With their soft fur and silly dispositions, cats are one of the most enjoyable pets to have. While kittens are adorable and playful, a healthy cat will still amuse you with its antics well into their senior years. Is your cat losing balance back legs causing you concern? If you notice odd behavior in your cat, it might not be playfulness. If your cat suffers a fall, or suddenly struggles to jump up onto its cat tree, obviously he needs medical attention right away. However, what if your cat seems healthy but can no longer walk without falling? She might be suffering from ataxia.
Why Has My Cat lost its Balance?
Cat Losing Balance Back Legs -Perhaps it’s Ataxia
Ataxia occurs when an injury or illness upsets the vestibular apparatus, which controls balance and coordination, in your cat’s inner ear. Experts refer to this condition as idiopathic because the cause is often unknown.
Ataxia is neurological in origin and includes involuntary muscle movements, such as problems walking, changes in speech, and abnormal eye movements. Basically, it occurs when the vestibulocochlear (auditory) nerve, which transmits sound and balances information from the inner ear to the brain, is damaged. This causes irregular positions of the head or neck.
This condition can make your cat feel movements that are not there, and it can negatively affect their hearing. Symptoms include falling, tipping over, leaning to one side, and rolling over. Other signs include drowsiness, walking around in a stupor, and/or weakness in the legs. Once you notice your cat is having trouble standing up, you will want to watch for the other signs of vestibular disease.
And, while an inner ear infection can certainly cause simple vertigo in your cat, if you notice your cat is stumbling, walking with stiff back legs, or continuously shaking its head, this can be a sign of a more serious problem. Always schedule an exam with your veterinarian to rule out serious illnesses. Below, we provide a guide on ataxia.
If you’d like to see what a cat with ataxia behaves like, check out this video.
Loss of Balance Indicators
- Trouble standing
- Falling down
- Head tilting
- Moving in circles
- Weakness in the limbs
- Continual eye movements
- Noticeable painful meows
- Difficulty hearing
- Vomiting and/or lack of appetite
If you’d like to see what symptoms of ataxia look like, please check out this video.
To rule out any serious issues that may be related to your cat’s loss of balance, such as an injury from falling, schedule a physical exam with your vet. Be sure to ask for ear and neurologic exam as well. Also, bring along any documents that include your cat’s medical history, and be prepared to share the current symptoms.
Although knowing the exact cause of vestibular disease can be difficult to discover, some of the following issues may be responsible:
- Injury or illness in the spinal cord
- Inner ear or middle ear infections
- Injury or illness to the central nervous system
- Brain disorders, including head trauma
- Cancerous tumors in the ear canal, especially with senior cats
Don’t be surprised if your veterinarian orders a battery of tests, including blood, urine, and ear cultures. In some cases, your cat may need specialized tests, like an x-ray, MRI, or a spinal tap. These tests will enable your vet to rule out serious injuries and help with a diagnosis.
For a detailed explanation of ataxia, please check out this video.
Treatment options depend on whether the loss of balance is idiopathic. Your veterinarian may be able to treat a known underlying cause, and they will focus on relieving whatever symptoms your cat may incur. Ear infections, tumors or toxin exposure could be the cause of your cat’s loss of balance. Your veterinarian may put your cat on an antibiotic if it’s an infection, or they may induce vomiting if your cat ate something toxic.
If the loss of balance or vestibular disease is considered idiopathic, i.e., it has no known cause, your vet will simply treat the existing symptoms and make your cat comfortable. As you may know, dizziness can cause loss of appetite and/or vomiting, so your vet may prescribe medication to prevent those symptoms in your cat. If that is the case, your cat may need to stay in a crate padded with blankets to help him or her avoid injury when standing or walking. The good news is that these symptoms usually disappear in about two weeks.
Your veterinarian can treat the underlying cause or symptoms of the loss of balance, but it is still important to schedule a follow-up appointment after the treatment, which allows your veterinarian to make sure the underlying cause has been treated or eliminated. Morever, your vet will make sure your cat has not become sick or injured due to the loss of balance.
We highly recommend closely following the instructions your veterinarian gives you–from helping with feedings to giving medicine. You may need to keep your cat in his or her pet crate until the symptoms disappear. Your veterinarian will tell you when to discontinue the treatment. The underlying cause may be treatable if it is caught early, and idiopathic vestibular disease usually disappears over a short period of time.
If you’d like to see a cat recovering from ataxia, please check out this video.
Health Products for Cats
Below are a few products to keep your cat healthy and prevent problems.
A Few Last Words
Remember that if you have any questions about your cat’s behavior, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking your cat to the vet as soon as you notice signs of illness could prevent serious injury and speed recovery time. We hope you enjoy your cat for a long time.
Please leave us a comment if you have any questions.