When Sandy’s colleague sent her a video of a wobbly kitten who’d been rescued from the side of a road and taken a veterinary clinic, she knew right away that the 7-week-old cat had cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), a non-progressive neurological condition that affects balance and coordination.
Sandy immediately recognized the symptoms of CH because she and her husband Adam already had Norman, a handsome ginger kitty with the same condition, and she knew they would be able to give the little special needs kitten a wonderful home.
“We were told that the 7-week-old kitten was a boy,” remembers Sandy. “We had recently lost our beloved Penny Peets and CatDad was broken and healing from that loss, but knew we had to go at least meet the little guy.”
Penny, a beautiful one-eyed senior cat with lung contusions and spondylitis, passed away unexpectedly in June 2019, devastating both Sandy and Adam. However, less than a month later, this remarkable couple found the strength to consider opening their home to yet another special needs cat. “We were not looking to add another cat to our family,” explains Sandy. “We both were healing from the loss of Penny Peets, but to turn our backs on a helpless kitten would go against everything we stood for.”
On July 3, 2019, Sandy and Adam visited the vet clinic near their home in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to meet the diminutive kitten in person. While they’d been told the little cat was male, the staff at the clinic informed Sandy and Adam the kitten was actually female, just like their beloved Penny. “She was so tiny and wobbly — she could barely stand up but purred and was happy,” remembers Sandy. “CatDad melted and from that first interaction we knew she would part of our family! She was ours.”
Smitten with the tiny kitten, Sandy and Adam adopted her, naming her Delilah, or Dilly for short, and they began thinking about the modifications they could make to their home to accommodate the symptoms of her cerebellar hypoplasia. “It’s a disorder found in both cats and dogs that causes wobbly movement, tremors, and uncoordination,” says Sandy. “It’s caused when the cerebellum part of the brain doesn’t develop completely before birth.”
Contrary to popular belief, CH isn’t painful, the head tremors and wobbliness don’t cause nausea, and it’s non-progressive, which means it doesn’t get worse over time. However, there’s no cure for this neurological condition — which can range in severity — and Sandy and Adam quickly discovered Dilly’s CH was on the more severe end of the spectrum. “Some cats and dogs can walk and function relatively normally — like Norman — while others like Dilly are more severe and require help building core strength and carpet and mats to help with traction,” says Sandy.
In addition to having somewhat limited mobility, Sandy and Adam discovered Dilly had some bladder control issues, which were most likely due to her young age, not cerebellar hypoplasia. “She couldn’t hold her bladder all night long and had frequent accidents outside the litter box and even one morning peed right on me in bed, through all the layers of blankets,” says Sandy. “Thank goodness for mattress protectors.”
Also, because CH causes head tremors and wobbliness, Dilly frequently hit her mouth on her plastic and stainless bowls while eating and drinking, causing her to lose several of her baby teeth. Thankfully, they replaced Dilly’s bowls with silicone versions, putting an end to this particular problem. “By accommodating their needs in your home, you build a bond with them, a relationship,” says Sandy.
More than five months later, this gorgeous girl is doing great, and when she’s not absolutely destroying her toys, Dilly can usually be found engaging in her favorite activity: sleeping. “She is not a morning cat,” says Sandy. “She has slept in until 11:30am before without even asking for breakfast!”
While her love of naps and toys proves Dilly is a fairly typical cat despite having cerebellar hypoplasia, due to the severity of her symptoms, she does need help eating and using the litter box. Thankfully, Sandy and Adam definitely don’t mind giving Dilly the extra care she requires — including regular physical therapy — and they believe special needs cats really aren’t all that different from average felines.
“They love you unconditionally, exactly like a ‘normal pet’ would,” says Sandy. “They have personalities and little quirks and fill your home with love and laughter.” It’s difficult to imagine a better home for Dilly than the one she shares with brothers Norman and BenBen, and while she definitely isn’t a replacement for Penny, this fun, feisty, and affectionate kitten has helped Sandy and Adam heal after such a painful loss.
“We believe that everything happens for a reason and the universe brought her to us,” says Sandy. “She completes CatDad and is definitely a daddy’s kitten. She makes our family whole.”
To learn more about this beautiful cat, you can follow Dilly on Instagram.