Kitty Disorders

Feline Cerebellar Hypoplasia

When a kitten is born with Cerebellar Hypoplasia, their cerebellum (the part of their brain which controls motor skills and coordination) is not fully developed. There are a few reasons why this happens: there might have been trauma while the kitten was in the womb, or the pregnant mother could have had Feline Panleukopenia Virus. Regardless of the cause, if a kitten is born with this condition, they will have difficulty with mobility for the rest of their life. The severity of this can vary from the kitten simply having a slight wobble to their walk, to not being able to walk at all. Some cats with Cerebellar Hypoplasia may have head tremors, similar to the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease in humans. These tremors happen when they are trying to focus all of their energy into walking or looking at something. It might look similar to a seizure, but it is simply a head tremor.

Cats with Cerebellar Hypoplasia often stand a little bit differently than un-affected cats.

Cats with this disorder should have a normal life expectancy unless they have other health issues. Cerebellar Hypoplasia is a non-progressive condition, but to get an official diagnosis, your veterinarian would have to perform an MRI and CT scan to rule out other conditions and diseases that look similar to Cerebellar Hypoplasia. It is important to keep in mind that a cat with this condition will be somewhat limited in their physical and learning ability. Many cats with Cerebellar Hypoplasia are not able to jump, but they can be fantastic climbers. It is important for owners to learn how to help their cats become more able to do things on their own, even though they will probably need help from time to time.

This condition can impact cats very differently and there are a variety of symptoms that can appear, as well. In mild cases, cats are pretty capable of doing things for themselves. They might waddle and have head tremors, but they can usually get around the house and go about their days without any significant problems. In moderate cases, cats have been told that they resemble “drunken sailors.” It will look like the ground is unsteady, but really their balance isn’t the best and they may walk with their paws in a wide stance to help keep their balance. Cats with moderate Cerebellar Hypoplasia will also have a noticeable head tremors and will probably be a climber rather than a jumper. Yet cats with severe cases are most likely unable to walk. They may stay on their sides, as trying to walk will cause them to fall since they don’t have control over their movements. They may drag themselves along the carpet to get around. To help your cats with moderate to severe symptoms, you can baby proof the house (padding around sharp corners or edges, for instance) or make or purchase a kitty wheelchair to help your cat get around more confidently.

An example of a homemade kitty wheelchair!

For cats with this condition, it is best that they have soft padded areas within their height zone so they won’t injure themselves if they happen to fall or get dizzy. Carpets are going to be these cat’s best friends since it will give them something to cling on to, so do not have your cat de-clawed, and put rugs on your hardwood floors if you’ve adopted a cat with Cerebellar Hypoplasia. If you have stairs in your home, make sure they are also padded, are covered by a carpet, and never let you cat go up or down the stairs by themselves. While your cat is drinking and eating, it will look like they are pecking (due to the head tremors) so food and water might spill, but messes are just a part of life. Know that the litter box will be a challenge for your cat with Cerebellar Hypoplasia, whether their case is mild or severe. To make sure litter isn’t kicked out of the box and that your cat will not fall, get or make a litter box with a low pan entrance with a high cover. You can also place a litter mat in front of the entrance to capture  some of the litter from their paws. If you need a little bit of inspiration in your life, and you’re interested in a cat that needs a lot of love, you should consider adopting a cat with Cerebellar Hypoplasia.

Feline Diabetes

This is one of the most alarming diseases and disabilities among cats and has been on the rise for years. Diabetes is when your cat cannot produce enough insulin in order to balance their blood sugar and glucose levels. If you don’t have your cat’s diabetes treated, it can lead to weight loss, vomiting, loss of appetite, depression, dehydration, and issues with their motor functions. In more severe scenarios, cats can fall into comas or die. But if treated, diabetic cats can live into their teens with a very good quality of life. In order to manage your cat’s diabetes, you can adjust their diet and add a little bit of commitment, patience, and lots of love. They may need to take medication for the rest of their lives that can be administered or prescribed by your veterinarian. The medication is generally insulin injections that have to be given once to twice a day.

Cats with diabetes often have serious weight issues.

For a proper diagnosis, your veterinarian will test your cat’s glucose concentrations in their blood and urine. Your veterinarian might ask about an increase in urination, thirst, and weight loss or weight gain. In order to take care of your cat who has diabetes, you have to: manage your cat’s diet (especially if they are under or over weight), keep an eye on changes in your cat’s behavior since it can be an indication of a change in insulin levels, become familiar and comfortable with getting into a routine of injecting your cat with insulin once or twice you a day, and take your cat to the veterinarian every two to six months for regular check-ups.


If you cat has a seizure disability, it can be very disturbing to see them stuggle. It is scary when it happens to humans, but when it happens to our animals we can often feel helpless. For cats, seizures are generally the result of previous damage to their brain  from some kind of injury. However, some cats are born with forms of epilepsy, as well. To spot a seizure before it happens, keep an eye out for the following pre-symptoms: circling, vomiting, pacing, or loud yowling. During a seizure, the symptoms will include: collapsing, going stiff, and then convulsing with uncontrolled muscle contractions. Their jaws might begin snapping, similar to when human’s jaws chew when they have seizures. Your cat may even lose control of their bladder or bowels while they are convulsing. Sometimes the seizures are very short and your cat might be unconscious while convulsing. Afterwards, your cat will be very disorientated, and will seem blind, vomit, or have temporary paralysis, but after a while your cat will return to “normal”.

This kitty is waking up from a seizure and appears to be a bit disoriented.

When your cat has a seizure, you want to ensure that your cat won’t hurt himself. After an episode, you need to take your cat to the veterinarian (especially if it’s their first known seizure). During the seizure, you’ll need to follow some very important steps. First, stay calm. You might feel the need to run to them and might make some loud noises, but make sure you are quiet and calm. Talk to your cat in a calm voice. Keep in mind that your cat is most likely unconscious and they will probably start making movements without their control. Be careful not to be bitten or scratched even if your cat normally has no inclination towards that behavior. Move furniture away from your cat as they are convulsing, and keep all other pets away from your cat. DO NOT MOVE YOUR CAT. Moving them while they’re having a seizure could lead to them getting injured. After the seizure, your cat is going to be confused, they might not recognize you, and you could be attacked if they are in a state of shock. Give them space while letting them hear your calm voice. If the seizure doesn’t stop after a few minutes, take your cat to a veterinarian in whatever way possible.

To get a diagnosis from your veterinarian, your cat will have to have a seizure while at the office. Your cat will probably be given an injection of diazepam, but if the seizures are severe, your cat may need to be put under anesthesia. If one seizure is less than five minutes, it will probably be diagnosed as epilepsy and is usually not treated beyond stopping the initial seizure. Cluster seizures are treated with anticonvulsants for the rest of your cat’s life.

Having her head protected from the hard floor is a great way to keep this kitty safe while she’s having a seizure.

Remember that cats with disorders deserve to be loved as much as any other cat. They may take a little bit of extra time and money, but providing them with a happy, healthy life is worth it in the end. Consider adopting a cat with a disorder if you have the time and resources, and you’ll be glad you did.

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at

Caring for Your Deaf and Blind Cats

Like us, not all cats are perfect. Some of the most common disabilities both humans and cats have are deafness and blindness. But also like us, cats can live healthy and happy lives with these conditions. They may need some help along the way, but with patience, training, and letting go of our own worries, our deaf and blind cats will have joyous lives. This article will discuss deafness and blindness in cats, how it occurs, how it is diagnosed, caring for your cats, and some tips for cat owners.

She may not be able to hear, but that doesn’t stop her from being the perfect cat.


Cats, like puppies, are born with their ear canals closed, but as they age, they gain the ability to hear. There are times when cats are born deaf and remain deaf. This is called hereditary deafness, when the inner structures of their ear degenerates. The gene for deafness is close to the gene for a white coat in cats and the gene for blue eyes, as well. In some cases, if a cat has blue eyes or different colored eyes (ex: one blue eye, one brown eye), they will probably be deaf or have hearing issues on the side their blue eye is on. However, not all white colored kittens remain deaf as they age, but most deaf kittens that remain deaf are white.

In terms of adult cats, in a lot of cases hearing loss or deafness occurs due to age-related issues. Adult cats usually go deaf due to nerve damage or other damage to the ear, but their hearing can also be affected by obstructions like infections, debris, or masses, and sometimes even some medications can affect your cat’s hearing. Some symptoms of deafness include: your cat not hearing your footsteps or voice when you are near, meowing very loudly, being unresponsive to everyday sounds (such as whistles or kissing sounds made to call your cat over), sleeping through loud and disturbing sounds, not coming to the sound of shaking food or treats.

Although beautiful, cats like this have a much higher chance of being deaf.

If you decide to take your cat to your veterinarian for a diagnosis, the vet may administer a procedure that’s called the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response. Some of the steps taken involved in this test are: taking a piece of paper behind your cat’s head to see if your cat will or will not turn; putting you hand or a piece of cloth over your mouth and hiss since it is a universal communication for cats; tapping something that makes a hollow drumming sound to check your cat’s low frequency hearing, and crackling plastic or jingling your keys while your cat is sleeping or not looking at you to test their high frequency hearing.

Unfortunately, deafness in cats is very progressive and irreversible. Hearing aids have been used for dogs, but your cat may not tolerate it and having hearing aids made for your cat may be expensive. It is very unlikely that your cat will tolerate wearing them. If you have a cat who is losing their hearing or if you have adopted a deaf cat, here are some tips that can help you and your cat adjust.

Use Your Hands and Lights as Cues

  • Wave or shake your hands above your head to express your emotions to your cats. If you don’t like a behavior your cat is performing, you can make big gestures to communicate this to your cat. Come up with a few hand gestures to indicate simple phrases to your cat. Some owners use sign language to communicate “food” or “water” to your cat.
  • Flicker your light switch(s) on and off to get your cat’s attention when you come home and enter the room they’re in. Their vision becomes even stronger part if they become deaf, so use this as a new way to communicate!

Make Sure Your Cat has a Steady Routine

  • Our cats create their own routines and like to stick to them daily. This becomes even more true when you cats losses one of their senses, so to avoid confusing your cat or stressing them, make sure you can keep up with a routine of feeding your cat at the same time as well as scooping our their cat box and playing with them as you normally would.

This deaf little baby might need a little bit of extra help as he grows up.

Keep Your Cat Inside

  • If your cat used to be an outdoor/indoor cat but is now deaf, keep them inside. It’s safer for them, especially since they will be scared, confused, and very withdrawn at first. Listening for predators or cars will be impossible for your deaf cat. Help them get used to being inside by keeping them comfortable and doing their favorite things with them. You can even consider training your cat to walk on a leash and harness so they can still get some outdoor exercise!


Another important and vital sense for cats is their sight. Even though your cat’s vision is at its sharpest looking at an object that is two to three feet from their face, they can also see clearly in 1/6th the amount of light that humans need. They have a high rod to cone ratio that allows them to find the slightest movement, and unlike dogs, cats are not color blind. However, some cats are not born with the ability to see, or they lose their ability to see as they age. Kittens are born with their eyes closed because their optical systems are still developing. Their shut lids provide protection from bright light, pathogens, and debris or dirt. Not all kittens remain blind, but if they do, it’s more than likely due to the gene I mentioned earlier that’s related to the deaf gene and the gene for a white coat.

Any injury to your cat’s eyes can potentially cause permanent blindness. If your cat suffered a head injury, you need to take your cat to a veterinarian right away as severe head trauma can lead to blindness or other life-threatening conditions. Years ago, my cat Missues was scratched in the corner of her eye near the bridge of her nose by my dad’s cat. I was terrified because all I saw was blood. Thankfully, my mother cleaned up the blood and took Missues to the veterinarian right away; she didn’t suffer from any serious injuries, just a laceration of the inner lid which healed up in about a week. If this injury had been any more severe, Missues could have gone blind in that eye.

Luckily, this is NOT how Missues turned out! You can never be too careful, though.

Conjunctivitis is another illness that can cause blindness in cats. It’s the reddening and inflammation of the pink membrane that lines your cat’s eyelid. Herpesvirus (otherwise known as FHV-1) is the most common source of conjunctivitis. If your cat is diagnosed with conjunctivitis, you’ll need to take your cat to be seen by a veterinary ophthalmologist fairly regularly for treatment. Mycoplasma and Chlamydia can also cause conjunctivitis. Sometimes cats can be hit with “sudden blindness”, aka Feline Hypertension. This illness is often accompanied with hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, or diabetes. Cataracts can also cause blindness. This is when the opacity of the lens is affected; occasionally surgery can remove the lens and restore your cat’s sight. Tumors such as as Iris Melanoma, eye lid tumors, or brain tumors may also cause blindness in your cat. In these cases, removal of your cat’s eye is protocol. Glaucoma is one of the most prevalent causes of blindness in cats, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy is an inherited condition that cannot be stopped and results in total blindness.

If you cat is slowly losing their sight, was born blind, or has recently lost their sight, here are some tips for you to help you cat with their disability and to keep them happy, safe, and healthy.

Keep Bowls and Litter Boxes In The Same Place

  • Its very important to keep your cat’s litter boxes, water, and food bowls as well as their cat beds, cat scratchers, and toys in the same place so your cat can find them when they need them.

Do Not Move Your Furniture

  • Your cat will have a normal routine since they will memorize their home, but if you move your furniture, you will confuse and probably scare them. If you have to move furniture, do it gradually and introduce your cat to the new location of the furniture so they can re-form the map in their head.

Blind and beautiful.

Be Your Cat’s Guide

  • Your cat will be dependent on you, so they may follow you and want to be with you all the time. Start speaking to your cat like you would a person when you exit or enter a room so they will feel comfortable knowing where you are. Also speak to them to avoid scaring them before you touch them.

Baby Proof Your Home

  • Pad the sharp corners of your kitchen counters and bubble wrap corners of walls so you cat won’t get hurt by objects they can’t see.

Scents For Your Cat

  • Cat’s respond to pheromones. You can purchase pheromones at your local pet stores that help relax cats and calm them down. You can spray their cat beds and cat trees so they know where to go, and what is safe.

Using these methods, your deaf or blind cat can live a long, happy, fulfilling life just like any other cat. If you are thinking of adopting a cat, consider looking into adopting a deaf or blind cat. They may have a few extra requirements, but they deserve as much of a chance of a happy life as those who are unimpaired.

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at

Therapeutic Riding – Changing Lives For The Better

For thousands of years, the horse has assisted the human in numerous ways including during battle, in industry, as transportation, and for pleasure. Using horses as therapy is often considered a modern form of treatment. However, historical records show that the ancient Greeks already recognized the many health benefits of therapeutic riding.

This young boy is going to benefit greatly from therapeutic riding!

Since October was National Disabilities Awareness Month, we look at therapeutic riding for the disabled and how it improves the quality of their lives.

What is Therapeutic Riding?

Therapeutic riding is a unique form of therapy using horses.

It provides many different benefits to people with special needs and conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, mentally challenged, amputees, paralysis, ADD, and down syndrome. It assists individuals with different challenges in a positive way, improving their physical and mental well-being. 

History of Therapeutic Riding

As far back as 600 B.C., Orbasis of ancient Lydia documented that riding horses was more than just a form of transportation and noted the value that it had on those with handicaps.

In 1875, the French physician, Cassaign, documented his study of riding horses as a form of treatment for different conditions. He concluded the improvement in posture, balance, and joint movements as well as significant psychological improvements.

In England during 1918, a physiotherapist known as Miss Olive Sands took her horses to a hospital outside of Oxford to test riding as therapy for soldiers wounded in the trenches in World War One. Many patients were amputees, and they discovered that they felt less pain when riding.

Lis Hartel

Lis Hartel deserves a special mention, as she was the chief motivation behind the start of riding centers for the disabled across the world.

Lis Hartel, a Danish dressage rider, won individual silver for her country during the Helsinki Olympic Games in 1952 and again in 1956. She was the first woman to represent her country on an equestrian Olympic team and was also the first female medalist.

What makes Lis Hartel even more remarkable was that she competed at the highest level with a significant physical disability. In 1944, aged only 23 and pregnant with her second child, Lis was struck with polio, leaving her paralyzed below the knees and affecting her arms and hands.

Lis gave birth to a healthy daughter and was determined to continue her dressage career. After three years of rehabilitation with the help of her mother and her husband (and against medical advice), she eventually rode again.

The magnificent Lis Hartel and Jubilee.

Lis was unable to mount and dismount the horse on her own, so her husband would lift her on and off of her horse. When she won the silver medal in 1952, the gold medallist, Henri Saint Cyr of Sweden, carried her from her horse, Jubilee, onto the podium, which is considered one of the most emotional moments in Olympic history.

Shortly after the Helsinki Olympic Games, Lis, along with her physical therapist, founded the first Therapeutic Riding Center in Europe, which she always considered her greatest achievement. The medical community took notice, and, eventually, other Therapy Riding Centers opened in Europe, North America, and across the world.

After her retirement from competitive dressage, Lis travelled globally giving demonstrations and raising money for polio sufferers, as well as supporting riding for those with disabilities. She died February 12th, 2009 aged 87, but her legacy lives on.

The Benefits of Therapeutic Riding

Therapeutic riding for the disabled has numerous benefits and is considered one of the most effective forms of rehabilitation. It also allows the rider to experience a unique connection to the horse that other activities are unable to provide. For those who see the world from a wheelchair, riding a horse allows them to be above everyone else for a while as well as experience the feeling of walking.

Other benefits include:

  • Enhanced posture, balance, strength and coordination
  • Increased self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-control
  • Teaches empathy, responsibility, and patience for a living creature
  • Improved respiration and circulation
  • Uses muscle groups the rider would not usually use
  • Assists in the emotional and physical well-being of the rider
  • Helps social interaction and communication skills
  • Teaches rider to follow directions and concentrate on a task
  • Develops gross and fine motor skills
  • Allows rider to have fun in the fresh air

Therapeutic Riding Lessons

The therapeutic riding lesson is carried out in an enclosed area under the guidance of a qualified therapeutic riding instructor. For lessons to go ahead, centers rely heavily on their volunteers.

So many people are involved to help one child work on his balance.

For each rider, one person is required to lead their horse along with one or two side walkers. It is very much a team effort, and volunteers are given training before taking part in the riding sessions.

Leaders are responsible for controlling the horse before, during, and after the lesson, helping him follow the directions given by the rider and ensuring both of their safety.

Side walkers walk beside the horse and provide physical and emotional support to the rider, helping and encouraging them to reach lesson goals. Volunteers must understand how to interact with the students as their attitude has an enormous impact.

Lessons begin with a warm-up session using various exercises to help the rider stretch their muscles, find their balance, and build up their confidence.

The rider learns how to control their horse. They are required to say their horse’s name before giving the command to “walk on” or “stop” to help create a bond. Those unable to communicate verbally give a gentle tap on the horse’s neck with their fingers.

The lesson consists of steering and controlling exercises, for example, maneuvering in and out of cones, going over ground poles, and stopping at a particular place.

An example of an arena used for therapeutic riding.

Different types of games are built into the lesson to encourage problem-solving and decision making by matching shapes, colors, letters, numbers, and pictures. They are also often required to carry items when riding or throw a ball or hoop, using each of their hands to improve their coordination skills and strengthen both sides of their bodies.

Horses Selected for Therapeutic Riding

Many owners kindly donate their horses to be used in therapeutic riding programs. There is no particular “type” or breed of horse that is selected, and they all vary in age, size, confirmation, and temperament. Qualities are based very much on the individual horse.

Not every horse is suitable for the job, and there are some specific requirements needed before an animal can receive training. In most cases, the horses must have the following characteristics and skills:

  • Sound in all three gaits
  • Under the age of 20 years old
  • Free of any medical issues
  • Sweet natured
  • Low flight response
  • Ability to tolerate many people and loud noises
  • 14 to 16 hands in height, suitable for both children and adults
  • Well schooled in either English or Western riding
  • Good manners on the ground, i.e., for being lead, groomed and tacked up

During the training and trial period, the horse is exposed to all aspects of a riding lesson without a disabled rider on its back.

Going through her paces to see if she’ll make a good therapeutic riding horse.

This training includes exposure to loud noises and music, learning to be lead next to a handler, responding to their body language and rhythm, tolerating items such as batons and flags handed back and forth and carried by the rider, and the ability to stand still when mounted from a ramp. They must also learn to accept items such as wheelchairs and not spook at them.

Once a horse is accepted into the program, as well as taking part in lessons, his work will consist of long lining, longeing, hacking out, and schooling in all three paces by an able-bodied rider.

Changing Lives

Studies have proven that therapeutic riding has a positive impact on those with disabilities, improving their quality of life. Many make rapid progress in comparison to other treatments and can often carry out tasks on a horse that they are unable to do in a clinical environment.

Therapeutic riding also brings people together from all walks of life, from the riders themselves to professionals from the equine and medical professions to the many volunteers who give up their free time. And of course, let’s not forget that noble creature the horse who makes therapeutic riding possible!

A unique friendship is made during lessons.

If you wish to volunteer for therapeutic riding lessons or if you know someone who would benefit form therapeutic riding, contact your country’s organization for centers in your area.


NMSU Therapeutic Riding Program


PATH International – Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International


Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association


Riding for the Disabled Association Incorporating Carriage Driving


Riding for the Disabled Association of Australia Ltd

Alison O’Callaghan, our Equine Editor, is a professional horse riding instructor and has owned many types of pets. When she is not riding horses or walking her dog, she loves to write about animals. If you’d like to contact Alison, you can email her at

Three Legged Cats and More

We love our pets! One of the reasons why we have family dogs and or cats is to experience a close bond with a furry family member who love you unconditionally. Unfortunately, not all pets receive this love or bond with humans because they have birth defects or past injuries making them handicapped. Naturally, humans like to look at what is beautiful and attractive. But what is also natural are birth defects, and accidents can affect animal’s ability to do basic actions. Many animals are not adopted or cared for because of these defects. In the same manner that someone would not ignore a blind woman crossing the street, many people are choosing to care for cats with birth defects or who have suffered from injuries leaving them handicapped. In this article, I’ll go over some disabilities that cats can have, some advice of how to care for your loving special-needs kitty, and some stories of amazing and kind cat owners who provide their kitty the best and happiest life they can possibly have.

All cats should be given the opportunity to have a good life.

Three Legs

When you bring a cat into your home, you are accepting a large amount of responsibility, patience, and work. However, when you have a three-legged cat, they will require extra care and caution. In some cases, cats are born with three legs. This can happen if the umbilical cord is wrapped around one of their limbs, cutting off circulation. However, in other cases, a cat may be born with a deformity that results in the loss of one of their limbs. Most three-legged cats have had a leg amputated because of injury or a past illness.

Any pet will have a difficult time adjusting to life on three legs, unless they were born missing a limb. Adapting to three legs will be difficult for cat and it will cause more work for you. Keep in mind that your cat may feel depressed and be very inactive. They may also suffer from phantom limb syndrome and feel as if their missing limb is in extreme pain. Your cat may feel confused and think they can still count on their missing leg when jumping or climbing. With enough love, gentle petting, space, and help from YOU, your cat should return to who they were before, just with one less appendage.

This cat seems to have perfectly accepted her missing limb.

  • Your cat used to jump from the recliner to the coffee table and make their way onto the top of a 5-foot cat tree without hesitation. Now, your cat will have issues with what used to be routine. Rearrange the furniture to enable your cat to move from one piece to another so they can still enjoy the travel and get to the top of their cat tree safely. For example, provide small pet steps against the side of your bed or against the cushion of the couch so you cat can still reach their favorite places.
  • Begin playing with your cat with toys when their mood brightens up to help them become more active and to strengthen their remaining limbs.
  • Using the litter box may be a challenge for your cat, too, because the step into the litter box or a cover concealing the space can be intimidating for them. You may have to help your cat into the litter box at first and be there to make sure they can keep their balance while they use the restroom, cover their feces and urine, and clean themselves afterwards.
  • Don’t overfeed your cat. They may become depressed and try to comfort themselves with food and weight gain can become an issue. Feed them as you normally would.
  • Accept your emotions and your cat’s. As you give your pet physical, moral and metal support, allow yourself to be comforted in someway, too.

Extra Toes

If your cat has extra toes, that is because that’s just how they were born. And who doesn’t love kitty toes?! I know I love their cute little toes. If your cat has extra toes, they are considered a Polydactyl Cat (or a Hemingway cat because he was a HUGE cat lover and had more than fifty cats, half with extra toes). Essentially, what happens in utero to cause this is when a kitten inherited the autosomal dominant trait of the ZRS cic element of the PD gene with an incomplete penetrance. Lots of big, confusing words; let me break it down for you. Autosome is a chromosome that is not a sex chromosome, and when ZRS cic element of PD gene was not in proportion to the mother or father cat carrying a certain variant of a gene that is because the gene had either an incomplete or reduced penetrance.

So many toes!

Cats normally have eighteen toes, with five toes on each front paw and four toes on their back paws. Some kitties with extra toes can have as many as twenty-eight toes! Not much has to be done to make sure your cat’s toes aren’t injured other than being extra cautious about them. They can occasionally be surgically removed based on their location and the health hazards they may possess. Extra toes are often unusable and can easily get snagged on fabrics which could hurt the toe. Be extra careful when checking their paws for any splinters or cuts so you don’t spread their toes too far apart. You don’t want to cause any injury while making sure your cat is okay.

Cleft Palates

Cats can be born with cleft palates just like humans can. A cleft palate is an abnormal opening in the roof of the mouth and it occurs because the two sides of the roof of the mouth (the palate) did not come together and fuse during the embryonic development while your cat was in utero. This results in an opening between the nasal passages and the mouth. Some symptoms that your cat can experience include: a runny nose, a lack of appetite, coughing, weight loss, pneumonia (caused by liquids and food entering the cleft and infecting your cat’s lungs), difficulty nursing, and respiratory issues. If you have a kitten that was born with a cleft palate, you should take them to your veterinarian as quickly as possible. Your kitten and momma cat may have to stay at the vet for a while so they can monitor your kitten’s health while continuing to enforce a bond with their mother and allowing them to nurse. Your veterinarian will probably suggest surgery to repair the birth defect, but it is often postponed until your kitten is three to four months old. Keep in mind that multiple surgeries are typically necessary for the total closure of the palate.

Spina Bifida

For those of you who are not familiar with Spina Bifida, it is a condition that can affect dogs, cats, and humans. Spina Bifida is caused when the spinal cord is left exposed at birth because the vertebrae did not completely grow around the spinal cord. The condition can range from a small portion of your cat’s spinal cord being exposed to the entire spinal cord being exposed. This is typically discovered through x-ray. If their lower-back is affected, this leads to the diagnosis of Spina Bifida. Some symptoms of this birth defect are great to little hind limb weakness or frequent stumbling when your cat walks. Other symptoms include: cavity or swelling of the spine, a buildup of fluid in the spine that can lead to infection and swelling, limping, and neurological signs like paralysis or seizures. Your cat may also have a hard time using the restroom if they don’t have the strength to properly hold their own body weight.

Your cat may benefit from a kitty wheelchair!

Unfortunately, there is not much of a treatment for extreme cases of Spina Bifida for cats. Kittens and puppies are often euthanized when they are diagnosed. However, some owners of cats with Spina Bifida have been able to provide their cats with happy lives. With frequent trips to the veterinarian to make sure your cat is doing well, getting antibiotics if needed, and giving them a soft diet to make it easier for them to go to the bathroom, your cat can live a happy, fulfilling life. To give your cat more independence, you can always buy a pair of Wheel Cats for your cat’s rear legs. They know their limits and will be grateful that you have given then the opportunity to run around the house and play with you just like a regular cat would.

Cats with special needs should be given a chance to have a good life, just like their healthy counterparts. Consider adopting a special needs cat because you might be just what they need to have a happy, fulfilled life. Odds are, they’ll make your life a brighter, happier, more loving place, too.

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at