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petdrz, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 7350
Experience:  Over 30 years of experience in caring for dogs and cats.
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Suddenly, in the past 24 hours, our cat started walking in

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Suddenly, in the past 24 hours, our cat started walking in circles, first just last night. The cat was completely disoriented. I believed the cat was going blind as well, since it seemed to be bumping into things. Right now she is very weak & walks incredibly slowly, always in a left-turn circles. Another 7 hours later and now she just lays there unable to move. It's weird that she was so active only 30 hours ago...
Hello and thanks for trusting me to help you and Loucy today. I am a veterinarian with over 25 years experience and would be happy work with you but have a few questions in order to better assist you, if you don't mind.

Does Loucy have any discharge coming from either of her ears?

If you look at her eyes are the pupils normal in size or are they dilated?

When you hold her head still, do her eyes appear to be "twitching" form one side to the other or up and down?

Thanks and I will respond further after you reply. There may be a short delay while I formulate an type my response.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

No discharge. I looked into her ears since I was thinking something was related to inner ear issue.


Her pupils are dilated. About 20 hours ago her eyes were twitching right and left.


And right now she's having some spasms.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Now she is just staring with dilated pupils. And she's making this terrifying coughing sound every 30 seconds or so. I know she can hear me, but she cannot move. Also her front paws, last night claws were extended and curled under.


Right now she's laying comfortably. She stopped coughing, her heart is racing, and she's breathing deliberately. I know she can see me, but she cannot move.


Twice now she moved her front paws like she was trying to run or right herself.

Thank you for the reply.

This definitely sounds like something that you should have examined by your veterinarian very soon. Many of the signs that you describe are consistent with the condition called vestibular syndrome. This is a condition involving the nerve or area of the brain that controls a cats sense of balance. The nerve involved travels from the brain the inner ear, so that a common cause of this can be an inner ear infection (which may or may not have discharge visible). Another very common cause is referred to as idiopathic vestibular syndrome. In this case, the reason why the vestibular symptoms acutely appear is unknown, but the good news is that they resolve on their own, usually in a week or two. Finally, another, less common cause of this syndrome could occur if there were a lesion in the brain itself, like for instance a tumor or inflammatory condition. All of the above causes can present with very similar signs and it can be a challenge to differentiate the cause at times, but there may be vague differences noted during the neurologic exam that may help to differentiate.

Regardless of the cause, in all cases, supportive care is needed. These poor cats feel like the room is spinning and are often unable to move. This can make eating and drinking as well as getting around very difficult. Medications designed for motion sickness can help and can be prescribed. Of course the ears should be examined with an otoscope and if there is any question of inner ear involvement that should be ruled out. An xray of the skull may be necessary to do that. More advanced testing may be recommended if there is suspicion or brain or other neurologic involvement.

Here is a link with a more detailed explanation of the condition that it sounds like Loucy may be dealing with.

I hope this is helpful. My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have received anything less, please reply back as I am happy to address follow-up questions. Kindly rate me when you are done. Thank you for allowing me to assist you.

Dr Z

petdrz and 2 other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
I just read your second reply and it sounds as if she is having a very hard time with this. For some cats the symptoms can be mild, but in some cases, it can be almost debilitating to the point that they literally cannot move (not that they don't try to). This can lead to a lot of anxiety as well and that may be a reason for the dilated pupils and the heavy breathing. In any case, I would still seek veterinary intervention for her as soon as you can.
Thank you kindly for the positive rating. It is truly appreciated.

Good luck with Loucy and please keep me updated as to her progress.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I have read many, many articles before using this service (which I think is awesome). It seems to me something besides the vestibular syndrome might be going on.


The whole scenario was that in the middle of the night she started yowling and was in our bedroom, pacing, yowling, and this pacing was all in a left-hand circle. I put her on the bed but that made her pace on the bed. This was all so strange. I picked her up and her pupils were dilated and they were moving back and forth as if she was extremely dizzy (almost like she had "tunnel vision eyes").

I held her for many hours in the middle of the night and got her to eat some food. She used to drink a very large amount of water each day, which has been increasing over time the past 6 months or so.

Last evening, after laying on the floor for many hours, she started to try to walk. And she made very slow circles and seemed to bump into things as if they weren't there. I know she can see and I know she sees things, but she just can't figure out what's happening to her.

I got her to eat some food last night but since then, nothing. She's not interested in food or water and is just laying on a pillow on the floor.

She recently started this occasional spasm sort of thing where she moved her front paws like she was trying to run, and soon after, started this terrifying cough. I initially thought she was gasping for air and that this was it for her. But that has now stopped and she's laying on the pillow comfortably, breathing sorta heavy, and completely listless with her eyes open.

I agree that her symptoms seem severe for the usual presentation of vestibular disease, but some are affected worse than others. The acute presentation and the way it started out with circling and nystagmus (eyes moving back and forth) would support that. The dilated pupils may be a fear reaction, or it may be more. Even if she is still able to see, dilated and unresponsive pupils can be a sign of brain or ocular disease.

I am not sure what to make of the paddling type motion of her front paws and the cough. It sounds suggestive of a possible seizure. If that were the case, I would be more worried about central versus peripheral involvement of the vestibular system. This means that the potential lesion may be in the brain, versus in the nerve. The link that I sent along does talk a little about central lesions. I apologize that the article is geared toward the presentation in dogs, but it is really the same when we are dealing with cats. After a thorough physical exam and neurologic evaluation, your vet should be able to better localize the potential lesion and make sure there is nothing else going on.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you so much for your help. What you've said seems consistent with what I've read, and I really like having someone on the other end confirming this.


I am planning to take her to the vet this morning. That will be an adventure since I must carry her there as I have no transportation.


I am hopeful that our local vet, in this silly mountain town of Boulder Creek can actually help.


Thanks again for your help! I truly appreciate it!



You are very welcome and please keep me posted as to her progress.

If you mean Boulder Creek, CO, you are not that far from Fort Collins where the Veterinary College is located. If need be, you could always have her seen by a specialist there if you could arrange transportation. Hopefully, that won't be necessary. Good luck!

Dr Z
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

That's a very nice offer to help. I appreciate it. I am located in Boulder Creek, California, however...


It's a sleepy little mountain town hiding between San Jose and Santa Cruz that most people don't know exists.


I made an appointment with the vet this morning. She seemed eager to see her, so we shall see. I think that Loucy is far too weak to really recover from this ordeal. She never was a good eater, but she sure was a

great cat that I got from the pound.


Thanks again, Dr. Z! :)




Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Dr. Z,


Just wanted you to know that our cat Loucy passed away at about 1pm our time. The vet concurred with your diagnosis, but also thinks that it may have lead to a stroke as so much of her neurological condition seemed to indicate that.


I'd opted for some tests and some extended care but Loucy decided to put herself to sleep. I would have had a hard time making that decision anyway. At least she passed away peacefully with no seizures or anything like that.


Thank you for this morning's conversations. I was in a better place because of your words.



I am so sorry to hear this. I think it is harder to accept a pet's passing when things progress so quickly. At least you can take some solace in the fact that she did not suffer and she also spared you that horrible decision to end her life.

Please accept my condolences. I am glad I was able to offer some support.

Dr Z