Three-month-old kittens Izzy and Twitch have cerebellar hypoplasia, sometimes referred to as wobbly cat syndrome. The condition occurs when the brain's cerebellum, which helps with balance and coordination, is too small or not fully developed at birth. It is not expected to affect their lifespans, although the cats will have the condition for the rest of their lives.
Izzy and Twitch arrived at the shelter at the Humane Society of Huron Valley in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the end of October with their three litter mates and their mother, Hestia. They are the only ones in the litter who have wobbly cat syndrome.
"They just have these little wobbles and tremors when they’re awake, and it doesn’t seem to affect them in anything else," Wendy Welch, the shelter's communications director, told TODAY. "We suspect that it happened in utero."
They were featured a week ago in a video on the shelter's Facebook page. The video of the cats playing caught the eye of Ryan Ferguson, who lives in Richmond, Michigan. He showed the video to his 5-year-old daughter, Cahlan, who instantly fell in love.
"She originally said that we needed to take these kitties," Ferguson's wife, Jennifer Ferguson, recalled. "She’s like, 'They don’t have a home and nobody wants them, so we have to take them.'"
With four rescue cats already living with the couple and their daughter, Jennifer Ferguson was reluctant to expand their feline family yet again.
"Originally I told them, 'No, we don’t need any more kitties.' But then my daughter cried her eyes out, and then she said that her heart hurts for these kitties. After that, it was pretty much a done deal," Jennifer Ferguson said.
The family adopted the cats on Dec. 2, renaming them Bebop and Rocksteady after characters from the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" franchise. The kittens' shaky movements don't really pose a threat to them, but the new additions will require a little more TLC from their owners.
"The tremors are mostly harmless, but of course the adopters need to look out for stairs, make sure that there are carpeted floors that are easier for them to walk on and keep all of their essentials — their food, their litter box, all of those things — in accessible areas," Welch said.
Even though it has been less than a week since they were adopted, the kittens are already getting settled into their new home.
"At first we started out with just them in our room, and then we slowly brought them out," Jennifer Ferguson said. "They do stairs just fine. It’s little things like jumping off our bed when we have to be careful with them."
The family is considering adding stairs for the cats to use to get to and from the couple's bed, where the kittens sleep most nights. The cats, Jennifer Ferguson said, are worth every effort.
"The whole family absolutely loves them," she said. "My husband thinks they were an amazing addition, which I agree with. Originally, I didn’t want any more cats; six is too many. But they are so adorable and I don’t know how anybody couldn’t take them home."