My Cat Keeps Shaking Her Head And Appears To Be Unstable On Her Legs 

Question : my cat keeps shaking her head an appears to be unstable on her legs.

My cat was fine when we left. Came home about 4 hours later. The cat stumbled off the couch and tried to walk a little and laid down. Her eyes are moving sided to side and her head shakes a little. Any ideas?? Very worried! 


Hi this has come on fast. There are several causes which occur to me:

  • An inner ear infection could cause balance problems.
  • Your cat may have eaten a toxic substance. 
  • If your cat is old or if she has had a some sort of head trauma she may have suffered a stroke of some sort.

In any case this is serious and she needs to see a vet as soon as possible. Do not delay, as depending on its cause the sooner treatment is given the better the outcome.

Inner ear infections can be caused by ear mites. Have your checked her ears for mites? This is one of the most common causes for cat head shaking. Ear mites can be easily treated during the early stages before infection occurs. please see my page below for more information.

Find more information about cat ear mites here.

A product like Ear Clean Gold is a good option if you do suspect your cat has ear mites. I like it because It is made with natural ingredients. Kate

Feline Ear Clear Drops for Cat Ear Mites
The natural herbs found in Feline Ear Clear Drops help to fight viral infections, anxiety and depression. It also acts as a disinfectant.

Related Questions And Comments

Question - Trouble walking and front paw walking on top of other paw.

I took my cat to the vet 3 times now and 4 xrays of front and back paw on left side. Blood test is good urine test was a little off but turn to normal after a few days. He is 15 years old never had a problem. The first visit he got a rabies shot for the year and only had his back leg hurting then. when we got home it look like he snap his paw but was walking on it instantly with no pain. 2nd visit he got worst with his front paw and nothing found wrong. The 3rd visit he started walking on top of his front paw and im doing massage therapy with him. It helps a little but now he is slowly getting worst. Don't know if the vet can help any more since they have not found anything wrong. I will ask for the inner ear to be check next.

Your vet should have done all the checks anyway. if they have not then i would say go to another vet for a second opinion. I am lucky I have a great vet who does every check possible as a matter of course we don't have to ask him to do anything.

At 15 your cat is getting old and sometimes things like dementia can affect your cats behavior and health in ways that are not always treatable.
I wish both you and your cat all the best.

Question - Cat looking dazed, slight movement of head

My daughter's 8 year old cat started having some episodes where she stops in her tracks, looks dazed and her head moves from side to side as if she's following a fly in the air. She lets out a pathetic meow and tries to take a step but leg goes limp. About a minute later she is OK. Daughter took her to the Vets and he couldn't find anything wrong with her. Gave some antibiotics and everything was good for a few weeks but now she's doing it again. Very upsetting to watch.

The post where someone mentions Polyps on the inner ear might be something we are going to mention to the vet, although I tend to think it's something neurological and we're talking big bucks to diagnose. I'm sure many tests have to be done to diagnose something like this as it's not like an obvious symptom. 

Question - Eyes shaking back and forth, head nodding, difficulty standing. by: Nicole 

My cat Janet had that issue as well until one day it got so bad she couldn't stand up. I took her to the vet and they told me she had a neurological problem, that she was having seizures. They said I could spend thousand trying to figure out what exactly the problem was or put her to sleep.

Comments From site visitor

Hi,just googling on subject.if it helps anyone,my cat woke up Monday morning to her back legs being wobbly,unstable on her feet,not eating or drinking.eyes flicking side to side.took her to vets after work(Monday evening) an he suggested possible mini stroke.gave her a injection(mixture of 2 by looking at the bill)but did say if no improvement in a couple days, it would be best to put her down.she was worse Tuesday morning though came home to check her dinnertime but she had died.may never know reasons how or why though she was 15 years was very helpful and the injection was only £6.oo so no excuse not to try!!a workmate suggested possible stroke to. 

Question - Ear polyps by: Anonymous 

I have a kitten who had a polyp removed about 3 however still cannot walk good and sleeps most of the day. Has bad problems. Don't know if she'll ever walk or play right again. Any ideas from anyone as to what I can do? Already spent over a thousand dollars! Help!

She could have an inner ear infection which is causing balance problems. Sometimes surgery can cause infections. Sorry to say that you need to take your cat back to the vet who will check for infection and hopefully be able to prescribe some antibiotics for the cat.

Your cat needs to see a vet urgently before any permanent damage is caused.

Question -My cat rolls around and then grab the ground with tense body and head shaking

My cat is 8 and always been healthy till about 4 months ago my boyfriend and I notice that after we would play with him and he would roll around and then all of the sudden he would grab the ground , body tense , eyes wide and his head would shake back and forth.

We took him to the vet and they did a blood test which was normal and did an exam and everything is fine. well I looked on line about seizures and it didn't look like anything my cat was doing. It only happens for 4 seconds and My cat seems fine afterwards, still eats and wants to play. It seems to only happen when he gets excited and rolls around.

Now I have notice that his equilibrium is a little off, not wobbly, falling down all the time but falling of the couch more when walking on the edge. he walks fine and still jumps too but I am worried and need help trying to figure out why he has his little episodes. the vet recommended a MRI at 1,8oo dollars. I would like to do some more trouble shooting before I spend money I don't have. I love him as if he was by baby, please any suggestions. 

Question - Ear infection by: Anonymous 

My cat is suffering from ear mites ( I did not know) I went to the VET - completely useless one! He did some tests and said he thinks it is simply skin infection and I need to get some cream which neither he no any chemists have. (very useful answer!) 2 weeks later, ears got really bad and I went on "Google". All symptoms indicated ear mites  so I bought ear drops and used every day, I cleaned ears 3 times a day ), cotton wool was disgustingly dirty brown. My cat is getting better now, head shaking got less often.

Question - Shaking, Falling, Vibrating eyes by: Angie 

One outside kitten, about 10 weeks old, came inside for the night with his brothers and sisters. He walked in circles and fell often. His eyes and head would move constantly like someone had just spun him and he was in a constant state of dizzy. His fur smelled like laundry soap. And he was happy. He didn't stop purring or wanting us to hold him for hours. We didn't have the money to take him to the vet so we just watched him.

Eventually, that night he quit and has been fine ever since. I tend to agree that these cats showing these signs have ingested some toxin. Unstable, shaking, dizzy, shaky eyes seems to be the regular signs of this. Although, if these are short bouts, then consider epilepsy. Longer episodes consider exposure to toxins. If you are able, go to the vet.

We just fed our cat milk during this time. He did seem thirsty and if it was a toxin water or milk helps to dilute it. Although he did seem to have been exposed to some toxin it seemed to give him a high rather than pain. I don't know how fruitful it is to take them to the vet if it is a deadly poison, except to give them something to deal with the pain if they seem to be hurting.

Question - Cat's head jerking to the side by: Andie 

We found our cat hiding in the closet this morning. He had difficulty walking and his head kept jerking to the side. Pretty scary. 

Even though it is Sunday, our vet met us at the office. He did blood work and examined Kitler. No fever, heart sounded fine, but he noticed a little discharge from his nose and that his eyes were jerking to the side, like his head. 

Kitler got 2 injections, an antibiotic and a steroid. He got strong antibiotic, antifungal, and steroid drops in his ears and stayed at the vet to be in a quiet place. 

Ear trouble didn't sound likely to me - this looked worse, like a stroke or brain damage but the web agrees with him. The vet says he will probably be back to normal in a few days. We will up this if thing things do no turn out well. 

Comments From Visitor

Could Be Polyps In the Middle Ear! by: Kari 

PLEASE TALK TO YOUR VET ABOUT POLYPS! The symptoms you are all describing are that of polyps that may have grown to the middle ear. All of the symptoms that you are describing of losing balance, shaking of head, and strange movement of eyes would fit this diagnosis. Google it, but talk to your vet! 

Probably Poison by: Anonymous 

MY cat had the same symptoms. She had fits of seizures and times where she would lay down on her stomach, arms straight out to each side, claws in the ground, head to the side, eyes wide, and wail.

She would attempt to stand and walk but she would fall to one side. Her eyes later began to quickly move back and forth and she couldn't eat, sleep, walk, or hold herself up to use the litter box. She was taken to the vet within 24 hours and the vet said it was very probable that she had gotten into some sort of poison and that it had affected her nervous system.

The vet offered to do tests but said she was probably beyond help. My kitty was put down there at the vet and didn't have to suffer too long. Poisons can be in mice, pesticides on lawns, or antifreeze that drips from a cars and is licked up by a cat. If anyone else has these symptoms in their cat, take them to the vet ASAPPPPPP!!!!!! 

My cat experienced this by: Anonymous 

...when she was seventeen years old. I'd only had her for five months and I was afraid she was failing on me. She'd walk along the wall or against me for balance, wouldn't eat etc. Vet check revealed an inner ear infection that was cleared up with antibiotics. Hope this helps, good luck.


My baby kitten has no balance any suggestions what might be wrong? 

by: My baby kitten has no balance! 

My Baby kitten is not full grown he is not half grown he is just a little bit bigger than the newborns babies. He can not stand up or walk if he tries he falls to the side and he moves his head around because he has no balance.

He knows what is going on he is just fine but he does not know why he can not balance himself. He is purring but he can not eat so we are giving him some medicine and we are hoping it kicks that virus and he gets better.

My dad thinks it might be his ear, he says it might be an ear infection that is causing him to lose balance. He says it could be distemper but now he says he does not act like he has distemper he says his balance is way off and we cant afford the veterinarian. So we are doing our best to take care of the baby he says he is afraid to take our baby to the vet because he will know what the vet will say he will say you will probably have to put him to sleep and I don't want to I love that baby kitten! Does anybody have any suggestions what might be wrong with him it would really help if I could get some help or suggestions what might be wrong somebody please help me?

I'm sorry but if you have a pet you must also be able to afford vet bills. that's just the way it is.

Your kitten needs to be seen by a vet so that you can get a proper diagnosis. Check with your vets to see if they have any payment plans or if there is a animal charity who may be able to help.

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