Our newest member of the leukemia cats colony is Cleo.
This little girl came in to us about four months ago. As with all new cats, she was popped into a cage for a familiarization period – without direct contact with other cats, they are still aware that other felines are around; they get smells and some visual contact, and they become used to handling by volunteers and staff.
We noticed immediately that Cleo was unsteady on her feet. Within the confines of a cage, that was not much of an issue, but it might impact life outside the cage. We made sure that she had a step to access the top shelf and a place to hide if she needed.
It quickly became apparent that she had a considerable degree of disability, rather like our late and much beloved Wobbly Bob. It’s apparently not Cerebellar Hypoplasia, in which the cerebellum of the brain is not fully formed, and the cat’s coordination is affected – that’s a condition that exists from birth. We’re told that Cleo disappeared from her person for 5 weeks in the very worst part of winter and when she returned after that experience she developed the wobbliness. It might have been a virus or a trauma of some kind. It seems to come and go – sometimes she seems to have things together, and at other times she staggers like she’s had too many drinks.
Cleo loves attention, and everyone visiting her cage fell in love with her. Once she was released it became apparent that there would need to be some adjustments made. She likes being in an upper-level cage, but also wants the freedom to move to floor level. We make sure there is always a cat-tree within reach of her preferred cage, and it takes her a while, but she can make her way up and down. However, she particularly likes when someone comes and sits in the big arm-chair, and she can laboriously make her way up into a lap for a cuddle.
CH is a non-progressive condition; cats who have it can live full lives, and though they may not be able to run and jump, they often develop good climbing skills. But this is not CH, and because we don’t know the source of Cleo’s ataxia, we don’t know whether and how it will progress, and how it is affected by the leukemia virus. All we can do is what we do for the rest of the leukemia cats – be very careful to wash before entering so that we can protect them from other infections, not allow outside visitors, and keep a close eye on them in terms of their general health.
Cleo is not a great fan of the other leukemia cats; she seems to want to keep herself to herself. But when a human comes on the scene, she turns into a cuddle-bug. She’s not about to give into her disability; life is still good for Cleo, and we’re going to work to keep it that way.