Q: My friend’s cat, Wobbly, has poor coordination and falls over because of a disease called CH. What is CH? Can I inadvertently take it home and infect my cat?
A: CH, or cerebellar hypoplasia, is a condition marked by incomplete (hypo-) development (-plasia) of the cerebellum, the part of the brain that coordinates movement.
Clinical signs, which become obvious when the kitten starts walking, include poor balance and coordination, exaggerated movements, swaying, a wide stance and tremors. The condition is not painful, and cats with CH have a normal lifespan.
CH arises when the kitten is exposed to the feline distemper virus before birth or within two weeks after birth, while the cerebellum is still developing. This may occur if the kitten’s mother is exposed to other cats with this contagious virus or even if she is vaccinated for distemper during this time.
Fortunately, Wobbly can’t transmit CH to another cat, and you can’t carry the disease home with you. Therefore, don’t hesitate to visit your friend and her cat.
No treatment reverses CH, so affected cats must live indoors. The degree of disability remains constant throughout life, although cats with CH do learn to compensate.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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