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What is Brain Tissue Underdevelopment?

The cerebellum is one of the largest portions of a cat’s brain. This portion is located next to the cerebrum and the brainstem. Brain tissue underdevelopment in cats occurs when some parts of the cerebellum do not fully develop. The condition can occur because of genetic factors or may be caused by toxins, infections, and nutritional deficiencies. The symptoms of this condition often present when a cat is about six weeks old. Brain tissue underdevelopment is a neurological condition that is not contagious or progressive. It leads to balance and walking problems in cats; kittens with underdeveloped cerebellum often have problems with coordination and movement are usually referred to as wobbly cats. In this medical condition, the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination of a cat is underdeveloped. In most cases, kittens are born with the disorder. Despite the fact that it is untreatable, cats with the condition can continue living normal lives.

Symptoms of Brain Tissue Underdevelopment in Cats

The severity of the disorder in kittens varies. Some cats may experience only a slight limp while others may have trouble moving around. 

Cats with brain tissue underdevelopment may experience the following:

  • Difficulty with mobility
  • Head tremors while trying to focus
  • Vision problems

Brain tissue underdevelopment should not affect a cat’s lifespan. Because the condition is not progressive there is no worry about it getting worse. In some instances, the cat’s condition and movement coordination may improve with time.


Causes of Brain Tissue Underdevelopment in Cats

The development of the cerebellum can be affected by several factors. One of the most common causes of brain tissue underdevelopment in cats is infection by the panleukopenia virus during pregnancy. If the mother is not vaccinated against the virus it passes on the virus to the kittens, who may then suffer from brain tissue underdevelopment. Research indicates that there is an 11-day window for cat to kitten transmission of the virus. The kittens do not contract the infection or carry it; only the growth of the cerebellum is affected. The condition also occurs when a cat experiences trauma or malnutrition while pregnant. These factors may cause brain tissue underdevelopment in the unborn kittens.

The severity of the condition and number of kittens that contract it is determined by the stage of development of the cat fetus in the uterus as well as the extent of the infection. It is normal for all one or any number of kittens in a litter to have the condition and for the severity of the condition to vary.

Diagnosis of Brain Tissue Underdevelopment in Cats

Vets often consider cat’s medical histories when diagnosing brain tissue underdevelopment. A complete physical exam is also necessary to determine the affected cat’s blood count and blood chemical profile. The cat will also undergo urine and electrolyte panel exam. These tests are often done to rule out other brain infections and the presence of environmental toxins. 

In kittens, the signs are visible after weeks or even months. Kittens passed the infant stage often do not show signs of further progression of the disorder. Diagnosis often involves an evaluation of a cat’s breed, age, family history, health history, and non-progressiveness of the condition. Consider seeking professional diagnosis from a veterinarian with experience in diagnosing and treating neurological disorders. An MRI is one of the best ways to diagnose the condition in kittens. If you notice new or progressive symptoms, your cat may suffer from a different condition. To rule out other conditions as the reason for your cat’s neurological problem, a vet will recommend a combination of tests including EMG, ultrasound, parasitic screening, CT scan, urinalysis, CBC, CSF, and serum chemistry profile analysis.

Treatment of Brain Tissue Underdevelopment in Cats

Brain tissue underdevelopment is a congenital condition that does not have a known cure. Despite being a permanent condition, it does not worsen with time. Some cats become more mobile with time as they learn to manage and live with their condition.

Recovery of Brain Tissue Underdevelopment in Cats

Cats with brain tissue underdevelopment often have problems with mobility and coordination. In addition, cats with the disorder often find it difficult to defend themselves in a fight or while playing with other cats. This means that you will have to take extra precautions to protect your cat and prevent it from suffering injuries. Your cat will need extra care if it has a severe case of brain tissue underdevelopment and cannot groom or feed itself or become house trained. Cats with brain tissue underdevelopment make as great pets as normal cats; they only need extra care and attention.

Brain Tissue Underdevelopment Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

10 Weeks
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

My kitten was abandoned at what I like about a week. Her eyes weren’t quite opened yet, and she didn’t have teeth (or very tiny ones). I bottle fed her, and now she’s about 10 (give or take) weeks old. It’s hard to litter box train her. Is there any advise you can give me? Could her brain be under developed because of her abandonment? She’s also very tiny. She’s about the size of a 5-6 week old kitten. Could that possibly be because of the same thing?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
There are various issues which may be affecting Jameson which may include brain developmental disorders, infections, head trauma, behavioural issues among other causes. Keep trying to train her with the litter box, but you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination (including a neurological examination) and if you haven’t already you should get her vaccinated too, especially if she is frail. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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