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Matthew Sisk: Brain damage may cause wobbles
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Her name isn’t Weeble, and that’s just as well. Despite the fact that the small kitten does wobble, Leia does fall down.

The movements themselves initially give you an urge to smile. The same way as seeing a toddler take a soft plop onto her backside. No harm, no foul. But the trend and reliability of the signs in the kitten is troubling.

Leia is good with large muscle movements and has plenty of strength. It’s just those tedious little fine adjustments that elude her. When she tries to make a delicately minute motion, she tremors.

If you’ve seen a human dealing with certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, you’re familiar with the motions. They are trembling, inaccurate movements that lead to mishaps.

Humans often knock things off tables. Kittens miss the water bowl or fall face first into the food dish.

Recovery is usually quick and without significant damage, but it is very off-putting and very important.

Many kittens that show these signs have damage to their cerebellum, the portion of the brain that handles coordination of movements, especially fine muscle functions. A common source of that damage is exposure to the feline parvovirus, panleukopenia, at a specific stage of fetal development.

Like parvovirus in canines, the infection attacks rapidly dividing cells. Thus, the lining of the intestine is harmed and puppies show the classic vomiting or diarrhea associated with parvoviral infection. But other cells divide rapidly as well, including bone marrow. Thus, damage in cats often causes a suppression of all white blood cell manufacturing, which is what “panleukopenia” literally means.

In prenatal kittens, the brain is growing, and its cells are dividing rapidly. Exposure at that time can damage the cerebellum.

Still, Leia is a special case, given her entry into the world and the risk of oxygen depravation to her brain. Other sources of damage are possible, but these two are my main concerns. Neither is curable.

In two weeks, at Leia’s first official kitten examination, another explanation emerges.

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