By Megan Sullivan
Animal lover Jen Kostesich has adopted many pets over the years, but never one quite like Neela.
When Kostesich first brought Neela home, she was emaciated and couldn’t walk very well. “She was a quivering, wiggly pile of nerves and didn’t really know how to use her body too well,” Kostesich recalls. That’s because this sweet black and white cat was born with cerebellar hypoplasia, a condition that makes pets wobbly and unsteady.
Located in the back of the brain, the cerebellum controls coordination and balance. Cerebellar hypoplasia occurs when parts of the cerebellum are not completely developed. Symptoms become noticeable as kittens start standing and walking, around 6 weeks of age. Signs include head bobbing, limb tremors, unsteadiness or clumsiness with a wide-based stance, inability to judge distance, and disequilibrium.
Cats with cerebellar hypoplasia often learn to adapt to their condition and become more mobile over time. “She gets around great now as an adult cat, so it’s really fun to watch her blossom,” Kostesich says.
Neela also benefited from hanging around Kostesich’s other kittens. “When we brought her in with all the other kittens, they really helped do a lot of the work of teaching her how to ‘cat.’”
Thankfully, cats with cerebellar hypoplasia have a normal life expectancy, and the condition does not get worse with age.
For Neela, life has only gotten better since finding a loving home. “She’s so special. I think that she’s inspiring,” Kostesich says. “It doesn’t faze her that she can’t walk like a normal cat. She can get on with her life in a very normal way.”