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Meet Puzzle: A Special Needs Kitten

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Puzzle is a very special kitten who is in a foster home with the APCSM.  He is now available for adoption.  Puzzle has a condition called Cerebellar Hypoplasia, or CH, which he was born with and will have for the rest of his life.  Cats with CH have an underdeveloped cerebellum which affects their motor skills and balance, earning cats with this condition the fond nickname: wobbly cats.

Wobbly cats often move as though they’ve had one to many catnips, a sort of drunken sailor movement characterized by a wide stance and frequent stumbles.  Depending on the severity of the condition there may be head tremors occasionally or often and the cat may flip or flop to get where he wants to go.  It’s important to know that the cat is NOT in any pain.  This is just his normal. Puzzle’s case is fairly mild but still immediately apparent to anyone who sees him move.  Frankly, we think he’s adorable!

Anecdotally people often report that wobbly cats are especially friendly and trusting as well. We see 2-3 cats with CH come into the shelter over the course of a year and they are always delightfully sweet.  Maybe it’s because they rely more on their humans than a typical cat or maybe it’s just their nature to see the world in a good light but Puzzle is surely an example of a kitten who loves people and the world around him.

We’re betting that once people see Puzzle there may be some interest in learning about adopting him or other wobbly cats.  Keep reading for some FAQ’s and important information on what you need to know before bringing a little wobble into your life.

  1. Is this going to get better as he gets older? Worse?

Nope and nope. This is how he was born and it will never change either for the better or the worse.  Remember, this is part of his brain that didn’t fully develop in utero, essentially a brain formation issue.  His brain isn’t going to change at this point so neither is the condition.  Puzzle is in no pain and if he could talk he would tell you that he believes he is a perfectly normal cat. He also has a normal cat life-span, so his adoptive family will be committing to him for 10-15 years at least.

  1. Does he take any medicines or have any extra vet bills?

Nope and maybe. There are no medicines or procedures needed for wobbly cats, remember he’s not sick.  CH isn’t a disease, it’s just the way he was born.  That being said, wobbly cats are just as curious and interested in their surroundings as non-CH cats so there is the potential for them to take some impressive falls and stumbles as they move around their world.  Just about every wobbly cat family has a story of when their cat fell off something and had to go to the vet to be checked out.  Your vet may also want to see a wobbly cat for visits more frequently, just to make sure everyhing is OK.

  1. How is life with a wobbly cat different from life with a non-CH cat?

Every CH cat is different so let’s stick to life with Puzzle for this one, i.e. a cat with mild CH. Puzzle stumbles through life everywhere, and that means he’s going to get messier than a non-CH cat.  He’ll occasionally fall over in his litter box or into his food and need a bath.  He’s also not going to be able to master those graceful leaps most cats make so he’s going to become an expert climber as he gets older. You’ll do him a big favor by not clipping his claws too short.  Carpet is going to be a lot easier for him to navigate than slippery hardwood (think traction) so he might prefer to stay on carpeted parts of the house and if you have a multi-story home you may end up putting a baby gate on the stairs to keep him from trying to climb up.  He can and will climb to a second floor, but he may also tumble off the stairs on the way up and hurt himself.  If you’re interested in adopting Puzzle or any other wobbly cat the staff have a number of tips and tricks that can help you accommodate him and we’re happy to share those with you.

  1. If I want to adopt a CH cat are there any special requirements?

There aren’t special requirements, but we do want to make sure you know what’s involved.  For example, CH isn’t contagious, so a wobbly cat can live safely and happily with other animals. However, you may want to keep an eye on them as they get to know each other so that they don’t accidently play too roughly with each other.  As another example we’ll want to make sure you understand that Puzzle, like all wobbly cats, must be an indoor only cat.

Like all kittens, Puzzle needs to meet a weight requirement before we can make him available for adoption and that is still several weeks away.  However, if you are interested in learning more about Puzzle you can call email the shelter at info@apcsm.org and we’ll get back to you.

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