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Undiagnosed neuromotor syndrome, feline – UK: (Scotland)

The disease which is turning British cats into living robots… and experts say there’s no cure
Cats are being struck down by a mystery disease that turns them into
“living robots”. Their legs become rigid, giving them an odd, stiff
gait, their personality changes, and their tail stiffens and sticks

There is no known treatment or cure. The symptoms become progressively
worse, and the animals are put down when their suffering becomes too
much. The condition has baffled vets, as tests for numerous viruses
have come back negative. Their best guess is that the pets caught the
disease while out hunting.

Around 50 cases have been spotted in Scotland in the past decade,
along with one in Liverpool, but researchers believe more may have
gone unreported elsewhere. The outbreak appears to be centred in a
rural area between Inverness and Aberdeen. Vets there have treated
around 20 “robotic” cats, including 2 that have only recently become

Jeannette Andrew, of the Strathbogie Veterinary Centre in
Aberdeenshire, said: “They look like robots. They get a bit lost and
get stuck in corners and don’t know how to reverse and turn round.”

Danielle Gunn-Moore, a professor of feline medicine at Edinburgh
University, said: “Their head is forward; their chin is slightly down;
their ears are forward, and they have a very stiff walk and a stiff
tail. They walk like robots.”

The condition also affects personality, with most of the sick animals
becoming more affectionate. Some, however, become aggressive.

As it doesn’t seem to spread between cats, and all the sick animals
are avid hunters, experts believe the most likely source to be a
mutant virus carried by mice or voles.

Professor Gunn-Moore said: “We have looked in the blood, in the brain
fluid and in brain sections. We have looked for the presence of
viruses in the brain, and so far we’ve been able to rule out vast
numbers but can’t find the one that’s causing it.”

Vets have tried treatments including painkillers, vitamins,
antibiotics and drugs normally given to multiple sclerosis sufferers,
but none have held the disease at bay.

The animals, which are usually elderly, gradually become more
disabled, and when they start to find it hard to swallow, they are
usually put down, normally within a year of falling ill.

So far, the “robotic cat” in Liverpool is the only one treated outside
Scotland, and it is believed it may have caught the disease while
living in the Highlands.

A similar condition, known as “staggering disease” has been seen in
Sweden and Austria. However, the cats there do not develop stiff

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