INside Story

Indy shelter seeing increase in ‘wobbly cats’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A local animal rescue is seeing an increase in kittens with a unique disability known as “wobbly cats.”

The disorder is cerebellar hypoplasia. It’s a problem with the cat’s brain stem that causes a sometimes significant lack of balance and coordination.

Cats Haven is the oldest no-kill cat sanctuary in central Indiana, with a history spanning almost 30 years. It’s inside an old Victorian home off 25th and College Avenue. Founder and manager Barbara Wills says she cares for around 300 disabled or senior citizen cats, but word has gotten out that her team is skilled with so-called wobbly cats. Of the 97 cats residing at Cats Haven, 12 are “wobblers,” according to Wills.

In 2018, News 8’s Brenna Donnelly visited Cats Haven to meet wobbly cats for the first time. Back then, the shelter was known in small circles for taking care of cats with cerebellar hypoplasia but the staff wasn’t fielding many requests to care for them.

“We’re the wobbler place,” Wills said, smiling at cats Precious and Troy trying to walk across the room and tipping over occasionally. “I know somebody’s going to look at her and say, ‘Poor kitty.’ And we look at her and say, ‘Way to go.”‘

She says when people see wobbly cats, they have one of three reactions: horror, pity or adoration.

She says the horrified people say they need to be put down since they have no quality of life. Wills disagrees, pointing to happy behavior and even balance improvement over time.

Wills says she’s with the third group, believing they’re cute, lovable and funny.

“Abe tried to climb up a cat tree, he has fallen down and they’ve hurt themselves. Troy goes for flies and has caught one. I think because they zig with the fly zigs,” she laughed. “They’re happy. They deserve a life. Don’t they? And they’re fun to watch.”

Cats Haven only adopts wobblers out to people who have experience caring for them. Wobbly cats struggle to use the litter box and eat, so Wills says they need near-constant care. Learn more about Cats Haven here.