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Loss of Balance In Cats

by vomkompass

Have you noticed your cat moving to one side, tilting their head or other similar symptoms? They may be suffering from ataxia, a sensory dysfunction that affects the coordination of the limbs, head or trunk.

Generally when your cat’s brain and spinal cord are compromised this prevents their ability to communicate with the rest of the body’s nervous system which is what will cause many cases of ataxia and loss of balance.

While cats are typically elegant and graceful creatures, they are not exempt from balance issues. If you notice one or two instances where your cat is being a little clumsy, it is probably nothing more than that. But if it’s beginning to occur on a fairly regular basis, then it may be something more serious.

There are three different types of ataxia that all affect the nervous system in various ways: sensory, vestibular and cerebellar.

Sensory ataxia

This is when the spinal cord is slowly compressed. A cat with this type of ataxia will often be misplacing their feet and experiencing progressive weakness.

Vestibular ataxia

This is when the nerves that carry information from the inner ear to the brain are damaged. Some signs that indicate this may be what your cat is experiencing include: changes to the head and neck, problems hearing, falling or rolling over, changing eye movements, weakness in the legs and drowsiness.

Cerebellar ataxia

This is when your cat’s motor skills and activity are affected. You will notice that the limbs, head and neck are uncoordinated. They may be also stepping oddly, having tremors of the body or head and the body swaying.


There are various symptoms that could indicate that your cat indeed has ataxia, many of which are listed above, but let’s recap here:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Weakness of the limbs (can affect one or all of the limbs, or just the limbs on one side of the body)
  • Stumbling or swaying
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Changes to behaviour
  • Tilting head to one side
  • Not responding to being called
  • Abnormal eye movements


There is a huge variety of conditions that could be the cause of your cat’s ataxia:

  • Cysts
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Middle ear or fungal infections
  • Cancer
  • Degeneration of spinal cord and nerves
  • Malformation of spinal cord
  • Anemia
  • Low potassium
  • Low blood sugar
  • Spinal cyst
  • Blockages of blood vessels (blood clot)
  • Encephalitis – acute inflammation of the brain
  • Ear infections
  • Ear mites
  • Neurological disorders

Other causes for loss of balance include arthritis, senility and Alzheimer’s disease.

In other cases, medications used to treat other conditions can cause a loss of balance. And sometimes, it’s just old age causing your cat to not be as coordinated as they once were.


What’s important to note is that many of the conditions above are degenerative so if you suspect something is up, don’t hang around to see if it gets worse-take your cat to the vet ASAP. Your vet will need to know thorough details on your cat’s health and what symptoms they are experiencing. Most likely, blood tests and urine samples will be taken to try and make an initial diagnosis. Medical imaging including X-rays and ultrasounds will also be required to see the exact location of any diseases and to evaluate it’s progression.

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 ,Loss of Balance In Cats

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