Welcome to the latest edition of the BVNS Neurotransmitter, written by Erin Akin, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology) – BVNS Atlanta


Buttercup is a 1 year old female, spayed domestic short hair cat that is a part of my family.



She was adopted as a kitten along with her “sister,” Sarahbellum, in spring 2020. They were both adopted from a wonderful local cat rescue called Good Mews with a tentative diagnosis of cerebellar hypoplasia. On neurologic examination, Buttercup is very spastic in all four legs with exaggerated stepping movements; this is called hypermetria. Buttercup is also ataxic, meaning wobbly in all four legs and she frequently loses her balance. Buttercup also has a pronounced intention tremor which is an involuntary, rhythmic, oscillatory movement of the head; in her case, the tremors are exaggerated by goal-oriented actions (when she intends to do something such as eating, drinking, or playing with a toy).






Presenting Complaints:

  • Hypermetria (more prominent in the pelvic limbs)
  • Ataxia in all four limbs
  • Intermittent intention tremor


Buttercup’s neurologic examination shows abnormalities consistent with diffuse cerebellar disease.


  • CBC and chemistry: within normal limits
  • Brain MRI: to be scheduled
  • View reference videos above for Buttercup’s gait and intention tremors

Tentative Diagnosis:

  • Cerebellar hypoplasia


There is no treatment for this condition.


Buttercup has continued to thrive in our home alongside Sarahbellum and their three Dachshund housemates, Malcolm, Lucy Goo, and New Rock. You can see Malcolm get in on the laser pointer action in one of Buttercup’s videos. Buttercup has grown into a healthy, happy adult cat and we expect to enjoy many more years with her.

What is cerebellar hypoplasia?

Cerebellar hypoplasia is a disorder in which the cerebellum fails to develop properly. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls purposeful movement, coordination, balance (has direct input to the vestibular system), and refines our motor skills.

How did Buttercup get cerebellar hypoplasia?

Most commonly, kittens become affected with feline panleukopenia virus during the perinatal period (in the last weeks of pregnancy and the first weeks after birth). During this period, the cerebellum is undergoing rapid growth making it susceptible to attack as the panleukopenia virus tends to damage highly active, rapidly dividing cells.

What are the clinical signs of cerebellar hypoplasia?

  • Cerebellar ataxia (including hypermetria) often noticed when the kitten starts walking
  • Intention tremor
  • Other neurologic signs can occasionally be seen if the virus has affected other areas of the brain

How do you diagnose cerebellar hypoplasia?

Cerebellar hypoplasia is not detected with routine laboratory tests. It is often diagnosed based on history, signalment, and examination findings. In some kittens, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may show a smaller than normal cerebellum.

What is the prognosis for cerebellar hypoplasia?

Kittens with cerebellar hypoplasia typically have a normal life expectancy.

Take-Home Points:

  • Cerebellar hypoplasia is not painful.
  • Cerebellar hypoplasia is not contagious.
  • The most common cause of cerebellar hypoplasia is infection with feline panleukopenia virus. Other much less common causes include trauma, infections such as Toxoplasmosis, or other causes.
  • The vaccination of female cats against panleukopenia virus prior to pregnancy can help prevent this disease.
  • Many kittens will adapt to their cerebellar dysfunction and clinical signs may improve with time.


Thank you Good Mews Animal Foundation for Buttercup!

For a PDF version of this case, please click HERE


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