7 Facts about Cerebellar Hypoplasia (aka Wobbly Cat Syndrome)

December 21, 2018

By Emily Hall

“Cere-what?!” This is usually the response I hear when people ask why my cat Sophie walks funny, and I tell them she has cerebellar hypoplasia. Though it is definitely a mouthful, cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) is not as complicated as it sounds. In fact, you may already know about it as “Wobbly Cat Syndrome.”

1. Cerebellar hypoplasia is a neurological disorder.

Cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) is a disorder in which the cerebellum part of the brain doesn’t develop completely before birth. The cerebellum is responsible for motor control and coordination, so having an underdeveloped cerebellum results in jerky movements, clumsiness, and even tremors. Though there are varying degrees of severity, a cat or dog affected by CH is generally wobbly and unsteady and will often fall over when walking.

As mentioned, there are varying degrees of cerebellar hypoplasia, ranging from mild to severe. Cats or dogs with mild cases of CH may be a little unsteady on their feet or might possibly have slight head tremors, but they can generally get around with no major issues. Those with more severe CH usually can’t walk on their own and need help with things like eating and using the litter box.

2. Cats and dogs with cerebellar hypoplasia are born that way.

CH is not something that can be contracted or developed later in life. CH is a congenital condition, meaning affected animals are born with it. They don’t know any different, nor are they in any pain.

3. Cerebellar hypoplasia is most commonly caused by preventable viruses.

CH can be caused by a few different things, such as malnutrition, poisoning, or trauma while in utero; however, the most common causes are the feline panleukopenia virus for cats and the canine herpes virus for dogs. Both of these viruses can be prevented with vaccinations. If a mother cat or dog contracts these viruses while pregnant, the kittens or puppies may develop CH before birth. The condition may affect only one kitten or puppy, or the entire litter may be affected, sometimes to varying degrees.

4. There is no cure for cerebellar hypoplasia.

Though there is no treatment or cure for CH, a cat or dog can learn to compensate for the condition and therefore seemingly improve. Many CH cats can’t jump, so they instead develop excellent climbing skills. For both cats and dogs, encouraging play can also help to build up muscle strength in their legs, which in turn helps their mobility. It has also been found that hydrotherapy can be helpful in building up muscle strength in those who have more severe cases of CH.

So again, while there is no cure or official medical treatment, there are many things like play and exercise that are extremely beneficial for CH cats and dogs and developing their mobility and independence.

5. Cerebellar hypoplasia is non-progressive.

While it is unfortunate that there is no cure for CH, you can take comfort in knowing that the condition is non-progressive. CH does not get worse over time, and it doesn’t cause any pain. There are other progressive diseases and disorders out there that resemble CH though, so if a wobbly animal’s symptoms begin to worsen, please see your vet immediately as there may be something else going on.

6. CH does NOT affect lifespan.

A common misconception about cerebellar hypoplasia is that it can affect the animal’s lifespan. This is simply not true. It also does not cause any other complications. That being said, because of CH cats’ and dogs’ wobbly nature and tendency to fall, they may hurt themselves and require extra veterinary care to treat injuries. Chipped teeth are not uncommon.

7. Animals with CH can live full and happy lives.

Oftentimes people’s first reaction when they see a cat or dog with cerebellar hypoplasia is to feel sorry for them or think they couldn’t possibly have a good quality of life. These misconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. As mentioned before, animals with CH are born the way they are and don’t know any different. As long as they are well taken care of like any other pet, they can live long and happy lives.

Cats and dogs with CH don’t let their disability get in the way of enjoying life. In fact, from my experience, animals with CH are some of the happiest pets I’ve ever met. They are shining examples of strength, determination, and love. Spend a little time with one and you may even learn some valuable life lessons.

Read more articles by Emily Hall

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  1. Jack Pihl says:

    I have a Kitten Named Tumble-Lena
    Sweat very lovable, Heart of gold, about 6 weeks old to ten weeks. Has CH, has seen Vet, she really try’s hard, But I have too many cats, have won’t accept her, with a little help eats soft cat food & kitten milk sup. Need a fore ever home for her,

    1. Andrea Gonzalez says:

      Yes contact me please

  2. JENNIFER says:

    We adopted a 1.5 yr old pure white cat in January, he has mild to moderate CH and except for frequent wipeouts (especially when chased by his “little sister”. He seems far happier than any neurotypical pet we have ever had. I’m wondering if CH pets tend to bond to just one person? Finn thinks he owns me, that I am his bed and is terrified of my 6 yr old (and anyone with shoes on)

  3. Jenny mckeon says:

    My cat is 10years old I found her wen she was only a couple of wks old the last few months she’s been goin like she has ch it happens very rarely and I just sit with her til itpasses which is usely a couple of minutes she’s fine other than these rare episodes could she have ch and it’s only coming out on her now or would I be better to bring her to my vet and tell them I’m going to try video it the next time if I’m not to distraught I get so afraid wen I seen it happen

  4. Lina Al-Midfa says:

    My kitten Esmeralda for CH after she was hit with parvovirus. She was ok with the help of nutrathrive powder and some laser therapy that we did 3 times now.. but recently she’s been showing signs of paralysis. Is this normal and what do I do?

  5. Carol Cooper says:

    Good summary of CH. I always make sure people understand that CH is a disability, not an illness. Cats with CH are perfectly healthy – they just have impaired motor skills. From my observation of my moderate CH cat, Bill, I would agree that he has great quality of life, has no idea he’s different and is happy as a clam.