Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Two months ago, my eleven-year-old cat Angel had some sort of brain incident (the vets never figured out what) that caused her to completely lose her sense of balance. She’s improved some since, but she still wobbles when she walks, falls if she tries to run, and is clumsy jumping onto furniture. She’s pretty happy, though, eating well, purring, and generally acting normal.
The only thing that concerns me is that she hardly plays anymore. She used to love chasing jingly balls around the floor but now has no interest. So my question is, could you ask people whose cats have CH or other reasons for lack of balance what sort of games they enjoy? Some ideas for things to introduce Angel to would be welcome.
Thomas: We’re so sorry that your cat had a brain problem. She’s lucky she has a mom like you who’s ready to do everything she can to make her life better.
Bella: You’re definitely on the right track seeking advice from people whose cats have cerebellar hypoplasia, because wobbly cats like to play, too.
Tara: It’s definitely a good sign that your Angel is purring and enjoying a good quality of life, apart from the play issue. And we can help you with that.
Thomas: We found a website called Life With CH Cats, which is an amazing storehouse of information on all aspects of living with a wobbly cat. They’ve got some suggestions on toys and play, and we’ll share some of them here.
Bella: First of all, the Life With CH Cats folks encourage people to give their kitties the benefit of the doubt and get them a nice cat tree. Now, it doesn’t have to be 10 feet tall–in fact, about 36 inches high might be good to start with.
Tara: But the key here is that the tree needs to be sturdy. There’s nothing as scary to a wobbly cat as being on a wobbly piece of furniture.
Thomas: We’d recommend something heavy with a nice, wide base and a ramp that will allow her to get to the top of the cat tree without having to jump.
Bella: Put that cat tree in a window so she can enjoy watching birds and people while basking in a sun puddle.
Tara: This will help her build up her muscles so that she’ll have more strength even if she stays wobbly for the rest of her life.
Thomas: We’d recommend using a “thing on a string” toy to coax her into moving, even a little bit. You can control the speed and motion of the toy, and being able to do a little bit of aerobic play–even if she’s just lying on the ground and batting at the toy–will help build her confidence.
Bella: A kicker toy might be a nice treat, too, especially if it’s filled with fresh catnip. She doesn’t have to run after it, but if she likes catnip, she might enjoy playing with a catnip-filled toy. Using a kicker toy will also help her rebuild her coordination. You can even make her a kicker if you have some crafting skills.
Tara: Angel might also enjoy “ball in a track” toys because they’ll encourage her to bat and they’ll be mentally stimulating, too. The Bergan Turbo Track toy might be a good place to start.
Thomas: The track toy should be on a carpet so it doesn’t slide when Angel tries to play with it.
Bella: So essentially, what your wobbly cat needs is toys that can build her strength and confidence now that she can’t chase toys across the room like she used to.
Tara: By doing interactive play with her using that thing on a string toy, you’ll also help her build her confidence. In doing so, you may even find her being more encouraged to play with her other toys.
Thomas: What about you other readers? Do you have a wobbly cat? What kinds of toys have you found work best for your kitty?
Bella: Please share your ideas in the comments!