Living with a CH Cat: How to Deal with the Heart Attacks

A few months ago, I got a call from a fellow cat blogger, Jeanne from Random Felines. Jeanne’s cat, Chanel, has a head tilt and balance issues caused by an ear infection, and she wanted to know how I dealt with the heart attacks. Living with a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia, I knew exactly what she meant by “heart attacks”. You know, that feeling when your heart completely drops, your breathing hitches, and the catastrophe you are witnessing seems to happen in slow motion, yet there’s nothing you can do to stop it? When you frequently watch your cat fall off the back of the couch, slam her head on the corner of the wall, or attempt to jump up onto something only to completely wipeout, you become quite familiar with that feeling.

Living with a CH Cat: How to Deal with the Heart Attacks

When we first adopted Sophie six years ago, I had heart attacks on the daily. Usually more than once a day. While I can’t say that I don’t have them anymore, I can say that they happen less frequently. So what are the best ways to deal with these heart attacks?

Figure out what your cat needs help with the most and find a solution.

One way to deal with the heart attacks is to do what you can to minimize them. If jumping up onto the furniture is a struggle for your CH cat, perhaps building or buying a ramp that leads up to your bed/couch/whatever would be beneficial. You can even find cat trees that have ramps leading up to them. Another solution to the bed-jumping problem would be to take your mattress off the frame and put it directly on the floor. Sure, it might not be as aesthetically pleasing, but it would certainly cut down on the bed-jump fails!

Sophie Climbs the Cat Tree
Though our cat tree has a ramp, Sophie refuses to use it. Go figure…

If your CH cat is prone to bumping her head, a homemade kitty helmet could help to prevent injury. I’ve seen cat helmets made out of tennis balls, foam padding, and crochet. (Check out this post from Life with CH Cats for some examples.) It may look silly, but if it helps protects your kitty’s head AND helps to relieve those heart attacks we talked about, then it seems like a win-win to me!

If slipping and sliding around on the floor or falling onto the hard floor is cause for concern, I’d suggest putting down some rugs or runners. The foam play mats used in children’s classrooms are also amazing. They help to minimize slippage and also cushion any falls. Plus, the pieces usually fit together like puzzle pieces, so you can create whatever layout you need wherever you need it.

Encourage play and exercise to help your CH cat improve her abilities.

As you may know, cerebellar hypoplasia is a non-degenerative condition; meaning, it won’t get worse with time. On the flip side, it won’t get better either. While the condition itself won’t get better or go away, there are things you can do help improve your CH cat’s abilities. One of those things is to encourage play and exercise. The more active your CH cat is, the stronger she will become, which in turn helps her mobility.

Sophie has really honed her skills over the years because we have been diligent about playing with her and encouraging her to run and jump. She used to not jump at all… then she started jumping, but would miss her target the majority of the time… and now, she nails her landing and successfully jumps up onto our bed or couch more often than not. Sure, she still wipes out sometimes (cue heart attack), but it happens less often.

Realize that your cat is tougher and more durable than you think she is.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Sophie completely bite it. Hundreds, if not thousands. Some of those falls have been pretty bad too. One incident in particular stands out in my memory…

Our previous house was two-stories. We kept baby gates at the bottom of the stairs to keep Sophie off of them, but those never stopped her. No matter what kind of gate we used, she figured out away over it or through it. Anyway, one day she was bounding up the stairs in typical Sophie fashion – completely uninhibited and carefree – and she made it all the way to the top… for a second. No sooner had she made it to the top than she lost her balance and went tumbling All. The way. Back. Down. I went running down after her, so sure she had been seriously injured. But no. Thankfully, she got right back up, shook it off, and tried to run back up the stairs and do it all again.

All of this to say, your CH cat is more durable than you give her credit for. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be worried about her when she falls. Injuries certainly can happen (chipped teeth are a common CH cat injury). But your kitty can take more than you think she can.

Sophie with her Sphere Scratcher

Do you have a handicat? What ways have you found to deal with the heart attacks?

By Emily

23 Comments

  1. Reply

    Lone Star Cats

    Really good advice. Us kittehs are tuffer than most peeps give us credit for, CH cats even more so.

  2. Reply

    Summer

    OMC, and I thought I couldn’t love Sophie more! This girl is indomitable!

  3. Reply

    Random Felines

    Thanks to you and Miss Sophie for helping us out when Chanel first came back to live with us after her ear infection. It helps to have another voice other than the panicked one in your head.

  4. Reply

    da tabbies o trout towne

    awesum post two day sophie; we N joyed reedin it N watchin yur moovee az well
    ~~~~ N ewe can bee trooth full with uz….ya jumped up on de sofa N bak down again reel
    quik….. coz dadz feetz stinked…huh !! 🙂 ♥♥♥ 😉

  5. Reply

    Eastside Cats

    All that floof helps cushion some of the oopsies, and cats are really fur-covered liquid anyhow. I didn’t know that fact about chipped teeth, though. Great post!

  6. Reply

    The Dash Kitten Crew

    The movie is perfect and I BET you did the music too – right?

    Sophie is agile and courageous and fearless, and determined too. Anyone with a CH cat needs to read this and know their cat can do a heck of a lot more than they think!!

  7. Reply

    Athena

    Great post!

    Sophie is adorable 🙂
    Purrs xx
    Athena and Marie

  8. Reply

    Sonja of Montecristo Travels

    Therapy though play is such great advice! Great video.

  9. Reply

    The Swiss Cats

    What a wonderful post ! Those are great tips, and your experience with Sophie is really helpful. Purrs

  10. Reply

    Joely Smith

    Awee bless your heart and Sophie’s too! So many great words of advice here and so heartfelt! Thank you. I do not have a CH cat right now but I am better prepared now if any future kitty has it. I totally get the heart attack feelings though – due to other health issues my pets have, and have had with previous furbabies. Pets are our family. Give Sophie some cuddles for me please.

  11. Reply

    Debbie

    Oh boy.. I bet I would get heart attacks all the time! I know I did after Roxie’s surgery, as she started feeling like her normal self and running and jumping all over. I was sure her leg wouldn’t hold up. But I think they know better than we do what they’re capable of. You’re so right, they are tougher and more durable than we think. Sophie is so lucky to have you guys!

  12. Reply

    Ruth Epstein

    Fantastic post, I love reading your posts as I learn so much although I have a dog. A handicap in a pet or kid is difficult and we do sometimes forget how tough they are because we are automatically trying to protect them from everything

  13. Reply

    Jill

    Every time I see a cat with this I get so sad — but seeing them go on to live these amazing lives is just inspiring. Thank you for doing what you do to bring awareness!

  14. Reply

    Seville at Nerissa's Life

    I can imagine how difficult it must be when Sophie falls or bumps into somethin’. My peeps gasp when one of us rolls over and falls of the chesterfield, which happens more often than one might think, but is certainly not an everyday occurrence. The more you peeps love us, the more worried you get when you think we might hurt ourselves, I guess. But what wonderful advice you have for peeps to help mitigate any dangers? Those foam pads? Bet a few of ’em next to the couch would work just fine. PURRS.

  15. Reply

    The Island Cats

    We’ve said it before…Sophie never ceases to amaze us at how she handles her “handicap.”

  16. Reply

    Ellen Pilch

    Great post. I only experienced this briefly when Prancie was having trouble due to supposed inner ear issues and it is scary. We actually crate her at night for her safety, we are probably too over protective.

  17. Reply

    Sweet Purrfections

    I’ve loved Sophie since the first time I met her in Atlanta! I admire her determination and courage and adore her personality. You are a very special lady. I’m not so sure I could handle it.

  18. Reply

    Savannah's Paw Tracks

    most excellent post about CH kitties. So true, they are more durable than most humans believe

  19. Reply

    Kamira G.

    Whew! Reading the title I took it literally at first. But I totally get it now. Yes CH cats are definitely more resilient than people give them credit for. I’ve definitely learned this much from following your blog. 🙂 I love the video with Sophie too. She really has come a long way. Looks like she’s quite the Daddy’s girl. 🙂 Great post. Pinned.

  20. Reply

    Lola The Rescued Cat

    This is a great post that will help all people who live with a CH cat. Sophie is fearless, so I can see how you would have daily heart attacks! I love all of the advice you gave, and the helmets are just too cute!

  21. Reply

    Jana Rade

    I don’t have a good way of dealing with the heart attacks of something not being right with my dog. I put a lot of work into solutions but that doesn’t mean it kills me every single time.

  22. Reply

    Cathy Armato

    These are some really good tips that can help reduce the chances of injury to a CH cat & the “heart attacks” . It’s wonderful that Sophie has been able to improve her abilities!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  23. Reply

    Basil

    A really great post guys, Smooch is tripawed and we know that ‘heart-attack’ feeling well, especially when he goes to jump and misses his target 🙀

    We shared for you on FB

    Purrs

    Basil and co xox

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