Merida was born to a feral mother cat, in a litter of 5. When she was born, the neighbours of the abandoned house she was born in saw that she was having trouble using her left arm. After 3 weeks, all the kittens were trying to walk and Merida seemed to have trouble trying to balance on 3 paws instead of four, trying to limp while learning to walk. She fell off a deck onto the cement while playing with her sister and cried for a while. She was then witnessed falling on more than one occasion quite hard onto sidewalk blocks, etc. One neighbour said she hit her head so hard you could hear it.
By 3 1/2 weeks old, Merida could not walk and was seen constantly falling and stumbling, still not using her front left arm much if at all. She was still trying very hard to stand, but would continuously fall over. During the summer, we had a heat wave and then very intense hail storms. On one night, the hail storms was very terrible, and the next day I was notified (being the cat lady) that the little one with the weird arm, had been left out on the deck throughout the entire storm crying to her mama, and you could hear mama crying back to her. They just could not get to each other. After I heard this the next day, I went down there in the 32C heat to look for the little one.
Here was this half pound, scraggly, black kitten hiding under the brush in the backyard of the abandoned house. I disturbed her and her sister playing, and she hissed at me and growled but GOOD! I noticed this was an emergency because her entire mouth was white, including her tongue. She had no color to her, and as she hissed at me, her eyes kept rolling into the back of her head and jittering all over the place like she couldn't focus on anything. I scooped her up and held her close as she clawed the air and kept hissing. After a few steps with her in my arms, she realized this probably wasn't so bad.
I brought her home and gave her wet kitten food, she ate and ate and ate. However, I had to hold her against my body because she was trying to fall all over the place. I noticed then her chin and nose were rubbed raw and slightly scabbed from continuously falling. It took 3 days to hydrate her before she even needed the litter box to pee. I noticed her eye movements were better, but she was still unable to walk and her left front shoulder felt different than her right. You could feel bone in an odd place. Also, if you touched between her shoulder blades she would scream at you and seem paralyzed for a second or two.
Merida had no fever, diarrhea or any other sick symptoms but I knew a checkup was vital. I took her to my regular vet, and watching her eye movements and seeing that she could not walk he diagnosed her as a CH Cat (Cerebellar hypoplasia), caused by the distemper virus in her mother. I did assure him that with my own eyes I saw her whole family and they were all healthy and looked very well. He stuck with the diagnosis and told me not to waste money and put her down, or 'get rid of her'. She probably wouldn't live very long and I was risking the health of my other two senior cats at home. He explained to me that these cats cannot eat, use the litter box, they have no quality of life. They can never stand, as he said that she stood up on her own for 45 seconds. He said they cannot eat, he opened a can right in front of her and she pecked like a bird but started eating right in front of him. Then he told me that cats like her have no quality of life, IF they even live. For some reason, I didn't listen... I am stubborn. He gave her an antibiotic shot, and an anti inflammatory shot and told me "Good luck". They needed a name to put on her file, at this point she had no name. With the upcoming commercials for Disneys movie BRAVE, and people calling her a brave little kitten... I named her Merida after the main character in the movie BRAVE. She had braved a week long heat wave, hail storms and almost died. I think it suits her.
4 days later, with some help steadying her, Merida was walking on her own. (You can see this in her July 2012 videos on Facebook)
Then, at 10 weeks old Merida became extremely dizzy, was doing circles and vomited once. I rushed her to the emergency clinic, and they found ear mites. Cleared that up, but because she couldn't move without being dizzy and nauseated, she ended up losing her ability to walk. We worked at it again, and she was back at walking!
At 12 weeks, Merida started a fever the one morning of 103.4. I rushed her to my regular vet, and was told it was the distemper virus kicking in. The vet gave her Metacam and an antibiotic shot again. He told me she was dying and to accept that. Her fever went away with the Metacam and ice packs. I watched her like a hawk all night.By morning her stomach was spasming, you could see she wasn't feeling good. By the afternoon she was feeling close to normal.
A few days later, her stomach was spasming again which you could clearly see, and her eye started to bother her. There was nobody that could see her unless I rushed her to emergency, however I contacted the Holistic vet and made an appointment for a few days later. They said she should be ok until then, but watch out for specific things and if those happen, rush her to emergency. In the meantime, call back to see if we have any cancelations. I called every day, sometimes even twice a day. I am SO thankful they were patient with me and didn't yell at me for all the phone calls! Meridas eye became cloudy only one day away from the appointment. She was still eating and playing slightly. Finally we lasted it out until the appointment!
The Holistic vet appointment went quite well. After a quick examination though, labeled CH from distemper virus again. The stomach spasms and cloudy eye were all from worms, not distemper virus, nobody had dewormed her as a baby. A deworming pill, acupuncture, and some blood tests later... Merida was ready to rock and roll again with a clean bill of health and the vet said that she should heal up from the neurological damage and be a normal cat.
Merida wasn't getting any better and was still having good days and bad days, which is impossible for a CH kitty. So Merida saw another vet, and the vet saw that she clearly showed neurological signs and most likely NOT those of CH. So we raised the $3000 for a CT scan to put an end to the question "Is Merida a cat that suffers from cerebellar hypoplasia, or not". After the scan was sent away, and rechecked by Washington State University, it was deemed that her CT is completely fine, except for some inflammation deep in her inner ear canal where you cannot visually see. Meridas brain, and skull are fine. She does NOT suffer from CH or any other deformities of the brain.
You can go to our page with Q&A from Meridas vet herself for her take on Merida.