I’ve been holding off writing about this boy until he had his little glory-moment on the RAPS Pets & Pickers episode last week, and now I can introduce him properly.
Sometimes our cats come to us without names, and the med-staff (or occasionally others) get to suggest them. Sometimes they come to us with names they have carried all their lives, and we don’t change them – though we may modify them if we already have a cat by that name. And sometimes our cats come from other rescues who name them for us – and occasionally it’s just the perfect name.
Tumbleweed came to us last year from the same rescue that sent us Marble and her family (in last week’s blog). And his name couldn’t have been better chosen. You see, Tumbleweed is a CH cat – he has cerebellar hypoplasia, which is a condition sometimes found in kittens whose brains have have failed to develop fully in utero – specifically, the cerebellum, the portion of the brain that deals with fine motor skills, balance, and coordination. It is possible that a kitten could develop cerebellar hypoplasia if its mother is severely malnourished during her pregnancy, and other inflammatory diseases of the brain such as toxoplasmosis infection may cause similar symptoms. However, the most common cause of this condition by far is infection with panleukopenia virus.
The most typical CH symptoms are jerky or uncoordinated walking, swaying from side to side when trying to walk, a goose-stepping gait called hypermetria, mild head tremors, and/or intention tremors. Intention tremors occur when the cat or kitten intends to make some sort of movement and may be present to a minor degree when they walk, but are usually most pronounced when they try to do something more involved such as playing with a toy or bending over to drink or eat out of a bowl.
CH kittens or cats are in no pain, but need to live in a safe environment, since they have few defences. The extraordinary thing about Tumbleweed was that he survived as part of a feral colony for several years. I contacted Foster Kritters to ask about it –Tumbleweed showed up in his caretaker’s yard as an older kitten. She was feeding feral cats on her property and had been unsuccessfully trying to find help from a rescue – so she just kept feeding the cats. Tumbleweed grew up there with his family as part of the colony and possibly never left the property. It’s quite secure and secluded, even though it’s in a suburban area, so he really just got lucky. By the time we randomly met the property owner and learned about this colony, Tumbleweed was eight years old. This was quite a sickly and inbred colony so we stepped in right away to help. This is when we also discovered RAPS and reached out for help. We have very few options on the Island for a cat like Tumbleweed so we were thrilled when Valerie said he could come there to retire.
He reminds me of our dearly loved Wobbly-Bob who had some sort of progressive neurological problem, and was very shy and wary because he couldn’t control his movement. In WB’s case, the condition continued to develop, and was not CH. Tumbleweed initially hid away in the Tea-Room; he had a bed under the chair by the heater, so it was prime real estate, and occasionally someone (in this case, our beloved Tugboat) would move in and be his roomie for a while. As the weather changed, Tumbleweed moved across the room to den up in the base of a cat-tree, and occasionally to climb it. He may not be very good at balancing, but he never stops trying. He was wary of people, but occasionally he bonds with a visitor – some of our young ones at the weekend are potential Kitty-Comforters, and Tumbleweed responds to their gentleness.
He is now more ready to emerge when there is someone in the room, and can be coaxed to play with a wand toy, or to tumble and pounce and chase after a ball. He is starting to emerge from the Tea-Room in the morning and evening hours to explore a little; most of the other cats just let him be, and his bed-time buddies are more drawn to him for his cosy bed.
In an untended colony he would have been unable to fend for himself or to hunt; he would have been easy pickings for a predator. He was fortunate to be in a colony that was being cared for and provided with food – and we are happy to be able to give him a really safe and loving home to live out his days in peace.