As some of you may know, and I have made mention here a time or 2, we live with a very special kitty named Roxy. Roxy has Cerebellar Hypoplasia (CH). This means that her Cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls fine motor skills, was never fully developed. Because of this, Roxy has a difficult time standing, walking, playing, and eating. Before you say–“then what kind of life does she have?!”–Roxy is the happiest, sweetest, most appreciative cat I have ever encountered. She has no idea that she is different, or that she is unable to do certain things. Her favorite pastime is sitting in a lap dozing and purring. If I was able to sit all day long with her in my lap, she would be perfectly content.
Roxy first came to live with us after being brought, with her sister, to my old vet clinic. The person that found her and her sister didn’t want to keep them, and once the doctor diagnosed them both with Cerebellar Hypoplasia (CH), that person decided to have them euthanized. Now before you judge that person, a lot of people would have chosen this as well. BUT because I am a sucker for any animal, I quickly called my husband to see if we could foster them. Of course, he’s also a sucker, especially for cats, so they both came home with me that night. My intention was to find them both loving homes. Little did I know…
They were about 5 weeks old when I brought them home. At the time I knew NOTHING about CH. My husband and I did a little research on the topic and found a great website called Life With CH Cats. We first believed Roxy and her sister (we never officially named her, but I did call her Penny) were mild. They were able to walk around OK with just a few falls. They used the litter box well and even were able to escape out of the wire dog crate we kept them in at night. Talk about being panicked when I awoke the first morning and couldn’t find them ANYWHERE! Eventually they were found curled up together behind our couch.
After having them at in our home for 3 days, Penny had her first seizure. It scared the bejeesus out of me! Growing up I had a dog with epilepsy that would have the occasional mild seizure, but this was nothing mild. It was so scary to watch! She continued that evening having seizures…I think she had 4 in a row. I finally called one of the doctors from my clinic to have her meet me around 10pm. It was decided that Penny was so weak from her seizures, that her little body couldn’t handle it anymore, and that we needed to let her go. That was so hard on us, especially my husband as he has never had to deal with anything like that before.
Roxy seemed to adjust just fine to being the only “kitten” Even Jack and William seemed to like her and would play with her on occasion. It took them a bit to get over hissing at her, but they came around. Delilah was her ever present guardian. Roxy would always curl up with Delilah on the couch, on the bed, or wherever. After living with us for about 3 weeks, my husband and I knew that she wasn’t getting adopted. In all honesty, we never really tried. She was just too sweet to give to someone else, and we were both already attached.
When she was around 9 weeks old, she had her first seizure. She was in bed with us and it woke both of us up with the severity of it. As soon as my clinic was open we rushed her up there for observation and testing. Everything came back normal, and she was put on Phenobarbital, an anti seizure drug. Since then she has a few break through seizures–mostly because I try to keep her on the lowest possible dose, so it comes with a lot of trial and error–but she is happy and healthy!
As I mentioned before, when Roxy was a kitten, we thought she had mild CH, but now as she’s older and fully developed, we would consider her Moderate. As she’s gotten older and longer, it’s harder for the back half of her body to keep up with her front half. She also never really developed a lot of muscle mass in her hind end. She has a hard time getting in and out of a traditional litter box, and a lot of times won’t get in it at all. Because of this we have done a lot of trials with litter boxes. Currently we have a rubbermaid storage container that I have cut the front down on and attached pool noodles to the rim so she doesn’t bang her head. We are still testing this method out.
She spends most of her time going back and forth between her “Roxy proof” area and Delilah’s bed. I think she sleeps on the dog bed more than Delilah does! Because we love her, we have set up a nice padded area of the living room for her. In our previous house we had all carpeting. It was easy for her to get around on and it didn’t hurt when she would fall over. In our current home, the only carpet is in the bedrooms, so we have set up an old piece of vinyl flooring that we lay old towels down on to make it more cushioned. Why don’t we just keep her in a carpeted bedroom you ask? Remember how I mentioned her litter box habits leave a lot to be desired?
I would LOVE to have a new area rug for our new couch. I would LOVE to let Roxy sleep in bed with us. I would also LOVE to let Roxy have free reign of the house. But we learned the hard way by doing all of those things previously, that Roxy LOVES to pee on things that are soft or cushioned. There, I’m admitting it. I have a cat that would pee all over the house if I let her. This is why she has her own area. Towels are easy to wash. Vinyl flooring is easy to mop and disinfect. If you come over to our house, I apologize if it smells like pee, even if I did just wash the towels, or mop, or both. Chances are, if you come to visit, Roxy will probably pee right in front of you. Believe me, it’s happened…multiple times…with multiple people. We try our best to put her in the litter box on schedule, but we are gone 9 hours a day and can’t get her every time. Judge me if you wish, but we love our CH kitty.
I will admit, when we were preparing for our move to Texas, we briefly tried to find a new home for her. I received a lot of backlash from friends and people of the CH community where I posted her story. We weren’t trying to “get rid of her” just because she was inconvenient. We seriously didn’t know how we could find a landlord that would allow us to have a cat that hardly ever makes it to the litter box. Fortunately this place has worked out great! And, when it came down to it, I don’t think we could really hand her off to a new home!
My husband and I are currently getting ready to make Roxy a cart where she can get around much easier. Not only will it make her able to get around the whole house, but my hope will be that it will strengthen the muscles in her back legs and in the long run make it easier for her to walk on her own. I’ll let you know how the project goes!
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