Ataxia In Cats: Facts You Need To Learn About It


Do you know what ataxia is? Ataxia is generally a condition that is related to a sensory dysfunction, which yields loss of coordination in the head, trunk, and / or the limbs. In this article, we will discuss more about this feline condition. So if you want to learn more about it, please give this article a read!

Ataxia in Cats: What is this feline condition?

Mainly, there are three different clinical types of ataxia –cerebellar, vestibular, and the sensory ataxia. All of these produce some changes in the coordination of the limbs. However, the cerebellar and vestibular ataxia produce some changes in the neck and head movement as well. As what we have already told, generally, this is a condition that is related to a sensory dysfunction, which yields loss of the coordination in the trunk, head, and / or limbs.

The sensory ataxia in cats may take place in case the spinal cord is compressed slowly. A common noticeable symptom of the sensory ataxia is mislaying the feet, which comes with a tolerant weakness as long as the disease progresses. Moreover, the sensory ataxia may also happen in the spinal cord, cerebral locations of the lesions, as well as the brain stem.

The vestibulocochlear nerve is what carries the information that’s concerning the balance from the inner ear up to the brain. Any damage into this nerve may cause some changes in the neck and head position, since the cat might feel a deceitful sense of movement, or might be having some difficulty with hearing.

Moreover, the obvious symptoms may include falling, tipping, leaning, as well as rolling over to the floor. The central vestibular indications commonly have varying types of eye movements, weakness in the legs, drowsiness, coma, stupor, and sensory deficits. Additionally, the peripheral vestibular indications don’t include changes in a mental status, weakness in the legs, sensory deficits, or vertical eye movements.

In addition, cerebellar ataxia is in affection with the uncoordinated motor action of the head, neck, and limbs, taking large steps, head tremors, stepping strangely, swaying of the torso, and body tremors. Moreover, there’s also an inadequacy in the actions of motor performance, and in the strength of preservation.

Causes of Ataxia                  


  • Electrolyte disturbances –low blood sugar and low potassium level
  • Anemia

Spinal cord

  • Trauma
  • Infection
  • Cancer
  • Anomalous (spinal cyst, vertebral and spinal cord malformation)
  • Vascular (loss of blood on the nervous system because of a blockage of the blood vessels via a blood clot)
  • Degeneration of the spinal cords and nerve roots

Vestibular –peripheral nervous system

  • Traumatic
  • Cancer
  • Metabolic
  • Illnesses of unknown cause
  • Infectious (fungal and middle ear)

Vestibular –central nervous system

  • Toxic
  • Inflammatory, immune-mediated, unknown causes
  • Infectious (rickettsia diseases, feline infectious peritonitis)


  • Toxic
  • Inflammatory, immune-mediated, unknown causes
  • Infectious –feline infectious peritonitis
  • Anomalous (cyst near the 4th ventricle and underdevelopment inferior to the perinatal infection with panleukopenia virus in the cats)
  • Degenerative (abiotrophy)
  • Cerebellar

Symptoms of Ataxia

Here are some of the most common symptoms of ataxia in cats:

  • Lack of appetite, because of nausea
  • Abnormal movement of the eyes
  • Changes on the behavior
  • Excessive drowsiness or stupor
  • Swaying, tipping over, stumbling
  • Trouble in hearing
  • Tilting head to only one side
  • Weakness of the limbs

Prognosis of Ataxia

You may need to give the vet all the necessary medical history of the cat’s health, possible incidents, as well as the onset of the symptoms, which may have preceded through this condition. Furthermore, the vet may order some standard examinations, including a complete blood count, blood chemical profile, an electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis.

Imaging is important in the determination of whether the condition is localized to through the peripheral vestibular system, the cerebellum, or the spinal cord. In addition, CT scan, MRI, spinal x-ray, and myelography may all be beneficial diagnostic tool for the non-invasive tests. Additionally, abdominal and chest x-rays are important as well in the determination of systemic or cancer infection is present. An abdominal ultrasound must also be done in checking the kidney, liver, pancreatic or adrenal functions.

In case the source of the condition is in the nervous system, CSF may be taken for some lab analysis.

Treatments for Ataxia

Cat patients might commonly be treated on a casualty basis except when the case is already austere or the cause of the condition is of lethal nature. You must avoid providing any medications to your cat without consulting with your vet first, since a lot of medications may either contribute to the issue or mask the causal condition, which is causing it. Further, the treatments may be based on the underlying origin of the disease.

Moreover, you can restrict or reduce the movement of the cat if the vet suspects that the cause is a spinal cord disease. Even with no diagnosis, you might consider cage rest if you can’t restrict the cat’s movements. Furthermore, make sure to monitor the gait of the cat for the increase of weakness or dysfunction. In case it worsens, you need to contact your vet immediately.


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