Feline Fetish

Voice Card  -  Volume 23  -  Drury Card Number 3  -  Sat, Jan 4, 1992 12:28 PM

This is ONE OF 2 responses to VC 22 Janine 8 ("The Cat's Meow")...

I will make two observations in response to Janine's card. ONE: Maine Coon cats are probably THE MOST wonderful kitties in the world. My ex-husband owns the only other breed that MIGHT be comparable - the Norwegian Forest cat. I gave him Chloe, the world's cutest Norwegian Forest cat (don't you think even the name is romantic?). She stayed with him as part of our settlement.

Maine Coons are a North American longhair breed. They were probably developed during the 1850s using Angoras brought back to the state of Maine by sailors. The Angoras were crossed with the local shorthairs. The early offspring had coat patterns that looked like racoons - hence the name, Maine Coon cats. It is impossible (at this time) to cross racoons and domestic cats.

Maine Coons are a hardy, thick-coated breed that thrives in harsh winter conditions. They are excellent vermin exterminators which was the reason for their early popularity. They are also one of the largest cat breeds - with males weighing in at 16 lb (no fat). My Rudy weighs 15 lb and admittedly is carrying just a little pudge. Kept in colder climates (such as Colorado where my ex- is), the breed can develop a beautiful thick coat. Here in warm, wonderful (homicide-ridden) California, Rudy has a thin, scruffy looking coat. His coat is thicker than the other two kitties but not as beautiful as his coat was in Colorado. Maine Coons are very affectionate and quiet.

My Rudy is quite a regal cat. Occasionally he will play with the two "girls," but because of his size the girls keep the sessions very short. The girls will play with our dog (a bizarre game of "touch tag") but Rudy barely acknowledges him. When Rudy comes into the room, he heads straight for a human creature. He doesn't waste time with the "less important" animals. Besides, they don't feed him goodies. Rudy goes and sits and sleeps anywhere Rudy wants. Once in a while we have "discussions" about running outside. The cats are not allowed outside unless supervised. Rudy seems to think this is an unreasonable rule. All-in-all, he is one of the better breeds! (That reminds me of a quote: Some animals are more equal than others.)

TWO: Your Pinky probably has cerebellar hypoplasia. Boscoe may or may not also have this "problem." This condition is the result of the mother (queen) becoming infected with panleukopenia virus and infecting her kittens in utero. The queen could either have had the disease because she was NOT vaccinated OR she was vaccinated with a modified live vaccine during pregnancy (a no-no , which means that someone, probably NOT a veterinarian, realizing this was an unvaccinated cat, went to some feed store, purchased the vaccine and gave it to the mom-to-be).

The panleukopenia virus attacks rapidly dividing cells. Some of the cells it attacks are brain cells (ones in the cerebellum to be specific). These cells die and nothing replaces them, so you get a part of your brain that does not develop (cerebellar hypoplasia). The cerebellum (part of the brain in back of your cerebrum) is a "regulator." It coordinates and smooths muscle movements. It also maintains equilibrium (balance). When there is disease in this area of the brain, one sign is a loss of normal motor movement. You have normal strength but you cannot tell the body how far, how often, and how forceful to move. So, an animal raises the legs too high and too far when walking. They look "drunk" or "clumsy."

At rest, the body may sway or show gross jerky movements. Sometimes there is a fine head tremor that gets worse when the animal wants to move the head. In the kittens, the first signs of the disease show at about 4 weeks, when the kitties are starting to move around. The disease does not get worse and in some cases may improve if the animal learns to compensate for the problem.

As I mentioned before, both cats may have this problem but one is worse than the other. OR only Pinky was infected (as with AIDS infections in man, the fetus is NOT always infected with the virus). OR Pinky and Boscoe were at different stages of development when the virus hit, and Boscoe being older had already developed that part of the brain - so the virus had nothing it could infect and destroy. Boscoe and Pinky may have had different fathers (toms) which resulted in the developmental differences of the fetuses.

There. I am sure that is much more than you ever wanted to know about Maine Coons and cerebellar hypoplasia.