Story: Sophie, the cat that could

Sophie the cat lives with her humans Emily and Bobby Hall and four kitty siblings: Delilah, Sampson, Sassy and Caster. She was born with cerebellar hypoplasia, which means the part of her brain that controls fine motor skills and coordination–the cerebellum–is underdeveloped. Sophie wobbles. She falls. And then she gets back up. With a smile.

Meant for each other

Emily and Bobby first met Sophie at a PetSmart adoption event, through the Circle of Friends Animal Society. The day they met her, they were amused by her unbalanced antics and her determined attitude. When Bobby picked the kitten up, says Emily, their fates were sealed.
She immediately started purring, nuzzled into his arms, and fell asleep” He held her for more than an hour.

They didn’t adopt Sophie that day. Responsible pet owners, Emily and Bobby needed to understand Sophie’s condition and make sure they could afford another cat. Her warm and humorous personality stuck with them, and three months later, they brought her home. We were so lucky that she hadn’t gotten adopted by someone else in that time,” recalls Emily. “It’s like she was meant for us.”

Sophie, a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia, cuddles with Emily's husband Bobby

Sophie cuddles with Emily’s husband Bobby

Fearless and determined, happy and friendly

According to Emily, Sophie doesn’t know she’s different than the four other cats with whom she shares her home. ” She is by far the happiest cat I have ever met. She never gets annoyed or angry, and I have never once heard her hiss or growl.”

Perhaps because she’s spent her whole life adapting and learning to deal with challenges, Sophie is open to adventure and loves making new friends. Emily and Bobby brought her with them to an outdoor concert–she was more than likely the only cat there–and took their fun-loving kitty on a boat ride with Bobby’s dad.

Sophie, a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia surveys the crowd at an outdoor concert.

Sophie surveys the crowd at an outdoor concert.

Sophie is a lesson in determination. “If there is something she wants to do, she will figure out a way to do it, even if it is something she supposedly can’t do,” says Emily. Like climbing stairs. It isn’t easy to walk up steps when simply staying upright on a flat surface takes effort. To keep their unsteady cat from falling down the stairs, Emily and Bobby put up a safety gate, so she wouldn’t attempt the climb unsupervised. That lasted about two weeks, according to Emily. Then, “I came out of the bedroom one day, and guess who was at the top of the stairs? Sophie.” The fearless cat had taken on–and conquered the challenge–and the gate.

Emily and her husband made a few other adaptations to their home and life–but not as many as one would think. The changes don’t seem to be more than an average pet owner might do, like making a litter box with high walls so Sophie could lean against the sides, or making sure all four feet are on the floor when they put her down after frequent cuddles.

Sophie, a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia, loves playing in her tunnel.

Sophie loves playing in her tunnel.

A blessing and an inspiration

Emily admits that she felt overwhelmed when Sophie first came to live with her and her husband. “I even had thoughts like, “What have I gotten myself into?'” she says. After the initial adjustment to living with a special-needs cat, Emily says, her Sophie is “a blessing to our family.”

A blessing? A cat with a disability is a blessing? I always wondered about people who say things like that, whether they were trying to convince themselves that what they are doing is good and right and that the hardship and work is worth the trouble. But there’s no trouble here. Emily explains, “Sophie brings an immeasurable amount of joy, love, and inspiration to our family. Her personality is infectious; you can’t be around her without smiling, as she always seems to have a smile on her face.”

Sophie, a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia, relaxes outside in the sunshine.

Sophie relaxes outside in the sunshine.

Sophie is a also quite the cuddler. Emily claims the cat could spend an entire day curled up with her humans, purring all the while. “She is the cure to any bad mood.”

“Sophie is also an inspiration,” Emily continues. “In the year and a half that we have had her, she has overcome so many obstacles and learned to do so many things that most cats can just do. She has never once gotten discouraged or upset, and she always accomplishes her goal”–something we humans could stand to emulate.

Imagine this determined cat wanting to leap up on a bed. She would try and fall. She learned to climb it, and would still sometimes fall. Then, one night, Emily says, “she just went for it. She jumped and made it! The look on her face–I can’t even describe it.”

As for Sophie? Because of the cat’s laid-back attitude and friendly spirit, Emily is in the process of getting her certified as a therapy cat. Says Emily, “I can’t wait to see how this new adventure unfolds.”
Neither can I.

Sophie, a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia, captains a boat on Lake Juliette

Sophie captains a boat on Lake Juliette, with help from Emily and Bobby’s dad.


Want more Sophie?

Follow the story of Sophie and her human and feline family on Emily’s blog, Kitty Cat Chronicles

Read the full interview with Emily.

See Sophie in action; watch the video of Sophie that was nominated for a Best Video Post Pettie.

About Cerebellar Hypoplasia

Cerebellar hypoplasia, or CH, is a congenital disability. It is usually caused by some kind of trauma while a kitten is developing in the womb–anything from a mother’s malnourishment to exposure to feline panleukopenia virus. Individual cats from the same litter may have varying levels of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe.

CH is not contagious; a cat with CH isn’t sick. Because their balance is affected by the condition, CH kitties are uncoordinated; they often are described as walking like drunken sailors–or the way I walked down the halls of a cruise ship that encountered rough seas. Except I was probably not as cheerful about it as Sophie.

A CH cat has the same type of life expectancy as other cats, unless there are other health issues. Since CH isn’t a progressive condition–it doesn’t get worse–cats affected by it often learn to overcome their challenges, not unlike Sophie, our determined friend.

Is a CH cat in your future?

Adopting a special needs pet isn’t for everyone, but they have so much to offer. Cats (and dogs) can have varying levels of disability with CH. If you’re considering adopting a CH kitten or cat, Emily recommends the following resources.


13 Comments on "Story: Sophie, the cat that could"

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  1. I LOVE IT! Thank you so much for doing such a wonderful story on Sophie. I hope that this will encourage and inspire someone else to consider adopting a special-needs animal. I am so excited to read the other stories you will be sharing in this series. Thanks again for inviting us to be a part of this project.

    I have included a link to the story in our post today, and I will be sharing it on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

  2. Brian Frum says:

    Sophie is just totally adorable and we love that she has found the purrfect happy!

  3. Morris Gieselman says:

    We love, love, love our CH Kitty. She is so determined and joyful. Everyone who meets her loves her. She, too, is a great ambassador for differently abled kitties. Sophie, you and your parents are awesome. Thanks for posting!

  4. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    guys…a grate post on R pal sophie !!! N did her tell ewe how manee fish her catched that day her went boatin…..

    pssst… wuz 87,341…her had 87,342 but sum one yelled lunch brake… N whatz a gurl ta due !! ♥

  5. Thank you for sharing Sophie’s story. I can totally relate to what Emily means when she says Sophie is a blessing. I have two special needs cats myself and there isn’t a day where I don’t consider myself lucky to have their love. They bring so much into my life. And the way they constantly overcome their challenges is really amazing; it gives me a lot of hope on the days I feel like giving up.

    Emily is one of the sweetest people, and I’m so happy Sophie found her forever home with such a wonderful person!

  6. Tamago says:

    We love Sophie. She is such an inspiration! And she has the best forever home and wonderful pawrents who love her so dearly.

  7. What a great post! Love Sophie and her mom…such amazing pet owners! I have been wanting to adopt a special-needs pet for a while now, and this interview just added more fuel to the flame! 🙂

  8. Wees luv it. Wees just luv Sophie and all hers furmily. This wus a pawsum posty. 🙂

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi

  9. Dawn says:

    Sophi is adorable! I’m glad the place that had her up for adoption knew what was wrong and that it was nothing to be concerned about.

  10. What a wonderful story. We learned about Sophie from the da trouties of trout towne after we did a story on CH. Our mama has been fostering a CH kitten since he was 3 weeks old and yesterday she signed the adoption papers. We has a new brother.

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