Vestibular disorders are common in cats. The vestibular apparatus
(called the labyrinth) is a complex sense organ composed of three semicircular
canals, plus the utricle and the saccule. The labyrinth is stimulated by
gravity and rotational movements. It plays an important role in balance and
orienting the body in space. Inflammation of the labyrinth is called
A cat with labyrinthitis has a problem with balance. The animal wobbles,
circles, falls and rolls over, and has trouble righting herself. She may lean
against the wall for support and crouch low to the floor when walking. The cat
often shows rapid jerking eye movements (nystagmus), and her head will usually
tilt down on one side. When picked up and turned in a circle, the cat will act
even more dizzy. There may be vomiting and deafness.
Weaning is the process of transitioning kittens from mother’s milk to solid food. During weaning, kittens gradually progress from dependence on a mother’s care to social independence. Ideally, weaning is handled entirely by the mother cat. However, if the kitten in your care has been separated from his mother or if you are fostering a litter or a pregnant cat about to give birth, seeing the young ones through a successful weaning process may be up to you.
A common cause of labyrinthitis is inner ear infection. Other causes
include stroke, brain tumor, head trauma, brain
infection, drug intoxication (especially by the aminoglycoside antibiotics), and thiamin
A congenital vestibular defect is seen in Oriental breeds. Kittens show a
head tilt, circling, and rolling behaviors. Siamese kittens with this condition
may also be deaf. There is no cure.
Idiopathic vestibular syndrome is the most common cause of labyrinthitis in
cats. The onset is sudden and the cause is unknown. The signs include a head
tilt and nystagmus, and cats may have difficulty walking. There is an increase
in these cases in July and August in the northeastern United States, suggesting
an environmental cause.
Treatment: With cases of idiopathic vestibular syndrome, in two to three
days, the cat begins to recover on her own. In most cases, the cat is well in
three weeks, although some cats retain a permanent head tilt. During the
recovery period, the cat will need supportive care.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"