Dizzy Kitty
February 20, 2007 6:04 PM   Subscribe

Strange Cat Behavior Filter: My beloved old cat had what looked like a transient dizzy spell last night. What could have caused it?

Last night my 14-year-old cat was sitting peacefully on the couch with me, when he suddenly started circling his head as though he was following a fly. I thought that's all it was, until he tried to get up and was weaving and lurching all over the place.

He wasn't jerking or spasming; instead, it looked like he was dizzy and couldn't get his balance. When I put my hands on him he was still, but then started moving in that weird way again. He seemed distressed but not in pain. Pupils were equal size, somewhat dilated.

He got up from the couch and wobbled toward the stairs, which he climbed with some unsteadiness. By the time he got to the top his movements were returning to normal. Total time elapsed was maybe five minutes. He's seemed fine ever since: eating and drinking normally, no other weird spells.

He's in excellent health except for hyperthyroid and a little bit of kidney trouble, for which he has been recently seen by a vet. Yes, I will take him to the vet if anything else funny happens.

Have you ever seen anything like this, or can you think what might have caused it?
posted by ottereroticist to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Vestibular syndrome? An ear infection can affect balance.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2007

I don't mean to alarm you, but it could've been a stroke. The procedure for determining if it was a stroke is fairly overwrought, so it's up to you and your vet. I hope your kitty is just fine.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:15 PM on February 20, 2007

I think it's the hyperthyroidism. Consider these two items from a checklist of symptoms of that disorder:

My eyes get jumpy/tics in eyes, which makes me dizzy/vertigo and have headaches

I have vertigo

Good luck with your kitty!
posted by jamjam at 6:41 PM on February 20, 2007

posted by jamjam at 6:44 PM on February 20, 2007

The hyperthyroid is being treated with meds and seems to be under control. Vestibular syndrome sounds like it usually lasts longer. Leading theory so far is a small stroke.

I will be calling the vet in the a.m. to talk it over and to see if there's anything we can do to keep him from having more.

Thanks, other ideas still welcome.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:48 PM on February 20, 2007

I hope it's the hyperthyroid also. I'm a bit stroke wary since a family member suffered one that made him dizzy for awhile but then he seemed fine moments after.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:49 PM on February 20, 2007

The other posters may very well have it, but I'm just proposing this possibility:


I have not ever seen it.

One of our two cats was recently diagnosed with diabetes, putting her on a twice-a-day injection regimen. And leading us to learn that typical dry cat food (essentially ANY dry cat food) is basically sugary breakfast cereal for your cat. Keep feeding it that junk and yeah it's going to become diabetic. It's a carnivore, feed it real meat.
posted by intermod at 7:44 PM on February 20, 2007

My cat had somewhat similar attacks, although he didn't generally recover so quickly (got over the weird attack just fine but felt ill/acted sad afterwards so we took him to the vet). Turns out he had hepatic encephalitis (i.e. his liver stopped working and the toxin build up made his brain swell) which eventually killed him (11 months later). If we'd been able to get it diagnosed when the first attacks occurred rather than four months later then he would have deteriorated less in the meantime and lived a lot longer (hepatic kitties can live five or six years if they're lucky).

Now I don't think for a second this is what your cat has. But there are lots of things it can be and getting it diagnosed early can make a huge difference. So definitely follow up with your vet as planned and be prepared to do tests and whatever you need to figure this out. Our vet brushed it off and I wish I'd been more aggressive about following it up.

Your vet should be interested in exactly how your kitty was moving (were his eyes following something not there, was he lifting his legs up high while walking, did he go backwards, did he sway, the pupil dilated thing, etc). These physical symptoms can mean different things and are relevant for making a diagnosis so think about it a bit now and give clear details when you talk to the vet. It sounds like you took a lot of notice of what was going on so this should be OK anyway.
posted by shelleycat at 8:57 PM on February 20, 2007

My cat who died of diabetes also got those. They were very momentary and fleeting. He'd get up stumble a smidge, shake his head and keep going. Probably worth a vet visit. Hope he's okay :)
posted by heartquake at 7:04 AM on February 21, 2007

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