Cat Is Walking in Circles and Acting Disoriented

By Lisa McQuerrey

If your cat begins to walk steadily in circles or acts confused or disoriented, take her to see a vet right away, particularly if she exhibits other troubling physical symptoms. The cat might have a simple ear infection, or she might have suffered a head injury or developed a serious disorder.

Ear Infection

When an ear infection throws off a cat’s balance, it makes the cat appear wobbly and off-kilter. A cat with an ear infection might also exhibit nausea and lack appetite. Other signs of an ear infection include head tilt, head shaking and ear discharge. An ear infection's cause could be one of many things, such as ear wax buildup, an ear tumor, allergies or a ruptured eardrum, but the most likely culprit is eat mites. Your vet will inspect your cat’s ears and treat the ailment accordingly, typically with antibiotics, corticosteroids or anti-parasitic or anti-fungal medications.

Hypoglycemia

If your cat acts confused, shivers, has seizures or collapses, she could be suffering from hypoglycemia, a condition in which blood sugar levels drop precipitously, typically due to an insulin overdose. This is most often observed in cats being treated for diabetes. Other symptoms include trembling, pale gums and anxiety. Call your vet immediately. He may have you administer a sugar solution at home to stop the episode and will probably want to see your cat for blood tests and urinalysis as soon as possible.

Head Injury

A cat who walks in circles may be suffering from a head injury or from a head or sinus tumor. Other signs of head trauma include lethargy, unusual eye movement or a difference in pupil size. Your cat may tilt her head or experience bleeding from her ears or nose. Your vet will likely perform a physical and neurological examination and possibly perform blood tests and X-rays to diagnose the problem. Inform your vet if your cat is taking medications, like metronidazole, that can cause nerve damage that results in disorientation.

Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome

A cat’s vestibular system controls balance, and when something is off with the system, a cat may walk in circles or fall over. There’s no particular cause or cure for the syndrome, which can strike cats of any age. Some cats may show few symptoms and recover without intervention, but severe cases may require medical attention. Your vet may prescribe something to help with the dizziness and accompanying nausea that accompany the disorder.

Handling a Disoriented Cat

A cat who's in pain, is confused or is disoriented may be a challenge to handle. Use caution when approaching your cat, as she may bite or claw out of fear. Wear long sleeves and gloves, and cover her gently with a blanket or towel as you place her in her carrier for transport. Let your vet know if she’s behaving aggressively so medical personnel can take precautions as well.