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Cute, Disabled Kitten Gets a Second Chance at Life

spastic kitten (cerebral hypoplasia)As a writer for EcoWorldly, I should think about the mass demonstrations currently swelling in South Korea, where I live. I should think of the struggle between Chavez’s revolution, the entrenched oligarchies, and the confused youth of Venezuela, where my brother lives. I should think of any number of critically important world events currently unfolding. I should. But all I can think of is a small, orange kitten with a physical disorder.

Now, it’s a well-known fact that infants are not always similar to the adults that nurture them. Sometimes, they’re not even of the same species. What do I mean? Take the young hippo and the 100 year-old tortoise, for example. But when a 5 week-old orange tabby kitten in rural South Korea is taken in by a 26 year-old peregrinating writer with a return ticket to California, things get tricky.

What’s more, the kitten I brought in last weekend and unwittingly adopted is not a normal kitten. At 5+ weeks of age, it’s becoming clear that the animal has cerebral hypoplasia. That’s a fancy way to say “his coordination’s not so hot.” In fact, although he’ll probably live a full and otherwise normal life, he’ll never be able to walk properly. Hence my current dilemma: what do you do with a drunken kitten?

There are those who would probably say that I should have him put down. In fact, when I brought him in early Saturday morning, he looked so weak that I believed I was simply giving him a warm place to die. However, now he’s a relatively healthy kitten, except that he’s severely lacking of motor skills.

Moreover, as my girlfriend, Whitney, and I have fed him we’ve watched him imprint on us. We’re now — collectively — “mom”. And I realize that as the kitten was imprinting on me, I was imprinting on him as well. I can’t help but feel responsible for his life.

There’s a time for every new parent when all that seems to matter is one little life. Then, the outside world fades away and the tiny space between the nutrurer and the newborn becomes an everywhere.

What can I say? I’m a sucker.

So, I guess the only thing to do is to keep him and watch him grow. I’ll start thinking again about world events as they’re splashed across the headlines and I’ll wait five months until my calendar shows the date of my return to the United States. Then, I’ll try and explain cerebral hypoplasia to the folks at imigrations (that should be fun!) and carry on raising a very affectionate but very wobbly cat.

On a (hopefully) helpful note, if you have a kitten that can’t stand at the proper age of around 4 weeks, can’t walk well (or at all), and shakes when excited, take him to a vet. If the diagnosis is cerebral hypoplasia, don’t worry. It’s not progressive or dangerous, and with time the cat will become better (though not perfect) at moving about. Here are a couple of websites that I found helpful:

[This post was written by Gavin Hudson.]



  1. Maybe you are too caught up in ‘world affairs’. :)
    The world is a big and important place, but your hands are small. Don’t forget to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. Congrats on your newfound baby =P

    The world changes by one pair of hands at a time, by that small act of compassion.

    Thanks for reminding me.

  2. Thanks for sharing this very sweet story Gavin. Even animals with special needs deserve a chance at life.

  3. Thanks J. Thanks Jennifer. :)

    He’s a really sweet cat. I’m hoping that he makes it to the point where he can sort of walk around, like the cat in the video I linked to in paragraph 3. Fingers crossed. :)

  4. Aw thanks for sharing this 😀

  5. Your kitten is a beautiful baby. I guess you’re all pretty lucky to have found each other.

    I feel sunshiney and warm from this story. I’m going to go and hug my cat.

  6. I would start looking into bringing an animal into the states if thats where your going back to, a lot of countries have laws about importing pets into countries, come countries make it so that you have to put them into Quarantine 6 months before bringing them over.

  7. You are a good person.

  8. I think the kitty was darned lucky! I PRAY for its entry into the USA, though. I am an American expat in Europe and worry about carrying even a simply case in, let alone a wobbly kitty. BLESS and KEEP you three!

  9. The cool thing about cats is just like people they learn to cope with their disablities as they get older. I took care of a cat for a friend that only had three legs- over the years it had learned it’s own walking style and a tough attitude and a strong bite to fight with. Your little kitten may even grow out of it’s funny walk, if it ends up just being a virus or insect bite that made it sick. That would be cool if you can bring it back with you.

  10. Aw! That is so darned cute! I like how you dubbed him drunken kitten. What’d you and Whit decide to name him?

    The picture of your little baby reminds me of how I fell in love with an orange tabby named Norman when I was 9. He was my uncle’s cat.

    Miss you and not the least bit surprised that you are doing good things everywhere you go. That would be so rad if you got to bring the booger back with you and I got to actually meet the drunken legend upon your return!

  11. Michael Hudson says:

    Happy to hear that he´s perking up. he looks very sweet. Made me think of little Olivia in her last days, and how there is little more involving than a helpless week kitten. Hope all else is well. I gave my friend Niel a nudge towards finding and meeting you. I think he´s from Kentucky, but he´s lived in South Korea for years. We met in India in 04. He´s in my facebook friends if your interested.

  12. I used to live in South Korea, and I brought my dog back to the United States with me, it isn’t too big of a deal, just get a carrier that can go under the seat in front of you (unless you have a layover in Japan, in which case the kitty has to go cargo and meet you there) and have a vet check, with proof of rabies shots. They are checked out by the animal people at the airport, and as long as you have papers saying it has it’s shots and is healthy, you’ll be on your way! Good luck, bring me back striped socks hahaha!

  13. Hi
    I have a beautiful tonkinese boy with cerebral hypoplasia…He is 6 years and the most gorgeous affectionate cat..I cannot say more that these special cats are just that special;

  14. Jennie Velazquez says:

    I found a kitten which looks exactly like yours, last August 3, 208, behind my apartment building under a rainy, rainy day. I took it home, nursed it, and took care of it. I noticed the same wobbly, shakey movements and still kept him.
    After taking him to his first vet vist in November, I found out that I had found him when he was 4 days old, since at the vet visit he was found to be 4 months and 4 days old.

    I name him Sweet Pea, since he is extremely sweet, and highly intelligent. He has tried to overcome his disability, but cannot, yet strives daily to walk, etc.

    He takes a lot of my time, and since I work and have no one to take care of him, he has adjusted to being home alone until I return home. He spends time watching tv, which I leave on for him while I am at work, loves his plush toys which he has had since I found him and which he plays as if they were other kittens, and watching my birds ( I have a large bird cage with parakeets, finches, and canaries).
    I have learned to love him dearly and would not put him down or give him up. If he has strived to survive, then I will strive to keep him.
    He knows his name and is constantly at my side when I am at home, he even watches tv with me. I keep him in the evenings at bedtime in a large laundry basket by my bed, which he loves because it is lined with a fleece blanket and I tuck him in when it is bedtime, which he loves. He still enjoys his baby bottle…and at 4 months and 4 days old, is a healthy 5 lb kitten!
    Keep your new found baby, he will reward you with much love!

  15. Good for you with Baby. I, too, lived in Korea (Seoul – 1994-1998) and adopted a kitten from the street. She was in a garden with a long piece of plastic twisty neatly tied around her neck in about 8 rows and it was cutting into her throat. Walking by and seeing that, I put her in my pocket and took her home where she lived for about two years before a congenital defect kicked in and she had to be put down. Her name was Pie (after the Korean magpies). She was a sweetie and worth the effort.

  16. I have several of these cats at all different levels of the disorder. they are different ages and from different breeds, but they share the same one trait, they are all very affectionate. these are the best cats i have ever had, yes they do need some extra attention, but you dont get a pet to ignore it do you? these cats will warm your heart and make you laugh at the same time. they are “normal” in every other way, no health issues( related to hypoplasia), and normal lifespans. If anyone has any questions about these cats, feel free to email me. I have alot of experience with these guys and would be happy to help. dcloehr@optonline.net

  17. I have the same situation. I unwillingly adopted a kitten that looks just like yours! exactly the same face eye color and fur…They told me she has hp and distemper, and wanted me to put her down. She is so lovely though and is connecting with me like nothing else. She drinks from her bottle and meows for me to hold her and i just am in love. I feel so bad though, I don’t want her to suffer..

  18. I have adopted two Boston Terriers from a certain breeder that gives them up once they no longer are able to breed: She also gave me a Boston Terrier puppy with this condition and she is a whipper snapper: She runs now like a little pony and does fine when she moves quickly: Its the stopping that makes her loose balance: I do see so much improvement in her however that I think she may one day even jump up on the couch: That may be too much to wait for: We love her so much:

  19. found your post on stumble-upon…..I worked as a vet tech for several years and we had a clinic cat that had this problem. Her name was JuJu and the techs and vet thought it was most likely caused by the mother having feline distemper. While she looked pathetic to most, she’s the happiest cat I ever knew. We’d carry her up and down the stairs to her kennel and she needed a larger litter box…and more baths than normal…she was affectionately known as our “mop”. other than that..totally normal.
    Your new kitty is lucky to have ya’ll and there shouldn’t be too much issue with bringing her back, no worries.

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