Friends, it is hard these days to not turn on the TV or go online and be faced with sad, devastating images of the atrocities going on in Ukraine so in all of this bleakness we wanted to share with you some shimmers of light.

First off we want to be very clear in saying that we misfits stand with our friends in Ukraine and continue to send them love, prayers, compassion and support in any way that we can. Our hearts continue to break over the utter chaos and devastation that our friends (both two and four legged) are suffering in Ukraine.

Since this disruption for our friends in Ukraine we have gotten requests for carrier tags from not only Ukraine but also neighboring countries – all with the intent of giving them out so animals have a chance of being identified if they have a special ability but also leaving owners the ability to put their name and number on it in the event they are separated.

We continue to receive brief messages of families that are grateful for these carrier tags in a war torn area and several that were reunited with their handipet thanks to our carrier tags.

We even received an email from one pet parent that did not stray away from talking about cerebellar hypoplasia despite bombs going off in the distance. Friends we are in this together! We continue to show our support for Ukraine and we hope that you will also!

Keep fighting the good fight misfits!

Meet “Bifford”

About “Bifford”

Bifford was born in Chicago, Illinois after his mother was rescued off the streets by a compassionate and patient animal shelter volunteer. Being one of four kittens he was categorized by animal shelter volunteers as “the worst” out of the litter in regards to his cerebellar hypoplasia. When Bifford was a mere 10 days old his mother rejected him thus withholding care and nutrition he so desperately needed when a devoted foster mother assumed responsibility for his around the clock care. When Bifford was transported to Youngstown, Ohio by a local cat shelter a note was enclosed with him:

“Born October 09, 2011, mother rejected at 10 days old. Tipsy [my brother] and I are the largest of the four kittens in our litter and most affected with CH. He will use a litter box 99% o f the time, will cry beside the litter box if he cannot get in or is having trouble. Sometimes falls/flips right out of the litter box and also sometimes lays on side to go [to the bathroom] and I will help hold him up until he finishes. Sometimes will take a nose dive in litter and will need cleaned off/bathed. Sometimes he will accidentally step in his own mess because he is unable to bury his potty. Will eat some from plate but will eat best when fed canned food by hand while holding him up under his belly with my other hand. Will cry for a bedtime bottle around 9-10 PM and gets canned food 3x/day.” 

Bifford was initially adopted in Fall 2012 but was returned after his family moved and could no longer take him with them. Upon being returned back to the shelter he was then adopted in Spring 2013 by a family who vowed to care for him but unfortunately bungled his care. When being returned (again) to the shelter in May 2014, Bifford’s former family admitted that they were unable to effectively care for Bifford and felt that he was “suffering” and wanted him to “die with dignity” to which they would contain him in an empty hot tub with the cover on it in order to “contain the mess”. Bifford was terrified and underweight but otherwise unscathed, though shelter life was no life for him. Living in such close proximity to other cats in a cage free shelter proved the theory of “survival of the fittest” in which Bifford was not as fast as the other cats and was often the subject of many bullies.

I agreed to foster Bifford on Mother’s Day, 2014 in which the situation was only to be “temporary” in order to spring him from the shelter and hopefully nurture him physically and emotionally. The first few nights were proving to be exhausting ones for both Bifford and myself — roaming the house and crying all hours of the night I can only speculate he was terrified being in a strange, new environment (again) and even more terrified that he was going to fall in love with a new family and ultimately get returned back to the shelter. Couple this with the fact that at that time I had no idea how to properly care for a “CH” cat (nor did I know much about them) I feared that I would not be able to arise to the labor of love that was Bifford.

Years have passed since those first few days and I still joke with Bifford that he is a “foster” though I can say without reservation that he is a “foster fail” because he took over my heart in so many ways. Come October 09, 2018 Bifford will be turning 10 years old to which he has a happy, healthy and spoiled lifestyle (what cat do you know that has their own bedroom and TV?!) and ultimately planted the seed of special needs animals advocacy and education due to all of the misconceptions and ill-information circulating about special needs animals.

Please enjoy the website, Bifford’s photos and overall shenanigans and information 🙂

“Four-On-The-Floor” Rule!

One of the “rules” that I heard upon adopting Bifford was “four-on-the-floor” and all I could think is “what the he!! does that even mean!?” But it makes sense when handling a cerebellar hypoplasia animal and one of the various ways you can ensure their safety!

Cat’s usually have no issues with landing on their feet when they jump down onto the floor but CH pet parents know that this is usually not the case with cerebellar hypoplasia animals.

The rule of thumb “four-on-the-floor” is an effective and friendly reminder to new pet parents, friends & family members to place a CH pet gently onto the ground while properly ensuring all four of their paws are planted firmly on the ground before letting go of them.

Note: This does NOT promise that they will not fall/stumble over but will help ensure they do not fall/stagger from a distance!

Most pet parents (or humans in general!) know that generally cats can jump from a distance onto the ground and land successfully on their feet without issue. This is NOT the case with cerebellar hypoplasia animals and if someone was to let a CH pet jump from a distance this could result in injury to your special baby (or injury to you attempting to catch a falling pet, get caught by a claw etc.!)

“Four-on-the-floor” is a safe, effective and cute way to remember that CH pets need a little assistance when being placed on the floor!

So remember to “PLANT THOSE PAWS” on the ground!

“CH” Proofing!

Adopting a new CH baby or a new CH pet parent? Take a deep breath and remember that you “got” this! Remember that JUST like children each pet is different so “proofing” for one family may not be exactly like the next!

What do you need to purchase BEFORE your new addition comes home?

  • Food/Water Dishes (I always recommend a silicone based dish for safety and stability as pictured below – the photographed bowls you can remove the stainless steel dishes and strictly use the silicon portion for holding your new addition’s food & water!)
Silicone food/water dishes such as this one is dishwasher safe and catches any mess from your new baby!
  • Depending on the “severity” of your new special baby (Bifford is considered “moderate” and only needs certain accommodations) they may need ramps to help them into bed or furniture ! Again depending on the severity of your new baby you still may need to help them use the ramp/get onto the furniture to further insure their safety!
Ramp for the furniture such as this one has a carpeted/felt material on the ramp providing better traction for your special baby)
  • Low rise litter box (or in Bifford’s case a rubber maid container with a hole cut out!)
Low rise litter boxes such as this one are available online (such as Amazon or Petco)
  • Washable “pee pads” to use in the event of any “accidents” (or like we do with Bifford place them outside of his litter boxes to catch any mess he was attempting to bring with him!)
  • Spray Shampoo (our favorite is Burt’s Bees brand of feline spray shampoo — no water and it has a nice natural scent to it that is not overpowering!)

Pet Proofing — “Safety!”

  • Small and dangerous objects like paper clips, nails, staples, thread, pins/needles, rubber bands, tacks — basically anything that has fallen on the floor that shouldn’t be there.
  • Any electrical cords that are too long, suggest taping the cords to the floor (a tape which can be purchased online) or running the cords out of your pets way.
  • Intriguing things like plants, electrical cords, drapes, the pulls/cords on blinds, other cords.
  • Also consider if there are any objects (furniture/decorations) that could fall over if knocked-into, or if something could fall of the furniture.
  • Be mindful of sharp corners of furniture or fragile items that your new pet could accidentally fall into and cause them to break.
  • Don’t forget to check your window screens — they should fit securely and should not give way in case your cat leans against them.
  • Odoban! It comes in a spray bottle or a one gallon jug and it breaks up any enzymes in your pet’s urine or bowel movements that may be on the floor/blanket etc.!
Odoban can be purchased on Chewy or Amazon and even found at your local Wal-Mart!
  • Close closet doors and make sure you keep your room tidy. That means keeping laundry and shoes (consider shoelaces and loose buttons) in your closet or behind other closed doors.
  • Remove plants, if necessary.
  • Move all wires so they’re out of your pet’s reach.
  • Take a look at what you have on night stands, dressers, etc. If necessary, move the items into a drawer or cabinet.
  • Close all drawers entirely. You never know when a cat will crawl in.
  • Check your bed’s box spring. Cats and kittens are known to find their ways into them.
  • Be mindful of closed doors — make sure your cat isn’t in your closet or bathroom before closing the door.

  • Purchase trash cans that your pets can’t get in to (like those with lids), or hide your trash can in a cabinet. Don’t forget about small wastebaskets in the bathroom — cats can easily turn them over and rummage through the contents.
  • Use childproof latches to keep cabinet doors from being pulled open. (This is usually the case with cabinets that don’t have latches to keep them shut in the first place.)
  • Place all medications, cleaners, and chemicals on high shelves or in childproofed cabinets. Similarly, keep insecticides, rodent poisons and dryer sheets out of reach.
  • Look for small spaces your pets can squeeze into — behind appliances, between an appliance and the wall, etc. — and find ways to seal them.
  • Always keep the doors to your washer and dryer closed. Before doing each load of laundry get a visual on every furry member of your household.
  • Always put down the toilet seat lid. Cats can easily fall in and drown.

  • Again, look for small spaces your pets can squeeze into — under your couch, holes in furniture, etc. — and find ways to seal them.
  • Move wires and cords from lamps, entertainment systems and phones so your cat can’t access them. Petfinder.com suggests running the cords through PVC pipes to prevent pets from chewing on them. You can also purchase sprays that give the wires a bad taste, or run them under heavy rugs and carpets.
  • Watch your cat carefully when opening a front or back door.

In some severe CH cases your pet may benefit from you purchasing a “portable crib” for pets (found the one photographed below on Amazon) to help keep your baby safe (and the carpeted insert allows you to easily remove it to wash it in the event of any “accidents”!)

Have any suggestions/tips or tricks? Post them below and we will include them in our “Guide for New CH Pet Parents!”

Cats with Special-Abilities!

Blind Cats:

Loss of eyesight can be very gradual (or you adopted a blind kitty) and oftentimes owner’s do not realize how bad a cat’s eyesight has become until it is identified by your veterinarian. Blind kitties can adapt extremely well to the loss of eyesight and often compensate by using their other senses more.

What can cause blindness?

  • Dry eye, as a consequence of feline herpesvirus or an eye injury
  • High blood pressure results in the detachment of the retina, the light sensitive-tissue that lines the inner surface of the eye — often cause by an overactive thyroid gland or kidney disease. Blindness in this case is often very sudden in onset, though if they are taken to the veterinarian immediately, it can sometimes be reversed.
  • Injury
  • Glaucoma or increased pressure of the eye – as a consequence of an injury, tumor or inherited disease.

How can I help my blind kitty adapt?

If blindness is caused by disease or injury, one or both eyes may be removed. A cat that becomes suddenly blind can become easily disoriented. They may be unwilling to leave their sleeping area and may develop inappropriate bathroom habits because they are unable to find their litter box.

  • Never, ever let blind cats roam outside, for their own safety! Keep your cat indoors unless they can have access to a safely-fenced garden or run. Make sure your kitties are microchipped and consider carefully fitting a quick-release harness/collar with your name/address on it and “special ability” in the event they escape!
  • Be more aware to your cat’s indoor environment to keep things fun for them! Interactive toys and puzzle feeders can better help create interest for your blind cat.

Finding Their Bearings

Try to encourage your cat to walk around on their own, as carrying them may cause them to become disoriented! Cats have scent glands on their paws that allow them to leave behind a scent trail to follow — this is even more important for blind cats! If you do have to carry them, always put them down on a surface they are familiar with such as their feeding/sleeping area (this allows them to easily get their bearings about them). Beware of lifting a blind cat onto a raised surface as there is a chance they will fall and get injured. Using various textured surfaces in different areas can also help your blind cat get around.

Approaching Your Cat

Talk to your blind cat as you approach them to avoid scaring them. If your kitty is blind in one eye, try to approach them (while talking to them) from the side they have vision in.

Getting Around

As blind kitties rely on scent and memory to help navigate their way around, you should avoid moving furniture, food or litter box around. Don’t leave obstacles in unexpected places where your cat can walk into them and possibly get injured. If you have stairs, place a baby gate or barrier across them until your kitty knows where they are and learns to use them properly. Putting a different texture on the top and bottom steps can help your kitty quickly learn when to anticipate when they have reached the top or bottom stair. Whiskers become more important to blind cats to judge the cat’s distance to an object.


Sound is obviously very imperative to a blind at so they may enjoy playing with the “noisy” toys. It is important to encourage them to exercise as it is part of a cat’s natural behavior and will help them from becoming obese.

Moving House

Moving house with a blind kitty is similar to settling a sighted cat into a new home. However, blind kitties will need a little extra attention and should ensure that the new surroundings are safe. Supervise their adventures around the house until they seem confident. If they become disoriented, gently guide them back to a familiar place by using your voice or by walking with them.

Deaf Cats

Some kitties are born deaf, but many cats lose their hearing gradually as they age. Sudden loss of hearing is normally the result of illness/injury and may be temporary or permanent. Deaf kitties can compensate for their lack of hearing by using their other senses, so much so that it may be hard to tell whether or not they are deaf. There are varying degrees of deafness and various causes, which may or may not be treatable.

Types of Deafness

There are two primary types of deafness:

  1. Where the sound cannot pass into the ear due to;
  • Tumors
  • Outer & middle ear infections
  • Wax build up
  • Ear mites

The types of deafness detailed above may be reversible by treating the underlying causes with the guidance of your veterinarian.

2. Where the nerves associated with the ear do not function properly due to;

  • Genetic problems (in the case of some white cats)
  • Inner ear infections
  • Drug toxicity
  • Noise Trauma
  • Age-Related Degeneration

These conditions generally produce permanent deafness.

How can I tell if my cat is deaf?

Some deaf kitties call out more often & more loudly – they cannot regulate their own volume – while others may become mute. It can be very hard to determined if a cat is deaf, espeically if they have been deaf from birth and is very used to their special ability, but other various signs may include:

  • Failure to response when spoken to/called
  • Easily startled
  • Signs of dizziness/disorientation
  • No longer being afraid of the loud noises (trash bags, sweepers etc.,)
  • Shaking the head or clawing at the ear(s)
  • Pus or other discharge coming rom the ear or an unpleasant odor from the ears.

How do I help my deaf kitty adapt?

A deaf kitty is easily startled because they won’t be aware that you are approaching. Make sure that you walk heavily when approaching them, so they can feel the vibrations. At close range, sharp hand claps or stamping on the floor may still be sufficient to gain a partially-deaf cat’s attention.

A deaf cat will not be able to hear danger signals such as cars or other animals so we strongly suggest keeping your cats indoors.

Deaf cats can learn to recognize hand signals or the flashing of a light. Make sure the signal you choose to call your cat is distinct and consistent so they do not get confused.

Three-Legged Cats

Some kitties are born with only three limbs, but the majority of three-legged kitties have suffered injury/disease, which has leg to amputation of the affected limb. Cats adjust to three-legged lifestyle remarkably well, although the initial adaptation process can be a little challenging. However, once adjusted, most three-legged cats are able to jump, climb, play, hunt albeit perhaps a little more slowly than in their four-legged days. Young cats and males are more prone to become three-legged — amputation is often result of traumatic injury, with males more likely to roam further than females and younger exploring cats more likely to be involved in road accidents. Most three-legged cats have lost a hind limb, rather than a fore limb.

My cat has had its leg amputated, how can I help them adjust?

  • Confine your kitty to a room (for at least a week or so) or take advice from your veterinarian and follow any aftercare advice they may provide. Be sure to speak to your vet about the subtle signs of pain of pain in cats, as this may need managing in the post-operative period.
  • Ensure there is easy access to food, water, litter box and a scratching post. Although cats don’t like to eat near their drinking/toileting area, immediately following surgery, your kitty is likely to appreciate these facilities being nearby.
  • Other pets in the household may see a change. Cats rely on scent to identify the members of their social group and a stay at the vets can mean cats are not recognized when they return. It is prudent to reintroduce cats to one another slowly and only once the patient has had ample time to recover.
  • Your cay may take some time to relearn how to balance with three limbs. Limit access to high surfaces and keep them indoors until they are more confident. Provide stools that can be used as steps to help your cat access things like the sofa.
  • Move furniture closer together so it is not so hard to negotiate. As your kitty gets more confident and ability increases, furniture can gradually be moved back to its normal location.
  • Be aware of litter box issues. Bathroom time is a vulnerable activity for a cat and if they do not feel safe using their litter box, they may choose to use the bathroom somewhere else within the house. You may need to provide a step to improve access to the litter box and be patient while they learn to cover, dig, and clean themselves with three legs instead of four.
  • Your cat may appreciate help in grooming areas they have problems reaching due to difficulty balancing. If your cat is not used to being groomed, start very slowly and be sure to make the experience positive by offering praise/rewards

Do three-legged cats think their leg is still there?

Some cats will feel that they can still use their missing limb – for example, many cats missing a hind leg, will continue to try and scratch their ear with the missing limb, for the rest of their lives. It is not absolutely known whether cats are affected by phantom limb sensation which affects a high portion of human amputees, but they only rarely show signs suggestive of this.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia

Cerebellar Hypoplasia is a condition which occurs in kittens as a result of interrupted development of the brain leading to uncoordinated movement or ataxia. Affected kittens are often referred to as “wobbly kittens.” There can be many causes of ataxia, but this guide specifically addresses one of those causes – – cerebellar hypoplasia.

What causes cerebellar hypoplasia?

This occurs in kittens as a result of their mother being infected with a virus called feline parvovirus during pregnancy. It can also occasionally occur if the kitten is infected in the first few weeks after birth. Some or all of the litter of kittens may be affected and some individuals may be more affected than others. The virus affects the cerebellum during the kitten’s development and it is this part of the brain that is responsible for fine-tuning movements/mobility.

What are signs of cerebellar hypoplasia?

Wobbliness becomes evident when kittens first start to move at a few weeks of age but is non-progressive so does not worsen oer time. Cats are affects for the rest of their lives, and generally learn to cope with their condition. Affected cats may:

  • Stand with their legs far apart
  • Sway when they move
  • Life their legs high when they walk or goose step
  • Show nodding/head tremors, which may worsen when they focus to do something such as eating
  • Lose their balance

Is there any treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia?

Once the cerebellum has been damaged in this manner, it cannot be repaired, so there is no treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia.

Does a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia require special care?

  • Cats with CH appreciate a deep litter box with high sides that they can use for support to balance when going to the bathroom, but ensure the cat can get in and out of it without issue. A large box gives the cat plenty of space to move around inside it, and ensure it cannot be tipped.
  • Affected kitties may be messy eaters- feed in an easily cleaned area and use a sturdy water dish that is not easily tipped over – for some kitties, raising bowls a little can be helpful
  • Kitties with CH can find it difficult to accurately jump – provide easy ways to cats to access their favorite areas – cushions and rugs can act as “crash mats”
  • Use a ramp to give an affected cat access to high surfaces (but be careful as they may tumble when trying to get down)
  • Carpeting can provide extra grip for kitties walking around or climbing
  • Keep their claws trimmed as it can be more difficult for them to “unhook” themselves if they get a claw stuck.

What is outlook for kittens with CH?

Most kittens are only affected mildly to moderately. With minor adjustments to their care they can enjoy a good quality of life. Occasionally, very severe kittens may be unable to perform without guidance, compassion, patience and constant care.

Meow As Fluff

Meow As Fluff

A HUGE thanks to Caitlin McAuliffe at Meow as Fluff for this beautiful write up and video for Bifford’s cause! You can visit them (also be sure to “like” them on Instagram and Facebook, too!) At http://meow.af/ or more Bifford specifically at: http://www.meow.af/bifford

Meet The Handsome Wobbly Cat Who Was Adopted And Returned Three Times Before Finding The Perfect Forever Home!

bifford feature
fluffy black rescue cat with cerebellar hypoplasia
fluffy black rescue cat with cerebellar hypoplasia

When Suzi Langer was asked to foster Bifford, a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), for the animal shelter near her home in Youngstown, Ohio, she didn’t have any experience caring for animals with special needs. However, when Suzi learned the fluffy black feline wasn’t thriving at the shelter, she reluctantly agreed to foster him.

“He was getting bullied and beat up on by the other cats, and he was depressed, lethargic, and not really eating,” remembers Suzi, so she picked him from the shelter in early 2014. “I opened the top of the worn green carrier to see two warm golden eyes staring back at me. Bifford sat there, quietly in the ‘turkey stance,’ and he seemed to almost be overwhelmed by his changing situation.”

However, when Suzi learned Bifford’s history, she quickly understood why he appeared uneasy. On October 9, 2011, Bifford and his litter mates were born with cerebellar hypoplasia, a non-progressive neurological condition that affects balance and coordination. “This may occur if a pregnant queen is vaccinated for feline distemper (FVRCP) using a ‘modified live virus’ vaccine,” explains Suzi, “or if the mother suffers trauma, malnutrition, or panleukopenia [a highly contagious viral disease].”

Sadly, when Bifford was just nine days old, he was rejected by his biological mother, so he was bottle fed by a good Samaritan. Due to his lack of coordination, the good Samaritan also assisted the wobbly kitten by helping him use the litter box and cleaning him, but she eventually surrendered Bifford to the shelter because she was unable to provide him with the extra care and attention she believed he required. “She claimed that he needed 24 hour around-the-clock care in order to survive,” says Suzi.The note that was attached to Bifford’s carrier when he was surrendered

While Bifford was eventually adopted, he was returned to the shelter by his first family because they were going on vacation. His second family was unhappy because although he was able to use the litter box on his own, he didn’t cover up the mess, so they also returned Bifford to the shelter. He was adopted by yet another family and was returned to the shelter for a third time, but not before he was subjected to profound cruelty.

“The ‘owners’ had attempted to lock Bifford in an empty hot tub because they wanted him to ‘die with dignity’ and ‘contain the mess,’ ” explains Suzi. “It breaks my heart to think about Bifford patiently waiting for his ‘family’ to return and with each passing minute he slowly loses hope that they were coming back for him.”

Fortunately, within moments of bringing Bifford home on May 9, 2014, Suzi fell in love with the adorable special needs cat, and she and her husband decided to adopt him! “Bifford was a clumsy, affectionate, verbal little dude and had no reservations with enjoying the ‘clingy’ life attached to his mama’s hip!” says Suzi. Plus, Suzi knew being an adult black cat with special needs would make it harder for Bifford to find a forever home, and she was confident she and her husband would be able to provide him with the care, time, and attention he needed to thrive.

Initially, it was difficult for Suzi to resist the urge to coddle Bifford, especially because cats with cerebellar hypoplasia have issues with balance and coordination that frequently cause them to stumble and fall. However, as it became apparent Bifford was unlikely to actually injure himself, Suzi eventually realized she didn’t need to be quite so protective. “Just like toddlers, sometimes it is OK to let them stumble and fall,” says Suzi. “Of course, be there for them always, but it is OK to give positive reinforcement that it is OK to stumble and sometimes fall just as long as they always get back up and keep on truckin’!”

Nearly seven years later, Bifford is doing better than ever, and while he still wobbles when he walks, he’s incredibly happy and active. He’s also surprisingly self-reliant, which Suzi believes is a product of the more laid-back approach she’s taken towards Bifford’s cerebellar hypoplasia. “Today Bifford is more independent, able to climb into bed at night with us, and overall be a more self-reliant little dude,” explains Suzi, “and I believe that’s partly due to the fact that I am not a ‘helicopter’ mother and constantly swarming over him.”

However, this doesn’t mean Suzi and Bifford don’t have an extremely close relationship. In fact, there’s nothing this affectionate boy enjoys more than cuddling with his mom and dad, but he also adores spending supervised time outside during the spring and summer. “He never goes outside unattended and always wears a brightly colored harness with a leash on it,” says Suzi. “He loves to try and catch lightning bugs, ‘catching’ flowers blowing in the breeze, and all around running and gallivanting in our large open field next to our home.”

Even though it’s very obvious Bifford has an excellent quality of life, Suzi has encountered people, including a vet tech at a local clinic, who mistakenly believe cats with cerebellar hypoplasia are suffering and should be euthanized. She’s also found other common misconceptions are that cerebellar hypoplasia is contagious and that it gets worse over time, neither of which is true.

“These amazing babies are just as capable of living a long, happy, healthy life with minimal ‘special requirements,’ ” says Suzi. “Cerebellar hypoplasia animals — and many other specially-abled animals — are affectionate, strong-willed, resilient, amazing beings and we as humans can gain a thing or two by adopting these special babies and watching them go!”

After all, Suzi speaks from experience, because since adopting Bifford in 2014, she and her husband Michael have opened their home to a variety of special needs pets, including Bart, a one-eyed, partially blind cat; Roscoe, a Rat Terrier with epilepsy; and Maggie Mae, a deaf Pug who recently passed away from transitional cell carcinoma. “They are well-loved and well-cared for and do not require any extra care at home — just a little patience and understanding!” says Suzi.

Video/images courtesy of “President” Bifford, video and text/editing overall courtesy of Meow as Fluff

Pet Insurance & CH Pets

We have received lots of messages pertaining to cerebellar hypoplasia pets & pet insurance and unfortunately we have not been able to find a pet insurance that would cover “CH” pets! Below is listed a chart courtesy of DVM360 that shows the top pet insurance companies and breaks down the “dirty details” of each insurance company.

Upon speaking to one of the pet insurance companies “Figo Pet Insurance” I kindly asked them to specify their “pre-existing policy” and how this pertains to cerebellar hypoplasia pets.

“Cerebellar hypoplasia will be considered a pre-existing condition even though the pet is born with it unless it happens to not show signs or symptoms until after the pet has a policy. The earliest you can insure a pet is 8 weeks old and we have a 14 day waiting period for illnesses. In order for the cerebellar hypoplasia to be covered, there would need to not be any signs or symptoms until the pet was at least 10 weeks old…”

I then asked Figo Pet insurance about “accidents or illnesses” [Figo Pet Insurance states that you can still get pet insurance for a CH pet BUT any illnesses/injuries that could be related to CH would NOT be covered by pet insurance] so I asked them to clarify that.

“We base all coverage off of the medical records your veterinarian provides. With CH the coverage will heavily depend on if your veterinarian feels the accident or illness is related to the CH. For example, if your vet states “CH caused pet to fall over and break tooth” it would be considered due to a pre-existing condition. If your vet states that there is a broken tooth and does not consider it due to the pre-existing CH then it could be covered
We could also offer coverage for other accidents or illnesses that your vet deems unrelated to the CH like urinary issues, allergies, diabetes, or cancers…”

So the jury is still out on pet insurance! In our opinion we feel that the pet insurance companies will try to connect any injury/illness to CH (thus the pet insurance not covering the bill for!) so personally we feel it is not worth having your CH baby on pet insurance but always stress to do your homework! If you are looking into insurance for your CH pet contact them directly and ask questions pertaining strictly to cerebellar hypoplasia!

We recommend looking into Care Credit (www.carecredit.com) which is sort of like a credit card that you can only use at the veterinarian’s office (or you can personally use it also! I recently used my care credit at the dentist office!)

Bifford’s “Dental” Adventure!

Many of you have asked about Bifford’s dental procedure journey and echoed that many of you share the same questions and concerns for your own special babies that I had with Bifford! Let me assure you that by asking the right questions, having a veterinarian/veterinary staff that you know and trust as well as an understanding of what exactly is involved in these types of procedures (this could be a mass removal, spay/neuter or in Bifford’s case a dental procedure!).

Here I wanted to outline his dental procedure endeavor as well as post Bifford’s ACTUAL dental chart as well as anesthesia chart that was custom tailored specifically to Bifford, his age/special ability as well as what his most recent bloodwork results rendered.

ABOVE: The radiographs charting Bifford’s dental disease/issues thus resulting in the removal of all of his teeth.

Did YOU know that feline dental disease is the most common, affecting an estimated 85% of cats over the age of six!

Layers of plaque collect and harden on the tooth surface and bacterial poisons and enzymes from the plaque eventually prompt an inflammatory response in the gums (or gingiva) that if left untreated, leads to SEVERE gum inflammation (gingivitis). In cats, advanced periodontal disease can quickly progress to an end-stage condition for which extraction is the ONLY reasonable treatment option.

Signs/Symptoms of dental disease/pain in felines:

  • Bad Breath (Halitosis)
  • Red/Swollen Gums
  • Pawing Mouth (or rubbing their faces excessively on strange surfaces)
  • Refusal to eat hard food (kibble) or loss of appetite — if you notice your cat avoiding their dry food, chewing on only one side of their mouths, dropping food from their mouths while eating, or vomiting unchewed food you may be seeing signs of a cat in dental discomfort. *
  • Drooling
  • Chattering — this occurs when the jaw shakes or quivers. It is most commonly seen in cats who have resorptive lesions on their teeth (this extremely painful condition causes cavity-like holes in the teeth, eats teeth away or turns tooth roots into bone — all EXTREMELY painful conditions!) Feline chattering is NEVER normal and always indicates that something hurts in your cats mouth!
  • Excessive Yawning or Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
  • Head Shaking/Head Tilt *
  • Decrease in Self Grooming *
  • Pulling Away or Meowing When Touched Near The Mouth
  • Changes in Normal Behavior *
  • * Though these behaviors can be signs/symptoms of dental pain it can also be indicative of other health issues/complications so it is strongly recommended upon discovering your cat doing these signs to contact your veterinarian immediately for a diagnostic work-up to help determine the problem. Also note that “CH” pets can also normally exhibit head shaking/tilting, dropping food from their mouths etc., simply due to their cerebellar hypoplasia so we suggest having a yearly dental exam/cleaning performed by your veterinarian! Just like the ol’ saying goes “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

By the time I had adopted Bifford in May 2014 he had already had significant dental disease (no doubt from the lack of veterinary care he received as he was bounced back and forth from a few families and just overall lack of having a family or person that had a vested interest in him and his general health) thus resulting in the removal of the teeth he had remaining.

Like many of you I was apprehensive and to be frank, terrified, for him to go under for a dental procedure not because he is a cerebellar hypoplasia cat but because he was my baby! I would equally worry (and ugly cry) over ANY of my animals, special needs or not! Despite working at the veterinary clinic that would be handling his dental procedure, being good friends with the doctor(s) responsible for his dental procedure/care (one of them which has a cerebellar hypoplasia cat herself!) as well as having one of the finest veterinary technicians one whom specialized in veterinary dentistry there was simply nothing that would soothe the irrational part of my brain about him having the procedure done. Despite my own anxieties I knew that I HAD to do this for him!

I loved him enough to be able to provide him with this care and alleviate the pain he was feeling in his mouth (I was only tipped off there was an issue in his mouth when one day he began to slobber as if he was a Saint Bernard!) so, just like any adrenaline filled, terrifying milestone I scheduled his dental procedure on a day I would be at work (and then be off work the next day to properly are for and babysit him).

I brought Bifford to see the veterinarian prior to his dental procedure so he could have a formal physical examination as well as have his blood drawn for the pre-surgical bloodwork (my thoughts were that by having his blood drawn prior to the procedure instead of the morning of the procedure this gave his veterinarian ample amount of time BEFORE the procedure to review his major organs and tailor a plan best suited to how his diagnostics looked! It was not necessary to do it like this but it made me feel better!)

I have stressed in the past the utmost importance to having pre-surgical bloodwork completed prior to any procedure (you can find that information here, here & here) and cannot reiterate enough to ASK your veterinarian if they offer this imperative diagnostic prior to any procedure (and if they do not offer it, could one request this service?). As bloodwork will better assist your doctor on how to proceed with the procedure, what medications are best suited (or best to avoid) and even in creating an “emergency plan” just in the off chance it may be necessary (according to the American Animal Hospital Association [www.aaha.org] , anesthetic related complications/deaths in cats and dogs occur less than 0.05% and 0.11% respectively but I would rather be safe than sorry and take ALL the necessary precautions or recommendations suggested by my veterinarian!).

ABOVE: Bifford’s dental procedure anesthesia monitoring sheet.
Please note that EVERYTHING listed on this form is accurate and taken DIRECTLY from Bifford’s medical chart, the only things that were “blocked out” were done so for privacy concerns.

Bifford’s veterinarian and I discussed in great length the goals and tasks that needed accomplished once we brought him home post-procedure, here are some of the main points we agreed upon for a “CH” cats care post-operatively:

  • Keep them restricted completely! This can be housing them in a spare room/bathroom or a large crate/kennel.
  • Attempt to remove/conceal anything that they could attempt to climb (or could potentially face plant from)
  • Ensure you are giving the medications your veterinarian provided for your cat EXACTLY how they are listed on the bottle as well as have a solid understanding of what each medication does and the purpose it serves as your special baby recovers.
  • For dental patients (like in Bifford’s case) he as to be on canned food SOLELY for at LEAST 14 days (he was scheduled for a two week post dental procedure recheck to ensure his mouth was healing nicely/the sutures in his mouth looked alright)
  • And most important of all — shower them in LOTS of love & praise for being so brave and strong!

Now I am often asked by pet parents (both special needs pet parents and non alike) after his dental was all said and done what was the hardest part? Personally it was the first 24 hours after his dental procedure when he was settled at home. Among the medications Bifford was discharged with one of them was Buprenorphine which is used to manage severe pain and is a controlled narcotic. Animals (and even humans that are prescribed this particular medication) can suffer from a reaction that causes them to have an “excited” phase or behave abnormally to which unfortunately Bifford was one of those patients! That entire night after his dental procedure he raged in his room like a college frat guy on spring break! Needless to say that night neither he nor his momma got any type of sleep (note: Bifford had a negative reaction to the buprenorphine but that had NOTHING to do with his age, or his CH it was just simply a medication that reacted differently with him just as some medications react with humans and others are fine!) and his room looked as if a drunken, sugar hyper, poo-covered toddler had made it their life goal to touch every square inch of that room — luckily I think he is beyond adorable and love him to pieces!

Upon speaking to his veterinarian about the concerns we had while weathering the first night post-dental we tweaked his medications a bit to better suit his needs (as well as potential reactions/sensitivities) and he was sent home with Gabapentin and Valium which though it made him extremely sleepy (this is normal with both gabapentin and valium) he was able to rest much more comfortably the next night around. In addition to these two medications Bifford also had a Fentanyl patch applied a day prior to his dental procedure. This is a transdermal patch that is applied by your veterinarian that will release a narcotic pain medication via his skin regularly for several days (YES, they had to shave a small window on his side to properly fit and secure the patch!) and is removed after about 3-5 days post procedure. Bifford had this patch applied for a host of reasons mainly because upon his dental examination the veterinarian agreed that the remaining teeth he did have would need to be extracted due to the severity of the dental disease. This patch also best helped manage any pain he may have felt post procedure without further irrigating his mouth with more oral medications.

After a few days of supervised care at home and steady medications I felt Bifford was chipper enough and ready to be reintroduced back with his “siblings” (remember up until this point I had him resting comfortably in his “big boy room”) though he was still on soft food until further notice (which proved difficult come feeding time as his siblings all felt they too deserved canned food!) he was completely and totally back to his normal affectionate, sweet self!

Bifford’s two week recheck appointment went off without a hitch! The doctor agreed that his gums looked great, his sutures still looked beautiful and everything was healing nicely just as the doctor had hoped! My main concern was that now that Bifford has no teeth left how would he eat? Would I have to adjust his daily diet routine? Initially after he was released from “strict canned food” I took his regular kibble and watered it down with warm water to make almost a mushy paste and then slowly made it less and less soggy until he was back to his normal kibble! At his annual examination the veterinarian agreed that his mouth/gums still look amazing and that his gums simply hardened thus adapting to eating cat kibble without issue (they adapt better than we give them credit for!) and to this day Bifford is a happy, healthy little boy without a care in the world … or without a broken, infected tooth in his mouth!

ABOVE: Other examples of vital organs effected by periodontal disease.

By clicking the above link you can find all of the approved “at-home” dental products/supplements for cats provided by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). For additional information check them out at www.VOHC.org