Feline cerebellar hypoplasia in simple language means the underdeveloped (hypoplasia) cerebellum (a part of the brain) of the cat. This is caused by a viral infection that is transmitted from the mother to the kitten either during pregnancy or shortly after birth. The virus is Feline Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper).
The cerebellum is concerned with the coordination of voluntary motor movement, balance, equilibrium and muscle tone. As it is underdeveloped it malfunctions and causes the kitten to lack coordination (ataxia). This is apparent in jerky, wobbly uncoordinated movement and walking. Secondary bacterial infections are also sometimes present. There is a high mortality rate of 90%.
For the kittens who survive the condition of feline cerebellar hypoplasia it is “nonprogressive” (it doesn’t get worse and it seems from the video of Gordon below that it might, in fact, improve). These cats are immune to re-infection but they can shed the virus for several weeks.
Kittens that are born with feline cerebellar hypoplasia have probably been infected towards the end of gestation. Kittens affected early on in pregnancy are usually killed and the foetus reabsorbed or aborted. Kittens suffering from the disease may not grow to normal size.
These cats are sometimes called wobbly cats and as the videos below show are much loved perhaps because they are particularly vulnerable and their gait can look humorous to us, although I am not sure that it should. These cats live pretty normal lives provided the human companion is sensitive to the cat’s needs. This is probably one good example of where the cat could be a permanent indoor cat or at least where close supervision outside is appropriate.
- Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook
Charley (in the video above) is an amazing cat with cerebellar hypoplasia. He is actually quite famous as this video has been seen over half a million times! He is completely charming and very lovable and well loved.
And above we have “Gordon”. In the video he starts out as a kitten and then we see him as a 15 month old adult who appears to have improved. He fell a good distance as a kitten (from the rafters of a barn to the ground) so in this instance the damage to the cerebellum may be due to injury from the fall and not the FPV virus.
This is “Sway-Girl” suffering from an extreme case of Cerebellar Hypoplasia. She is 10 weeks old in the video. She is well loved.