This week we are starting a 3 week cat-sitting gig for Weebles and Wobbles, two insanely lovable cats, and it seems like the perfect (dare I say "purrrfect?" Nope. Too lame) time to share their stories. They are very special girls, owned by my mom, who have a neurological issue called Cerebellar Hypoplasia (CH). That means the cerebellum part of their brain is underdeveloped creating problems with balance and motor skills. They may walk like they're drunk and end up somersaulting instead of jumping, but they have the biggest spirits of any cats I've ever met (and I'm an expert level cat lady)!
They are adorably cheerful greeters who run bow-legged to meet you at the door of their living area - really, it's impossible not to smile. They love to play, and are good snugglers to boot. So how did these two silly girls end up in our family? Here's the scoop! [ha, cat litter pun]
Wobbles is older of the two; she turned three in May. Originally her mama cat was caught as part of a feral TNR (trap, neuter, release) program coordinated by our local county shelter. Between getting trapped and her initial exam she gave birth to 4 kittens! She couldn't simply be released back into the community with babies to take care of, so that shelter reached out to the rescue I worked for at the time, and we took them in.
At about 3 weeks old the kittens were starting to walk, and we noticed that they were SUPER unstable (more unstable than a t-rex upside down on a tightrope). Our vet initially said that it was a normal part of development, but as the weeks went on their growth slowed down, and they remained particularly wobbly. At 8 weeks they still looked like 4 week old kittens, and were having trouble processing food. Their quality of life began to tank and they grew lethargic. Despite providing the best care we possibly could (including medical intervention such as fluids and medications, and sending them to an extremely experienced foster home) our vet diagnosed CH, and sadly told us they were "non-thrivers" (which isn't always the case with CH, just fyi) Two of the kittens passed away. The remaining two didn't look like they'd make it much longer, but seemed just healthy enough that humane euthanasia wasn't an option quite yet. It didn't seem right to keep them in the shelter, and I didn't want to ask our foster mom to take on the heartbreaking care of hospice kittens. So I took them.
Every morning I woke up expecting to find dead or dying kittens, but every morning there were two precious faces alertly waiting for me. I cuddled them, hand fed them, and took them on field trips outside to get some fresh air. Because I'm such a creative namer, I started calling them Tilt and Wobbles (Tilt's head tilted to the left, and Wobbles wobbled real bad). They started gaining strength, eating better, and after only a couple of weeks it was apparent that these non-thrivers were thriving! Despite having a plethora of cats already, I was too soft to re-home the little buggers and officially adopted them.
However there was trouble in paradise! A feud was started between Wobbles and our older cat Big Head (his brother is Little Head, I told you about the creative naming...).
We spent over a year trying to reconcile their relationship. There were mediators and contracts drawn up about who gets to use the litter box when, but to no avail. Not only did they literally piss on the contracts, they would harass each other nonstop - it was straight up reality TV drama (only slightly less binge drinking). There was a distinct change in Wobbles' happy-go-lucky personality, and I couldn't let her live like that anymore. So I did what I do every time I have an issue, I went crying to my mommy. Like the superhero she is, my mom stepped in and said Wobbles can come live with her, where I can still see her every day but without feeling like I'm on an episode of The Real World. It just so happens she recently brought home another Cerebellar Hypoplasia kitten...
Weebles entered our lives when she was about 4 months old. She was originally cared for by a kind homeless man who spent many of his limited resources taking care of her, but because of her special needs it was too much to handle. He had to make the difficult decision to give her up to the county shelter. At the time she was almost completely immobile, she had to have her bladder expressed manually and no one ever saw her move. She was on a potential euthanasia list because she didn't seem to have a good quality of life, and that's when again, caped in her full glory, Super Mom (who works at the shelter) swooped her up as a foster kitten.
Weebles' first week at home was difficult. She really didn't move from her Safety Towel, and her little muscles would seize up in spasms regularly. We did learn that she could go potty without help (just not in a litter box), so that was a win (because cleaning up cat pee constantly is #winning around here). After a couple of days we also noticed that sometimes you would put her down in one position, come back a few minutes later and she would be 3 inches to the right facing the other way! This was exciting because it meant she could move, even if she never did so in front of us.
That's about when the two cats came together. Weebles seemed awestruck of Wobbles (it was probably her unparalleled grace and elegance), and began trying to vie for her affection. Wobbles, having just come from an abusive relationship, was very distrustful. She wanted nothing to do with the kitten. Then we began a little play therapy. I would send Wobbles chasing after little balls, and dangle strings in front of Weebles for her to paw at. One day Weebles was no longer content batting from the sidelines, she wanted to be in on the real action, and that's when she started making her move to stand up and chase the toys! She would almost immediately fall down, but little lion heart persevered.
Every day her coordination got better, and today she is just as good on her feet as Wobbles (which isn't saying much, ha)! It's been exceptional to watch Weebles blossom into a running, climbing, spider-hunting cat! Wobbles has also accepted Weebles as a comrade. They sit, play and eat together without any hissing or ill will. Since soft-heartedness is genetic, my mom officially adopted Weebles, so that the two can remain companions (that's what the industry calls a Foster Fail).
The stay at my house will be quite the adventure for both of them. They will be in their own room far away from Big Head. I hope they handle the change well and continue to flourish! I'll keep you posted!
Do you have a favorite pet, Perfect Stranger? Tell me about how cute they are!