What To Know About Vestibular Disease In Cats?

Vestibular Disease In Cats

Vestibular Disease In Cats: It can be a little alarming to find out that your cat is suddenly falling over and unable to get up normally. Although you may worry about a stroke, your cat’s difficulty with mobility could also be due to something called vestibular disease.

Feline Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome (FGVS) is also known as Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome.  It affects your cat’s sense of balance and can occur in cats of any age. Learn how to recognize the signs and learn about medical conditions with similar symptoms.

What is Vestibular Disease in Cats?

Sometimes called feline idiopathic vestibular disease or feline vestibular syndrome, vestibular disease in cats is a process that affects the vestibular center of your cat’s brain.  When functioning properly, the vestibular center of the brain functions to help your cat with balance, coordination, and limb awareness.

There are two main types of vestibular disease in cats. Central vestibular disease occurs when a brain infection or tumor adversely affects the vestibular center of your cat. Peripheral vestibular disease occurs when the nerves to the ear or the brain are affected.

Vestibular disease can occur in cats of all ages and breeds, although some breeds, such as the Siamese and Burmese, have been shown to suffer from a congenital form of the disease.

Symptoms of Vestibular Disease in Cats

Feline geriatric vestibular syndrome causes a cat to lose all sense of balance like severe vertigo in humans. The cause is unknown, although it may be due to changes in the inner ear. It is also possible that inflammation of the nerves in the inner ear leads to this condition.  During an episode of idiopathic vestibular syndrome, your cat will feel dizzy and may have additional symptoms.

Difficulty Walking

Movement is adversely affected by FGVS and it increases with the stages of the disease. It is also known as ataxia.

  • In the early stages of FGVS, you will notice that your cat is ‘hugging’ the walls and moving erratically as if she is erratic and unbalanced.
  • As the disease progresses, this may include falling, running into walls or objects, and walking in circles.
  • In advanced stages, your cat will stagger and stumble and may be unable to walk.

Abnormal Eye Movement

A cat’s eyes will move around, moving rapidly in all directions. This is known as nystagmus.  You may also see strabismus which is a deviation of the eyeball or ‘crossed eyes’.

Also Read: How To Treat Cat Eye Infection? 

Bowed Head

Cats with FGVS may tilt their head to the side with the ear attached to the wound. If both ears are affected, the cat will move its head from corner to corner as they walk. With the head tilted the cat may tilt its entire body to one side.


Your cat may make noises as if she is distressed and upset. Her usual meow may change to a louder and more urgent sound.

Loss of Appetite

Cats with FGVS have low appetite. This can be due to nausea as well as physical difficulty in eating and drinking when they are unable to control their head and body movements properly. This can eventually lead to weight loss if left untreated.

Stomach Problems

Cats with FGVS are often nauseous, you may notice them vomiting more often. This can cause upset stomach, including diarrhea.


Weakness and lethargy are common symptoms of FGVS. Since your cat will have motion sickness and nausea, they will have less urge to get up and move around, and their poor appetite will also lead to weakness. You may also see them hiding more often because they don’t feel very well and want to be in a quiet, low-stress place to feel safe.

Fit Like Episode 

Cats with more advanced FGVS will experience episodes similar to those of vision loss. This can happen if the cat has a collection of common symptoms all at once.

Facial fall

You can see the side slits of the faces of some cats with FGVS. This drooping is often caused by inflammation or, worse, a tumor in the inner and middle ear on that side of the face.

Duration of Symptoms

It can last from a few days to a few months depending on the individual episode. It is interesting to note that this disease does not just affect cats. Large dogs and rabbits also seem to be susceptible.

Diagnosis Of Feline Vestibular Disease

Your vet will first examine your cat very carefully with a complete ear examination.  Your vet will also examine your cat’s eyes and perform blood tests. Imaging tests may be done to locate the tumor if initial tests are inconclusive. It is not unusual for the vet to find a definite cause of the problem.

Treatment For Feline Vestibular Disease

  • If your veterinarian cannot find an obvious cause, they will probably prescribe an antibiotic if there is an infection that was missed in the tests.
  • An antifungal may also be included along with medications to reduce the symptoms of nausea and motion sickness.
  • You may need to hand feed and water your cat. Because the fine motor nerves are affected, it can be nearly impossible for your cat to eat food on his own.
  • The prognosis of feline vestibular disease
  • The problem should start to clear up in a few days, especially if there is no underlying cause.

The Prognosis Of Feline Vestibular Disease

The problem should start to clear up in a few days, especially if there is no underlying cause.

  • Sometimes a cat with FGVS will only be left with a permanent tilt to its head, but this does not seem to prevent the affected cat from living a full and comfortable life.
  • Typically, a cat that has had an occurrence of the syndrome will not get it again. However, there are some instances where there was a recurrence of symptoms, so this may be the case.

Also Read: Cat With Down Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Tips For Caring For Your Cat During Recovery

While you cannot speed up recovery, there are some things you can do to make it easier on you and your cat.

  • Keep the cat away from stairs and other areas where she could injure herself.
  • Keep your pet indoors.
  • Follow your veterinarian’s instructions exactly.
  • Give your cat all of his medication, even if the symptoms are gone before the medication is over.

Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:

  • how to get rid of old stains
  • fainting
  • convulsions
  • recovery
  • recurrence of symptoms
  • worsening of symptoms

Other Diseases That Cause Vertigo And Similar Symptoms In Cats

You must take your cat to the vet immediately if she exhibits any of these symptoms. While Feline Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome is not fatal, there may be other reasons for your cat to exhibit the behaviors listed above. Some other possible causes can be fatal, so it’s a good idea to have your pet checked out.

Other conditions that may have similar or similar symptoms:

  • ear infections
  • cancer
  • brain trauma (being hit by a car, etc.)
  • poisoning
  • tumor
  • thiamine deficiency in cat’s diet 

Feline Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome and Your Cat

The symptoms of vestibular syndrome can be frightening, but they usually do not pose a danger to your cat. Remain calm, reassure your pet and take him to the vet as soon as possible. A quick diagnosis can be especially important if symptoms are caused by a more serious illness.

Vidhi Kapoor

Hi, I'm Vidhi! I have 2 years of content writing experience. I am running think-how.com, myinvestmentplaybook.com and smallpetanimals.com websites individually. And also I work for many other agencies and websites.

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