Is Belle a Dwarf Cat?
by Nancy Clark
(Selby, Ontario, Canada)
Belle in her hidey hole
Hi. I have a 6 month old kitten named Belle. She is a spotted grey tabby with white paws, white tummy and eye makeup. She weighs three pounds, is about 9 to 10 inches long and about 6 inches high.
She seemed normal as a baby, and certainly was not the runt, but when she was 6 weeks old she had a tragic accident, that left her with head trauma and more to recover from.
She also had a bad reaction to her shots and then developed upper respiratory problems. That is a lot for a little girl.
When she recovered, and she did seem to, she was left with tremors in her head and shoulders that always get worse when she is quiet and relaxing.
The thing is, she got to 4 months old and has simply stopped growing. She eats well, 4 or 5 times a day and any treats available. When she was 5 months old she had grand mal seizures and was rushed to the emergency clinic where they found her glucose was way down and so was her body temp...she had had a mild virus and was not eating as well as usual.
They treated her and she revived after spending the night and the next day at the vet. She now takes phenobarbitol and has not had any more seizures.
So here I am with a tiny little girl and I was wondering if any of you know if there is anything I should be doing and what I can expect in the future.
She is a delightful, growly, feisty, playful and beautiful little girl, and she may not have been bred to be little, but she is, and I hope you have some advice for me.
Hi Nancy.. Thanks for visiting and asking. I am sorry to hear your sad but hopeful story.
These are my thoughts, no more as a veterinarian is the best source of advice obviously.
You think Belle stopped growing at 4 months. That may be the case. Cats usually stop growing at about 12 - 18 months but some breeds such as the Maine Coon may take a few years before being fully grown. Belle is technically not fully grown. She may grow some more.
If not she may just be a small cat and her small size may not be associated with the accident.
However, brain trauma can damage the pituitary gland which can negatively affect the endocrine system and cause growth hormone deficiency. At a stage when Belle was growing the accident may have stunted her growth (see pituitary dwarfism below).
In the cat fancy 'dwarf cat' means a form of dwarfism called 'achondroplastic dwarfism'. This results in short legs but the rest of the body is in proportion. Belle seems to be normally proportioned so is not a dwarf cat in the cat fancy sense.
However, there is a form of dwarfism called 'pituitary dwarfism' that result is a lack of growth hormone during the normal growth phase. In these cats growth is normal for 1-2 months and by 3-4 months growth slows causing the runt appearance.
I don't think Belle is a runt, however, but this is a guess from her appearance which looks normal. It would seem that she is just a small cat.
The accident caused trauma to the head causing brain damage and seizures. Phenobarbital is the recommended drug to control seizures in cats and dogs. It sedates. All drugs are a form of poison, really, which cause side effect. This drug is 'generally considered safe'. So not completely safe as no drugs are.
Belle may suffer and allergic reaction (e.g. skin irritation) and one or more of the side effects: lethargy, agitation or irritation, dehydration, excessive urination, loss of coordination
Long term use of drugs in unsatisfactory but a necessity for Belle it seems. I think all you can do is keep a good watch over her to check for signs of change that might indicate a change in treatment.
Cats with brain injuries that recover as is case for Belle, may exhibit permanent behavioral changes including seizures.
What to do?
It would seem that you have a disabled cat of small stature, but a nice cat, a loved cat and a cat that needs a little more attention than is usual in a good cat caretaker so that she is monitored carefully allowing for a prompt response to developments should they occur.
Your vet will advise much better than me and he or she may have provided more and different information, which should be treated as more accurate.
The information here comes from me and reliable sources including the books on this page: Medical References and the internet.