brainer.’

Image: Emily Hall via Kitty Cat Chronicles

Helping a Kitten with Cerebellar Hypoplasia

Firstly, prevention is better than cure. If you’re planning on breeding, make sure the mother’s vaccinations are up to date (panleukopaenia is a core constituent of vaccine protocols) before she’s mated. And of course, make sure she’s fed a well-balanced diet.

However, if you already have a kitten with cerebellar hypoplasia, then a few adaptations to your home can make a big difference. Things like making a shallow ramp for the kitty to climb into her litter tray will help. Also, try raising the food bowls slightly off the ground so the kitten doesn’t have to dip her head down quite as much.

So there we have it: Cerebellar hypoplasia: An avoidable condition affecting kittens, but one most kittens are able to live with so long as they stay indoors.

Dr Pippa Elliott BVMS MRCVS is a veterinarian with 27-years’ experience in practice and a special interest in feline medicine and behaviour. Pippa is housekeeping staff to four highly individual cats that conspire to keep her busy opening doors on demand.

PS. Editors note: Whilst many CH ‘wobbly’ cats may be best suited to an indoor lifestyle, there is always an exception. Meet Sophie a very special wobbly kitty. . .  as you can see from the video below, nothing stops her from leading a full and active life.

Sophie "Weebs," Our Cerebellar Hypoplasia Kitty - YouTube

Photos used in this article are published with permission from Emily Hall, you can read more about Sophie and cerebellar hypoplasia on the Kitty Cat Chronicles blog.

The post Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats appeared first on Pawesome Cats.

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