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Sounds sort of cute doesn’t it? Wobbly Kitten? All kittens wobble when they are first trying to learn to move. They sort of shudder and shake as they discover their legs and try to move their feet.
But Wobbly Kitten is a different sort of movement. It is a disorder of the central nervous system. It affects how the kitten moves, not just in the beginning of life, but all through it. The messages to the brain are short- circuited somehow. The messages are not received in a timely fashion. The kitten has problems moving forward. Wobbly kittens are prone to bone disorders as well, throughout its lifetime. Wobbly Kitten generally sets in when the kitten is 2-3 weeks old.
I spoke with several owners of wobbly kittens recently. One owner, her cat is now ten years old, has recently had to confine her cat to a cage. The reason being, he just can’t seem to control his bowel movements any longer. He poops and pees all over the house (through no fault of his own).
His owner understands this, but she is worn out from the constant care of keeping up with his accidents. Her carpeting, ripped up years ago, now stands, stored in the garage. Even the tile floors bear the marks of many of his wobbly kitten’s accidents.
She cannot bear the thought of euthanizing him. They have been through so much together. He does come out of his cage at daily intervals. She sits with him, loves on him and plays with him.
She told me, that she wishes she had taken the vet’s advice and euthanized him as a kitten. His problems were apparent when he was a few weeks old. But she opted to keep him and now he occupies a special corner of her heart, as well as a special corner of her home.
Another owner reports the same findings. As her cat has grown the cat is six-years old now) Dixie has found that the litter pan accidents are getting worse. No amount of medication or changing boxes or litters has helped remedy the situation. The cat now inhabits a specially-built enclosure with a cement floor. There is a drain in the center of the floor for easy clean-up.
Ataxia is the medical term for the gait that Wobbly Kittens are besieged with. It is a drunken, wobbly kind of gait, making movement difficult. There are a large number of reasons why kittens are diagnosed with Wobbly Kitten:
Causes of ataxia can fall into three categories:
Vestibular Ataxia - this is where the inner ear is affected. The inner ear affects the balance of the kitten. For example, if you give a reluctant cat a bath, and he fights the bath, chances are good he will get water in his ear. He will then walk around with his head tilted, he may shake his head a few times, and he will be uncoordinated in movement. He may start to move in circles, or fall down for no reason. The only difference between a cat with water in his inner ear and a wobbly kitten, is one vet visit will help cure the inner ear infection of the cat. No amount of vet visits can cure a kitten of Wobbly Kitten. The kitten will also show signs of motion sickness.
Cerebellar Ataxia - The area of the brain that controls balance is affected. The kitten is seen stepping high, like a parade horse. When the kitten jumps, he overcompensates. He jumps higher than he should. When he goes to jump off an object, he will simply lie down and roll off the couch, or table. His brain cannot compute the proper message to send to his body about how to move normally.
Sensory ataxia - this is where the limbs are mainly affected; when the brain and spinal cord cannot detect movement of the limbs. The kitten will appear weak and walk bowl-legged.
If a kitten suffers from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and does not get immediate treatment or help, the result can be a wobbly kitten.
The same holds true to kittens ill with diseases like diabetes, or kittens that are left without a mom, or human intervention for a long period of time. Lack of food early in their life can start this disease going through their system.
If you suspect your kitten has Wobbly Kitten then please call your vet. He should do a complete examination, including blood work, neurological testing, and x-rays. Other extensive testing can include an MRI, a tap of the spinal fluid, or an ultrasound.
Having a Wobbly Kitten does not mean this kitten’s doom is sealed. They can and do live a long life, but they are susceptible to illnesses that healthy cats are immune to.
It is a life of commitment for the owner as well, for there will be the danger that the cat will inadvertently hurt himself when trying to get down off of high objects. There is also the litter pan issue. One owner suggests using paint roller trays for wobbly kittens. The sides are low enough, the kitten can navigate over the side without exhausting himself or missing the mark completely. She also suggests putting down in the room, those plastic mats you place under computers. This way where there are accidents, the accidents don’t seep into the carpet or the floorboards and are easy to clean up after.
Determine the best course of action by talking to the experts; the vets and specialists that you have sought out to help you and your kitten. Find out from them the prognosis and what the pros and cons are when it comes to wobbly kitten.
Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer, website content provider and member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her expertise lies in feral cat socialization, bottle babies and animal abuse issues.