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After A Vet Recommended Euthanizing Phoebe As A Kitten Due To Her Special Needs, This Incredible Cat Got A Second Chance At Life!

If you’ve been watching our videos and reading our articles for a while, then you probably already know how much we love cats with cerebellar hypoplasia, especially fluffy black and white ones like our own wobbly kitty Keanu and our late special needs cat Mittens. Not surprisingly, when I saw Phoebe on Instagram, I — like tens of thousands of people all around the world — instantly fell in love with her sweet and spunky spirit and knew we had to feature her!

Phoebe’s mom Stephanie graciously agreed to share her story with me, including how this gorgeous girl was slated for euthanasia after being rescued from a hoarding situation, as well as how she — with the help of her incredible family — is using her considerable social media following to help raise awareness about cerebellar hypoplasia in hopes of saving the lives of cats just like her.

I really enjoyed learning about Phoebe’s incredible journey, and I hope you will too!

Meow As Fluff: How did you end up meeting Phoebe?

Stephanie: My husband and I started fostering cats and kittens in June 2020. In February 2021, a fostering need was posted on our rescue’s page for a special needs kitten.

fluffy black and white cat with cerebellar hypoplasia
Image via @phoebe_the_ch_kitty on Instagram

At ten weeks old, Phoebe had been rescued from a well-intended hoarding situation. I saw a short, blurry video of this kitten flopping around in a cardboard box, and my heart stopped.

I had to have her! We had never had a special needs pet or foster, so we had no idea what we were getting into. My husband agreed to bring her in as a foster kitten.

Image via @phoebe_the_ch_kitty on Instagram

Before I even met Phoebe, the rescue let me know that the vet who evaluated her had identified her as having severe cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), and had recommended euthanasia. We were bringing home a kitten with a death sentence.

Image via @phoebe_the_ch_kitty on Instagram

Having never heard of CH, I spent that first night with Phoebe learning as much as possible. I learned that euthanasia has historically been a popular choice for CH kitties, but as their condition causes no pain and doesn’t progress or get worse over time, we’re seeing more and more CH cats being given a chance to live their happy, wobbly lives.

Thankfully, the rescue decided to seek a second vet opinion. I held my breath and was immensely relieved to hear the passionate recommendation against euthanasia, as well as resources to help us better understand her condition. I was excited to learn alongside Phoebe how to best help her adapt to her condition.

Image via @phoebe_the_ch_kitty on Instagram

MAF: What made you decide to adopt a special needs cat?

S: I immediately connected with Phoebe before I’d even met her, and the connection only intensified as we spent more time together. I have a bond with Phoebe unlike any I’ve ever experienced with any pet. She had become part of my heart, and I couldn’t bear to part with her! The decision to adopt Phoebe was one of the best choices I’ve made in my life. She brings me immeasurable joy and inspiration daily!

MAF: Can you tell me a bit about cerebellar hypoplasia and how it affects Phoebe specifically?

S: Cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) usually occurs when the mother cat is sick during pregnancy, causing her kitten(s) brains to be underdeveloped – specifically, the cerebellum, which is responsible for movement and coordination. It can affect just one kitten or the entire litter and to different degrees. CH is commonly referred to as “Wobbly Cat Syndrome” because, well, the affected cats are wobbly.

In mild cases, CH cats might have just a slight unsteadiness but still get around quite well. In more severe cases, cats may not walk at all. Phoebe is in the middle-moderate range. Her wobbles are significant, but she has learned and adapted quite well to them. She can even climb a ramp to get onto her favorite spot on the couch!

MAF: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you think people have about cats with cerebellar hypoplasia?

S: I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about cats with CH is that they’re in pain and should be pitied. The situation would be completely different if that were the case, and humane euthanasia would responsibly be considered. However, that’s just not true.

While the science and understanding of their condition are still developing, we have thankfully learned by this point that the condition causes no pain or dizziness. They’re simply wobbly — and still fully capable of thriving, regardless of moving about a bit differently than regular cats. We, in the wobbly cat community, like to gently remind people, “Never pity a CH kitty!”

MAF: What are some of the challenges — if any — you and Phoebe have faced as a result of her CH?

S: Potty time is probably one of the biggest challenges CH kitties face. It’s really about finding out what works best for the individual cat. I’ve fostered CH cats that would strictly use pee pads and others that used regular litter boxes just fine. With Phoebe’s level of wobbliness, plus her longer fur, we found that traditional litter wasn’t the best plan.

Image via @phoebe_the_ch_kitty on Instagram

We found that pellet litter was much better for her, and she does very well with it. We keep her on a schedule to be able to assist her in the litter box (she can get in, prop herself against the side, and make her deposit — but we like to be able to scoop her out before she tries to bury anything so she doesn’t stumble into her mess). Baths are occasionally needed, and not a big deal.

MAF: What do you wish more people knew about special needs cats?

S: I wish more people would open their hearts and minds to special needs pets. They are absolutely just as worthy of living full lives as any other pet, and adding one to your life will change your life for the better! Though they may be different, different is not less.

MAF: What are some of Phoebe’s favorite activities?

S: Phoebe loves to paint and play! She has always had such a playful spirit, and it’s one of my favorite things about her. She also has really gotten into the painting that we started as a fundraiser to help another kitty in our rescue, who was battling FIP (his treatment was successfully funded and he made a full recovery).

We’ve continued to sell paintings to people all over the world to keep raising money to help other kitties, and simply as a way to keep spreading joy — all the while, Phoebe enjoys a treat while engaging in a stability exercise. It’s great all around!

MAF: Can you tell me the story behind her name?

S: Her rescuer, Heather, named her Phoebe from the show Friends. The character is happy-go-lucky and full of spunk — it suited our Pheebs perfectly!

Image via @phoebe_the_ch_kitty on Instagram

MAF: What does she mean to you?

S: Oh my goodness, Phoebe means everything to me. She gave my life a new purpose and unlocked a passion I never knew I had. Honestly, every day is better with her — even the messy days! I am thankful every day that she came into my life, and that I have the joy and honor of being her mom. I have loved getting to grow with her, and now being able to help other CH kitties and people who are new parents to CH kitties — none of that would have happened without Phoebe. I honestly can’t imagine my life without her!

Image via @phoebe_the_ch_kitty on Instagram

To learn more about this gorgeous cat, you can follow Phoebe on multiple social media platforms.

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