A cat wobbling around in circles or flopping on its side may seem funny to some, who might wonder if the cat had a little too much to drink. But a falling-down cat is no joke. It's not alcohol -- which can be fatal to cats. His problem could be an inner ear infection or a genetic, neurological or nerve disorder. If that's your cat, here's what you need to know to help your feline friend:
Why Cats Fall Over
A feline that falls over, moves with a stiff-legged gait, wobbles as he walks, or bobs his head repeatedly may be suffering from a condition akin to cerebral palsy in humans. Cerebellar hypoplasia is a disease of the cerebellum, the brain part that controls movement and coordination. Kittens can be born with this condition if their mothers were exposed to distemper while pregnant, causing damage or underdevelopment to the cerebellum. Malnutrition or poisoning can also cause this illness.
Cats may also fall over and move in circles if they suffer from ataxia --sometimes called wobbly kitten syndrome, a sensory dysfunction that affects the limbs, balance, and in some cases, the cat's head and neck. Cats with ataxia may sway, have trouble hearing and appear drowsy. Possible causes include neurological problems, cancer, viral or fungal infection and trauma. An inner ear infection could also cause ataxia.
Coping With a Falling Cat
If your cat is falling over, be sure to keep him indoors and safe from household hazards, such as stairs. Consult your veterinarian right away to determine exactly what's going on. Provide details on when the problem began and any other changes in your cat's behavior. Recall any incidents that may have preceded or led to the falling-down behavior. If you recently adopted the cat, get a record of his medical history from the shelter or rescue group. If this affects a kitten, find out what you can about the mother cat's prenatal history, such as whether she was current on her FVRCP vaccinations (given against three contagious diseases affecting cats).