Friday, March 8, 2013

The Story of Scrapper

What is Cerebellar Hypoplasia?
3 Days Old
It wasn't until Scrapper was almost two months old that we finally realized that her wobbly style of walking and constantly falling over wasn't normal. We kept dismissing her clumsiness to being a young kitten that didn’t have the advantage of a feline mom and siblings to help with activities. She could navigate a short distance, but then turning around was a challenge that usually resulted in falling over several times before she got herself going in the right direction again. Cerebellar Hypoplasia can be caused by the mother cat having had distemper during pregnancy; or by cats that suffered brain damage from an accident (like being attacked by something), malnutrition, or poisoning. So, there are many reasons/causes for Scrapper to have this disability. Often when she concentrates on something, she will have head tremors. Now, when she walks or runs, she picks up her front legs as if she's walking through wet grass, and her hind legs move stiffly so her rear end sashays back and forth. Her chin often hits the floor hard if she’s sitting and then something gets her attention. When she investigates something with her nose, or when she eats or drinks, her head bobs up and down. You can always hear her moving about; either from her flopping on the floor, bumping into things, or her front feet hitting the floor with her high stepping gait. She is expected to live a normal life span, but her size is not as large as most adult cats. Some Cerebellar Hypoplasia cats have sight problems, but luckily Scrapper's sight is superb. More than once, while I'm holding her and standing at the door gazing outdoors, she has spotted the speck of an airplane flying high overhead and she'll follow it's path across the sky with her eyes.

Who is Scrapper, and How I Became Her 'Mother'
Three Days Old
Scrapper is our black cat - she was born with Cerebellar Hypoplasia. My daughter, Sandy, found her on February 1, 2012. Sandy was outdoors feeding her geese, when she heard what she at first thought was a very vocal catbird. This 'catbird' continued making noise for such a long period of time that Sandy began to investigate. On the ground, nestled in a bamboo patch, was this teeny tiny black kitten, meowing for all it's worth. There had obviously been siblings, but they were no longer alive .... just this one kitten, still with it's umbilical cord attached. Remember - it was February - and it had been below freezing the night before. How this kitten was alive, we will never know. The mother cat was nowhere to be seen. Sandy picked up this kitten, which easily fit in the palm of her hand (and her hands aren't very big!) and took her into the house, then called me. With Sandy's busy schedule, I soon became the new caretaker of the kitten. After having this kitten for a few weeks, it became clear she was a fighter … thus the name Scrapper.

In One End …
Scrapper needed to be on a heating pad, and bottle-fed. I wasn’t happy setting my alarm to get up in the very early morning hours … but, when you have a baby to care for, that’s the way it is. We held the kitten a lot - she liked to be under our sweatshirts near our shoulders, where we could keep her warm. She was so tiny! I purchased a couple tiny bottles with nipples designed to feed kittens with, and fed her warmed cows milk. Scrapper didn't drink much of the milk, and was loosing weight. We found out that goats milk would be better, but what a job it was to find goats milk in February! We finally did, thanks to my husband for searching any possible place that might sell it. Scrapper loved the goat’s milk and began putting on weight. To be sure she was getting the nutrition she needed, powdered kitten vitamins were mixed in with the warmed milk. I took her to my local veterinarian when she was 10 days old - she weighed 4 ounces. My veterinarian said Scrapper was doing well - and that I needed to keep her sugar levels up. To do this, I dipped my pinky finger in maple syrup and rubbed it on the inside of her mouth. What a sticky job!

14 Days Old
22 Days Old

In the middle of March she began licking up canned food. But, because of her disability, she would go for the food, her mouth would touch it, and her head would bounce back. This would repeat many times, which caused the food to be flattened out and difficult for her to get a hold of. I would hold her steady, and also ‘pinch’ her food into peaks to make it easier for her. I gradually got her used to eating dry food by mixing the wet with the dry, decreasing the amounts of the wet until she was eating only dry food. She was so accustomed to having my hands in her food, and me holding her while she ate, that graduating from this was challenging and took a long time. I got to her eating the dry, then gradually moved my hands further from the food, and then I would sit near her but not be involved in the eating, then I would sit in a chair a little ways away, and finally I could move about and she would eat without me. I needed to figure out something to hold her food dish – otherwise she would knock it over when she’d flop on her side. I cut a bowl-shaped opening into a stiff piece of foam that was as high as the food bowl. Over this I placed a towel, and a rolled towel on top so she’d have something to lean on and steady her. The food bowl went on top of the towel and into the foam shape. This way the bowl stayed in one place.

Her food and water bowls are now stainless bowls that set into a plastic shape that holds them. I have strings through the plastic openings where the bowls set, and around the legs of my utility sink to hold the feeding station in place. She now goes into her room (the laundry room) and she eats and drinks when she wants to. Sometimes I’ll sit with her in my lap and hold the water bowl under her chin. This way she doesn’t have to steady her whole body and bend her head down and she can drink much easier.

… And Out the Other
Mother cats lick their babies’ bellies to help them pee, so I would gently rub Scrapper's belly, from chest to abdomen to help with this process. When she got mobile, I used cardboard boxes cut so the sides were about 1” high, and lined with newspaper. She could get to them and flop in, and she quickly learned this was the place to do her business. As she got older, using newspaper wasn’t enough, but I didn’t want her to use litter. With all of her flipping and flopping, a litter box would have been a grand mess. I have two of the wee wee pad trays that were invented to help train puppies and dogs to go in one area, then that area is gradually moved outdoors. Inside the trays I put the wee wee pads (a large flat thin absorbent pad with a plastic backing). Along the back of the trays I’ve attached a low ‘wall’ of corrugated plastic – this gives her extra security to not roll or flop out of the tray so easily. She has one tray she used for ‘number one’, and the other for ‘number two’.

And More
Her box with heating pad on the kitchen counter graduated to a larger box on the floor; then to a sleeping area with a small enclosed area, then the enclosed area got larger and larger. Eventually, Scrapper had the ‘run’ of the first floor of the house. When she was young and not able to run or walk as well as she can now, I kept a large cardboard box on the floor that was cut to be only about 3" tall - so it was like a large cardboard tray. In this tray I would put a couple toys like those small plastic balls with bells inside. She could bat them around but they wouldn't get too far away from her. She would spend hours in these trays playing, then flop out of them when tired, and flop back in when ready to play again.

Six Weeks Old
When she was six months old she invented the 'chase' game. I happened to run quickly from one room to another downstairs, and she hurried along after me. Then when I hurried back, she followed me back. Now when she wants to play the chase game, she will sit up tall, then suddenly bring her chin to the floor as in a charging position, along with some chirping noises. I will run away from her to another room and hide; she will come after me, then when I jump out at her she jumps back in delight and is ready to run after me again. She would keep this up long after my energy has run out.

Between giving her maple syrup, and her getting herself soiled, she occasionally required a bath when she was really young. I would hold her under the faucet and wash her off with soap and warm water, then towel dry. Now, she occasionally needs a little cleaning up, because she doesn’t have the ability to wash herself like a normal cat. I wet a washcloth with warm water and a tiny bit of soap and wipe her down, then towel dry. She isn’t fond of this treatment, but tolerates it with a scowl and just a little impatience.

Most cats, when they look at things around them, will turn their heads back and forth and not move their eyes very much. Well, sometimes it looks very strange to see Scrapper's eyes moving all about while her head stays still. My brother thinks this could be because it's easier to move just her eyes and not try and keep her balance while moving her whole head. That sounds like a good reason to me!

I never had a cat, and I've had many, whose tail often lays flat against her back. Sometimes it touches the back of her head, and she turns around to see what it is that's touching her. When she's happy, that's the position of her tail. It can be difficult to pet her back because the tail is in the way.

Snoozing in the Car (25 Days Old)
Whenever my husband and I would go for a ride, we would take her along, just to keep her used to traveling. Now she’s a champ at riding in the car – which is wonderful, because we have to take her so many places with us because of the extra care she requires.
Yawn .... About Seven Weeks Old

Enjoying the Sunshine - 6.5 Weeks Old

Silly Things
I love prisms, and I have several prisms and a small mirrored ball hanging over the kitchen sink on the south side of the house. One day the sun was shining, and with the slight air currents in the house it was enough to create rainbows and small points of light to move around the kitchen. We noticed Scrapper staring at the wall. I realized she was very intently watching the reflected light moving ever so slightly. On sunny days I now get the prisms spinning for her and it sets off a light show in the kitchen that she absolutely loves – she flips and flops and runs about the kitchen pouncing on the lights. She loves chasing rainbows.
Another Yawn .....

Scrapper also loves ice cubes. Whenever the freezer door gets opened, here comes Scrapper – thumping and banging her way as fast as she can to get to the freezer before the door closes. She even knows that getting a glass out of the cupboard usually means we’ll be opening the freezer. If given an ice cube, she bats it around the kitchen and runs after it, then when she tires of this, she lays still and watches it melt.
For some reason Scrapper has become very interested in the sounds of me cutting up food or peeling vegetables. One day I was peeling an apple, and she came running. For the heck of it, I tossed her one of the apple peels. She spent hours playing with it! She picks up anything she really likes and carries it into the living room on a particular rug to play with. The apple peel was the hit of the day. Another day I was peeling potatoes, and again, she came ‘running’. Same reaction of delight as with the apple peel. Now, all I need to do is get the peeler out of the drawer and she hears the slight rattle of the blade in the handle of the peeler and she runs to see what I’m peeling next. If she misplaces her scrap of a peel under a rug or something, she runs to my husband or I, constantly meowing as if to let us know that the house was on fire. She stops before us with all four legs well apart to keep her balance and continues to meow and stare at us, then she turns and runs back to where she last saw the peel. Peace is not restored until the peel is located.
A few days old ..... Almost Four Months Old

This video shows how she lays on her side and eats ... it looks like she's 'pecking' at her food. She can't control her head movements, and when she dips down to the food her nose hits the food and she jerks her head back up. After doing this a few times she can finally keep her head on the food long enough to grab a piece of it. 

When she was almost two years old, she began playing fetch! Her favorite toys are these small mouse shaped toys made of rabbit fur and plastic, with a rattle inside. She brought one to me while I was sitting on the couch and dropped it at my feet. I picked it up and she got very excited - so I tossed it a short distance from her. She ran after it, picket it up in her mouth, and brought it back! Eventually I was throwing it as far as I could, and thoroughly enjoying her delight in the chase. We did this over and over until she plopped down in exhaustion. Now she's learned the word "mouse" ,and if I say "mouse" she makes her chirp sound and gets very excited to play fetch.

No comments:

Post a Comment