Weird Cat Disease: Feline Vestibular Syndrome

Weird Cat Disease: Feline Vestibular Syndrome

ruby1Cats are subject to many of the same diseases as humans, but there are a number of diseases that are unique (or almost so) to cats.  At Tabby’s Place we have seen just about every cat disease imaginable (and, frankly, some that are unimaginable).  I am going to use this blog to discuss some of these “weird cat diseases.”

Weird Cat Disease #1 is feline vestibular syndrome, a disease whose symptoms can be particularly frightening.

A few years ago I received a frantic call from a friend who had recently been adopted by a stray cat.  Susie said that Bootsy appeared to be having a seizure: he kept falling over when he tried to stand and his eyes were vibrating quickly in the horizontal plane. Bootsy was rushed to the vet and diagnosed with feline vestibular syndrome.


This disease occurs when part of the cat’s biological balance system (specifically, the peripheral vestibular system, located in the inner ear) goes out of whack.  If you’ve ever been really, really dizzy you know how bad this feels.

Sometimes, a specific cause can be found, such as an inner ear infection or a tumor.  But, most of the time, there is no explanation for the sudden onset of this disease. If no cause is found, your vet may prescribe an antibiotic, in case of an unseen infection.

Assuming nothing serious is found, the syndrome typically corrects itself within a few days.  A strange side effect, however, is that some cats are left with a permanent heald tilt.  You can see this on Ruby (at the beginning of this post) and Rusty, both of whom are currently at Tabby’s Place.  Even in these cases, the cats seem unaffected by the head orientation.


  1. This disease is not quite unique to cats.  Old dogs and rabbits are also susceptible to this syndrome (lagomorph vestibular syndrome?).
  2. You should not attempt to diagnose this disease yourself.  The symptoms could be due to something requiring immediate attention.  Should you see these symtpoms, see your vet immediately.

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