We’re huge fans of wobbly cats, in large part, because we were inspired to start Meow As Fluff after losing our CH kitty, Mittens. Three years after his passing, we made the decision to adopt another cat with cerebellar hypoplasia, which is how we met Keanu, our wobbly kitty. When we saw Disco on social media, she immediately reminded of us Keanu, not only because she’s fluffy and has CH, but also because she’s extremely determined and independent.
We reached out to her mom, Emily, and she told us all about how she ended up adopting Disco in November 2021, as well as how this extremely tenacious girl managed to survive living as part of a feral barn colony with more than 200 other felines. We had a great time learning Disco’s story — and seeing her awesome dance moves — and we hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did!
Meow As Fluff: How did you end up meeting Disco?
Emily: Disco was found in a feral barn colony of over 200 cats when she was six months old. She was taken in by Little Orphans Animal Rescue (Montello, WI) since she would not survive long as an outdoor cat. She was diagnosed with cerebellar hypoplasia as well as a grade IV heart murmur. I had originally gone in to look at a different cat with very mild CH, but Disco wobbled her way around following me the entire time. I decided that she needed me more than the other little guy since he would need no accommodations.
MAF: Can you tell me the story behind her name?
E: Once I knew I was going to see some cats with CH at the shelter, I began thinking of suitable names. I was actually discussing it with my biology lab partners and asked for suggestions for names for a wobbly cat. Bob and Disco were brought up and I immediately loved the name Disco because they’re always dancing. I went out after lab and got the name tag not even knowing who I was going to pick yet, but knowing they would be Disco.
MAF: What made you decide to adopt a special needs cat?
E: I’m schooling to be a vet and am disabled myself, so I’ve always felt a connection to disabled animals. I have five abled cats, three dogs, and a bird at home and originally was looking at adopting an elderly cat. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it would fair well adjusting to such a busy household. So, I wanted to find a younger cat that was unlikely to get adopted by someone else.
MAF: Can you tell me a bit about cerebellar hypoplasia and how it affects Disco specifically?
E: Cerebellar hypoplasia is when the part of the brain, called the cerebellum, does not develop fully before birth. The cerebellum controls motor functions, so animals with CH exhibit symptoms such as ataxia, intention tremors, pecking when they eat, and wide gaits.
It can be mild, moderate, or severe. Disco has moderate CH and exhibits all the classic symptoms like unsteady walking in addition to tremors when she’s focusing on something.
MAF: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you think people have about cats with cerebellar hypoplasia?
E: Many people think cerebellar hypoplasia is a painful condition or that it shortens their lifespan. CH is not painful and will not shorten her life! She goes to a veterinarian like all of the other cats and is a very groovy girl.
MAF: What are some of the challenges — if any — you and Disco have faced as a result of her special needs?
E: Having a cat with CH requires some alterations. We have almost the entire house covered in carpets to ensure she has a good surface to grip when walking as well as steps leading up to the beds so she can climb up. She also uses potty pads since she cannot stand to go potty (she will have tremors and tip over) so she does make quite the mess on herself and the floor occasionally.
MAF: What do you wish more people knew about special needs cats?
E: I wish people knew that special needs cats aren’t automatically suffering if they don’t appear “normal.” I have had many many people tell me to euthanize her because she is different. While some conditions do cause pain and quality of life needs to be considered, CH is not necessarily one of them. As long as their needs can be accommodated properly, owning a disabled cat can be exceptionally rewarding for you both.
MAF: What are some of Disco’s favorite activities?
E: Disco LOVES yellow Nerf balls. She will pick them up and carry them around in her mouth while making this weird yowling sound. She also likes to carry around bubble mailers. Her favorite activity is probably going outside to explore or going to the pet store. That and eating ham; she is an expert at eating ham.
MAF: What does she mean to you?
E: Disco is like a daughter to me. She may struggle sometimes, but she’s stubborn and confident. Nothing will stop her from getting what she wants. I feel like we were meant to find each other.
To learn more about this stunning cat, you can follow Disco on Instagram.