Symptoms of Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats

Cerebellar hypoplasia is a problem that may affect pets at birth. An area of the brain, known as the cerebellum, is not fully developed when the cat is born and this will affect the pet’s ability to move during his life. The symptoms may be detected at birth, but in some cats, these will only start 1 to 2 months after birth. Most cats with hypoplasia may adapt and cope with their disability and may live a normal lifespan.

Symptoms of Cerebellar Hypoplasia

Cats that don’t have a fully developed cerebellum at birth will start to show symptoms typically from the first days after birth and will be more visible after the kittens start to walk.

You should watch out for signs such as:

  • Trembling and muscle spasms; tremors are the most common symptom of cerebellar hypoplasia; these tremors may occur when the cat is relaxing or when he intends to perform an action (i.e. walk or nurse)
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Incapacity to walk or stand up
  • Exaggerated movements (i.e. lifting the feet higher than normal, exaggerated steps)
  • Unusual posture, different from the rest of the kittens
  • Wide based stance

In some cats, these signs will only be visible after the age of 2 months.

These symptoms are due to the fact that the brain controls certain functions of the body and when the cerebellum is affected, the cat will have these movement issues.

Typically, not all kittens from the same mother are affected by cerebellar hypoplasia.

Causes of Cerebellar Hypoplasia

Cerebellar hypoplasia may affect the kittens of a mother that has various viral and bacterial infections.

If the mother is affected by the parvovirus, this may also cause hypoplasia.

Cerebellar hypoplasia can also be due to:

  • Feline distemper
  • Low white blood cells in the mother’s blood
  • Malnutrition of the mother
  • Lead poisoning
  • Injuries affecting the development of the kittens before birth

Treatment and Prognosis

Cerebellar hypoplasia doesn’t have a treatment, but the cat can adapt and compensate for his shortcomings. The cat should live indoors, as it will be easier for him to adapt in this environment.

The cat can live a normal life, but there will be times when he will have movement problems. The owner should offer additional help to the pet. Ramps may be installed, as the cat will have difficulties when climbing stairs (due to the lack of coordination).

In rare cases, the disease can progress, leading to severe mobility problems and making it impossible for the cat to move and eat. This happens if the brain starts to degenerate. In these cases, the pet will require additional support.

The condition can be prevented in kittens by making sure that the mother is healthy and gets proper nutrition and vitamins during the pregnancy. However, it is impossible to predict whether the kittens will be affected by cerebellar hypoplasia before birth.