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Dr O Jovovich
Dr O Jovovich, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 394
Experience:  BVSc (Bachelor of Veterinary Science - Massey University, NZ)
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My cat is having a hard time walking, she almost looks drunk,

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My cat is having a hard time walking, she almost looks drunk, what could be wrong?

Hi thereCustomer

I would love to help you figure out what is wrong with your kitty but first I will need some more info:

How old is your girl?

Is she on any medication currently?

Has she had any access to poisons, e.g slugbait, antifreeze, lead paint/batteries??

How long has she been having touble?

Any other symptoms such as vomiting/diarrhoea? Vocalising?

Are all 4 legs equally affected?


Thank you,

Dr J

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
She is 9 years old and is currently taking 5mg of prednisolone daily. She also was put on 1/2 tablet of cortisone for the last week. At the vet this morning they gave her an injection of cortisone and an injection of antibiotics. There has been no access to poisons. She has had asthma for years, but the drunk walking happened once a few months ago and twice today. No other symptoms and she doesnt seem to be favoring any certain leg. She tries to walk, goes sideways and eventually just lies down.

Thank you for the extra info,


Has she ever had a full blood panel to investigate this? Any history of renal insuficiency?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
We did a full blood panel the first time she had these episodes and everything came back fine, and no history of renal insuficiency.



There could be several things at play here.Your vet has cerainly done very well to help rule out a lot of potential causes such as hypokalemia, hypercalcemia and hypoglycemia.


One cause of 'drunk walking' or ataxia in cats can be discospondylitis or infection of the intervertebral disk. If this occurs high in the spinal cord (e.g the neck area) it can cause signs in all 4 limbs. The best way to diagnose discospondylitis would be a myelogram (an xray of the spine taken after contrast has been injected into the spinal canal to outline it on films), sample of cerebrospinal fluid is usually collected at the same time (CSF tap) and cultured (to see if bacteria will grow) as well as analysed for protein levels and cell counts that may indicate inflammation.


As your girl is older there is also a possibility of a tumour in the brain causing these signs, also a tumour of the membranes covering the brain that may grow and press on it can cause ataxia in a cat. The only way to diagnose tumours within the skull is an MRI scan.


I would have expected prednisolone (that she is on for asthma) to help if there is an immune-mediated component to this (such as immune-mediated polyarthritis/vasculitis), however, if infection is present a very long course of antibiotics would be necessary and steroids alone are not enough.


If you are certain that your girl could not have ingested any toxins, or be suffering from a electrolyte imbalance (a simple blood test would rule this out) then the only way to diagnose the condition further is specific tests concentrating on the central nervous system. Such as a myelogram, CSF tap, or MRI and CT scans.


Even though what you are describing does not sound like a classical seizure there also is a chance that your kitty is exhibiting signs of a petit mal / partial seizure. The diagnosis of epilepsy is usually reached after everything else that could cause the signs is ruled out.

Seizures can ge classed into 3 different groups:

Seizures resulting from metabolic problems or toxicity (i.e., when the brain itself is normal) are called REACTIVE SEIZURES.

Seizures resulting from an identifiable brain abnormality are called SECONDARY SEIZURES.

Seizures for which neither of the above problems apply (i.e., when no cause can be found) are called PRIMARY SEIZURES.


Again a blood panel is the first step in diagnosis (and would be worth repeating if the last one was performed a year ago) followed by more specific tests.

If you are concerned about the 'drunk' state of your cat or if she does not seem to come through this episode by herself as she did last time I recommend that you take her to your local Vet or ER Vet for examination.



I hope this helps, it is a difficult condition to attempt to diagnose without a hands-on exam. Please let me know if I can be of more help.


Dr J

Dr O Jovovich and other Cat Specialists are ready to help you

Hi again and thanks for the accept.


Just another thought I have just had! This could also be related to a middle ear infection or could be a central or peripheral vestibular problem and tests by you Vet will allow these diagnoses to be found or denied. If you get an MRI done - this will be more than enough to help diagnose one of these problems!


I hope this has been of help.


Dr J