Q: My husband and I recently made a trip to a cattery and met this adorable black cat that we are considering to adopt. We have never own a cat before. The cat seems to have some sort of nervous disorder – it is not able to walk in a straight line (knocking left and right as it walks) but otherwise responds as a normal cat. We read on the internet that a cat with such disorder may suffer problems as it grows older, such as bowl incontinence. Is this true? And are there other effects or conditions that we should be aware of? Would this cat be suitable for us?
A: Firstly I would like to applaud you and your husband for choosing to adopt rather than buy a cat. You are saving a lift by doing so.
In answering your queries regarding the cat, I will need more information (if available) about its history and a physical examination before I am able to advise you on the suitability of adoption particularly if you are a first time cat owner. It is important to know about the cat's background to identify if the medical problem is permanent or temporary, serious or mild.
From your description, the ataxia (or lack of coordination when walking) could due to a variety of causes ranging from an infection of the brain stem as a kitten to other neurological/brain problems to metabolic or muscular abnormalities, some of which are treatable. A veterinary check up and further diagnostics like blood test, x-rays and MRI may be required to investigate it further.
Adopting a special cat can be rewarding and not always a difficult task. You may need to modify its environment to make it safe and conducive for it to move around. For example, care must be taken to clear its walking path of any objects with sharp edges for fear that it may hurt itself as it knock against them.
I recommend bringing the cat for a veterinary check and if the cattery allows, bring the cat home for a trial period to determine if your husband and yourself are able to cope. Speak to the caretaker and find out more about the cat's character and how they took care of it. Think carefully and discuss with your family members before adopting as keeping a pet is a lifetime commitment for everyone that lives in the same household.
I hope that it all works out for you and your family.