by Robert Hudson
Brooke and her family were not looking to add another cat to their household, but when she saw Aslan up for adoption with special medical needs, she knew what was going to happen next! Aslan is a unique and special cat with a medical condition that causes him to wobble while he walks. After seeing his pictures on Instagram, I contacted Brooke to get to know Aslan a little better and share it with you folks.
How did you meet Aslan?
I saw Aslan posted on a local animal shelter’s Facebook page. He was listed as 7 years old and they explained his cerebellar hypoplasia. The shelter said that he had belonged to an older person with a lot of pets who had passed away, and I guess the family was not willing to take the animals. I do not know if he was the only animal from the home that ended up at the shelter. I knew I didn’t need a cat at the time, but I also knew that an older cat with medical issues would likely not be adopted quickly and would be at high risk for developing illness in the shelter. I saw him on Tuesday and told myself that if he was still there on Saturday, I would go adopt him. When I called Saturday morning, he was still there and I went over to get him. When I walked in another woman had his cage open and was petting him. I anxiously pretended to look into other cat’s cages until she closed his cage and moved on, and he went home with me. He ended up with an upper respiratory infection from the shelter and was very sick for the first three weeks I had him. I spent about $700 the first week just saving his life, but once he felt better, he was good as new.
What are Aslan’s special needs?
Related to his Cerebellar Hypoplasia, Aslan doesn’t really have many special needs. We usually keep him shaved due to his inability to effectively groom himself. He does get litter stuck in his feet, tail, and the backs of his legs, so during the winter we shave those areas as needed. Aslan also has a diagnosis of megacolon, likely unrelated to the CH, which requires a special food and occasional medications. This past year, Aslan got very sick and was diagnosed with diabetes, but we were unable to control his blood sugars. With further testing, he was diagnosed with acromegaly, which is an overproduction of growth hormone typically caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland. This caused him to develop diabetes, as well as excessive hunger and a high metabolism, so he lost weight very quickly. Now he gets dry food from an electronic feeder four times daily, including the middle of the night when we are sleeping and the middle of the day when we are at work, as well as wet food twice daily and a lickimat with frozen wet food in the evening. The frequent feedings have helped him gain his weight back and help manage his excessive hunger as well. He also receives human doses of insulin twice daily.
Tell us more about this disease and how it affects Aslan
Cerebellar Hypoplasia is an underdevelopment of the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain that controls balance and other motor skills. It is generally caused by exposure to certain viruses in utero. The CH causes him to be wobbly and have a head tremor. He also gets focus tremors, which is just an increase in his wobbliness when focusing on something specific, like eating. He is aware of his limitations, so he doesn’t jump distances he knows he can’t make, doesn’t get on kitchen counters, that sort of thing. He is able to jump onto our bed, couch, and dining chairs, He uses his claws when he jumps on objects to ensure he doesn’t fall. He does slip on the floors or fall off of low furniture occasionally, but generally stays mostly on his feet. The main effect of the acromegaly is excessive hunger and high blood sugars, with the symptoms that come with that being increased thirst and urination, weight loss, behavior changes, and excessive hunger. Most of those symptoms can also be symptoms of acromegaly. Another issue we have encountered with the acromegaly is behavior changes due to excessive testosterone, which is a growth hormone. He was very grumpy for a while and started urinating and defecating inappropriately. Now he takes an anti-depressant, which stopped the inappropriate urination, and we started him on CBD daily which has significantly helped with the inappropriate defecation.
How old is Aslan?
He is around 12 years old.
Does the disease cause him discomfort?
CH does not cause pain or discomfort, and CH cats have no idea they are different. He fancies himself a “normal” cat. The acromegaly causes excessive hunger, but it is well managed with his frequent feedings and large portion sizes. He eats as much food as a cat about three times his size would.
What is Aslan’s typical day like?
Generally, his days revolve around meals and napping. He is an older cat and does not play much anymore. He does enjoy cuddling on the couch or in bed with us, and he will sit at our back door and meow to be let out. We have “Aslan-proofed” our back yard so he cannot get out of the yard, and he happily wanders around meowing or lies in the grass and naps. When we are not home, I check in on our animals through our security camera throughout the day, and he generally is napping or contentedly walking around the house. When we are home, he usually lies in the kitchen and waits for his next meal. He knows when mealtimes are and starts meowing 30 minutes to an hour beforehand, just so we don’t forget.
What is Aslan’s most endearing quality?
Aslan is a very sweet, loving cat. He is vocal and demanding, but worth every second. He is such a goof on video due to his wobbliness. He really loves food and always has, even before developing acromegaly. His passion for food is pretty fun because he has always been more dog-like with food, willing to eat just about anything.
Do you have other pets in your household?
Yes, we have a 13 year old tripawd mutt, a 10 year old mutt, a 1 year old pitbull, a 2 year old black cat, and Aslan. Our house is controlled chaos, but everyone either gets along or leaves each other alone.
What has this experience taught you?
Special needs pets can be expensive and time consuming, and a cat like Aslan with all of his needs and expensive meds is definitely not for the faint of heart, but for me, he’s been worth every minute and every dollar spent. We have had to come up with creative enrichment ideas for him due to his love of food and lack of desire to play, and his favorite is a lickimat with frozen wet food on it. It keeps him busy for a while and gives his mind some exercise and enrichment while fulfilling his desire to eat. I strongly feel that our next cat after Aslan will be another special needs cat. It is rewarding knowing we’ve given him a good quality life and will continue to do so for as long as possible.