Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats

Updated Aug. 24, 2022
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In This Article


What Is Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats?

Cerebellar hypoplasia is a condition where a kitten’s brain does not finish growing and remains in an immature state due to a viral infection in the mother cat. The infection causes a pause in the unborn kitten’s brain development, specifically to the area called the cerebellum, which is responsible for coordinated movement and balance.

The severity of symptoms highly depends on how developed the kitten is at the time the mother is infected. It is not a contagious disease, so if your cat is exposed to another cat with cerebellar hypoplasia, your cat is not at risk for developing any symptoms. The condition does not worsen over time to those cats that are born with cerebellar hypoplasia.

Symptoms of Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats

Kittens with cerebellar hypoplasia experience problems with movement and mobility.

If you think your kitten may have this condition, look for neurological problems like the following:

· Wobbling or swaying when walking

· Uncoordinated movements

· Abnormal gait (walking, trotting)

· Tremors

· Overstepping or “goose-walking”

· Difficulty going from a sitting position to standing, or vice versa

The brain damage is permanent but does not get worse with age.

Causes of Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats

The virus that causes cerebellar hypoplasia in kittens is called feline panleukopenia virus. If a mother cat with no history of vaccination is exposed to the virus during pregnancy and becomes infected, she will pass it to her unborn kittens, who are then at risk for developing cerebellar hypoplasia.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats

The diagnosis of cerebellar hypoplasia in cats is typically based on clinical signs.

Your veterinarian will assess a kitten’s well-being by performing a physical exam and studying the movements when the kitten tries to walk or change position. Your vet may also rule out other diseases by running certain tests, such as blood work.

Although there is no specific test to confirm cerebellar hypoplasia in cats, sometimes a brain scan or MRI can show a small cerebellum.

Treatment of Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats

There is no treatment for cats diagnosed with this condition because it is due to the brain failing to develop properly Most kittens with cerebellar hypoplasia will live a normal lifespan and can overcome any limitations the virus may have caused to brain development.

Recovery and Prevention of Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats

A cat with cerebellar hypoplasia can live a normal life with a normal lifespan. Most overcome their limitations and find their own way to navigate the world.

To prevent cerebellar hypoplasia in any future kittens, it is very important to make sure that your female cat is always up to date on vaccines your vet recommends.

The panleukopenia virus is commonly covered by core feline vaccines and can be given to cats before breeding. It is important to bring cats to the vet prior to breeding to make sure they are protected against this avoidable disease.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia in Cats FAQs

Is cerebella hypoplasia contagious to other kittens in a litter?

Since the mother is infected with the panleukopenia virus while pregnant, kittens within a litter are all at risk of developing symptoms. However, in some cases, only one kitten in a litter has cerebellar hypoplasia.

How long do cats with cerebella hypoplasia typically live?

Kittens infected in utero with cerebellar hypoplasia tend to have a normal lifespan. They grow up to navigate around their limitations.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Wildroze

Stephanie Betbeze, DVM


Stephanie Betbeze, DVM


Dr. Stephanie Betbeze graduated from the Lincoln Memorial University-College of Veterinary Medicine in 2019, after receiving a Bachelor's...

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