Anna Belair, 4, plays with Roy, who suffers from cerebellar hypoplasia, as he roams the American Heritage Antique Mall in LaSalle, Mich. Anna’s father, Dennis, is a dealer at the mall.
MONROE — Roy Mayes thinks he’s like any other cat, but he’s not.
He has a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia, which is like cerebral palsy in cats. He tries to jump and run, but he isn’t able to move as well as other cats.
But he’s happy and not in pain, so his owner, Melissa Mayes of Monroe, does what she can for him, including physical therapy to exercise his weaker legs.
Ms. Mayes brings him to the antique mall that she owns, American Heritage Antique Mall in La Salle, and the tiger-striped cat loves to run and explore with his brother, Fart Blossom.
The two cats are about 2½ years old, Ms. Mayes said.
“Fart Blossom cried and cried before I brought home Roy,” she said. “Now they are inseparable. And Fart Blossom looks out for Roy. He knows there’s something different about him.”
There are several bacterial infections and viral infections, such as feline panleukopenia, caused by feline parvovirus, that can result in the disorder in both cats and dogs, according to The Merck Veterinary Manual.
However, the disease also can be caused by malnutrition, poisoning, injury, or accidents during the development of the fetus.
Some common symptoms are jerky movement, wobbly, uncoordinated walking, and head bobbing.
Roy’s condition, which is like cerebral palsy for animals, means he needs to have physical therapy for his legs, but he is not in pain.
There is no cure for CH. The disease does not worsen with age, but the cat or dog usually can learn to somewhat compensate for it and have a normal lifespan, according to the manual. An afflicted animal can, in theory, lead a fairly regular life if special considerations for its disability are taken by its owner.
However, secondary complications, such as accidental injuries that occur as a result of having the condition, may lead to a shorter lifespan. Some affected animals must be euthanized due to the severity of the clinical signs.
Roy had problems walking when he was a kitten, so Ms. Mayes manually exercised his legs to help him strengthen the muscles.
“One of my [antique] dealers has a child with cerebral palsy, so she showed me how to do it,” she said.
Ms. Mayes’ veterinarian, Dr. John Black of Monroe Veterinary Clinic in Monroe, examined him after Ms. Mayes obtained Roy from the person who had found him, and explained to her what was causing his condition.
“He said he wasn’t in pain, which was what I was mostly worried about,” Ms. Mayes said.
The then-3-month-old kitten was found behind a trash hauling bin at MBM Wholesale in Monroe.
“The lady who found him thought he was a hunk of mud, but then she saw him move,” Ms. Mayes said.
Lisa Beers Kirry of Olympia, Wash., has a cat with CH. To help others learn more about the disease, she created a Web site, chcat.org. She also is one of the administrators on a Facebook group with more than 2,000 members at tinyurl.com/CHcatsFacebook.
Cats with CH frequently walk with a stiffer gait and may stumble frequently, Ms. Kirry said. When they focus on an object like a food or water bowl, their heads may bob as they try to reach the object. Kittens may have mild CH, while others may have more pronounced symptoms.
These cats should not be allowed outside as they have no defense against predators.
“Patience as a pet owner is important since it might take cats with CH longer to eat and drink, and they may be messier than other cats,” Ms. Kirry said. “CH kittens and cats can go on to lead long, healthy lives. They may just need a little extra help in some areas.
“There are many cats and kittens with this condition that are being put down because it is thought that their quality of life is less than perfect. This saddens me since I know all too well how amazing these cats can be.”
Contact Tanya Irwin at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @TanyaIrwin.