Lurch's Story

May 12, 2004

Our "special needs" kitty.

Lurch came to us in August of 1996, and we've had many questions about him since.

Lurch was part of a feral litter, found by our veterinarian's daughter in an empty lot. The mother was taken by animal control, but the litter was left behind. One by one, all were adopted to friends and clientele, until only Lurch was left.

The problem, of course, was that Lurch was, well, a little different. All the other kittens were healthy, but Lurch suffers from a condition known as "cerebellar hypoplasia". We believe this is due to the mother having had distemper during her pregnancy. The effects are, as best we can fathom, a serious lack of balance; impaired  fine motor skills that result in a shaky or "wobbly" motion , and an apparent bad case of far-sightedness. As a kitten, Lurch could barely walk.

1996 is the year we lost both of our dogs; the Newfoundland, Elsie on Easter, and later that summer Shasta, the Rottweiller. It was as we were dealing with Shasta for the last time at the veterinarian's that we met Lurch. Perhaps it was part of our grieving process for Shasta, perhaps we felt sorry for him, but whatever the reason, Lurch came with us.

In the years since, Lurch has grown into a seriously happy and healthy cat. Our two Manx-mixes, Ziggy and Zak, took him under their wings from the first day and taught him how to be a cat. While we certainly had reservations initially, he's adjusted to his disabilities to such an extent that even the word "disability" seems much too strong.

What he lacks for in physical ability, Lurch makes up for in other ways. He's an exceptionally smart cat, with an excess of personality. He learned quickly to compensate for his shortcomings; for example by using the ramps we provided for the stairs, or by carefully, claw-by-claw, climbing to the top of our 7 foot cat-tree.

Because of his condition, he's been referred to as "God's kitty" by at least one visitor, but we know that he's got a wee bit o' the devil in him as well. He likes to periodically ambush one of the dogs or other cats. He may fail, (attempting to jump forward is just as likely to result in a jump to the left or straight up), but he does so with great gusto.

We featured Lurch on our 1999 Christmas card:

That's Vera in front looking unhappy about being Santa-pup, but you can clearly see that Lurch is very intrigued by what he sees. Note his wide eyed look and the wide stance of his feet. Both are fairly typical.

Luch's accomplishments are best seen "in motion", though, so click here for a video of Lurch navigating the stairs to the basement. (It's a large download: 7,174,614 bytes). You'll see cameos of several of our other pets as well. Note how Lurch leans against the wall as he goes up and down, and the stilted way he walks on level ground. Interestingly enough, he does not use a similar ramp we have for him to go upstairs, preferring to simply anchor/claw himself to each carpeted step on the way.

Lurch passed away 24-Jan-2009.