Feline Vestibular Syndrome

Posted in Personal News at 11:14 pm by divinity

What a day..

Monday evening I got home from work and spent the evening working. I remember noticing Gabby (my 11 year old cat) missing her little window sill ledge in what I thought was just a misstep. You know, the kind that cats do and then quickly look around to make sure nobody was watching. I didn’t think anything of it until it was time to head to bed. I laid down and Gabby jumped off the couch and up into bed and promptly fell over. I got concerned and noticed that not only was she skinnier than usual, but she was having a lot of trouble with her balance. I ended up giving her some wet food, which she ate and actually kept down (normally she just throws it up after enjoying it). After quite a bit of concern I finally caved and called Heather at 2am and we headed in to the Emergency vet in Berkeley.

We ended up at the vet until past 5am, talking to the vet on duty, who basically said it was vertigo. I ended up leaving Gabby there overnight so she could see the neurologist in the morning. The next morning the neurologist didn’t have too much to say about what exactly was going on. The bloodwork all came back normal, and he recommended some more serious tests like an MRI. (Even in the seriousness of the situation I couldn’t help but chuckle when he said “a CAT Scan might help figure out what’s going on”) Apparently there is only one MRI machine in the Bay Area for cats, and it’s in Redwood City. So, tomorrow morning Gabby is going in to her normal vet to see what he has to say.

After quite a bit of digging around on the web I finally stumbled across Feline Vestibular Syndrome. The first result on Google was a blog post that seemed to be right on track. Jacqueline describes her cat’s symptoms as:

* She was listing to the left and was kind of trembly (Gabby seems to list to her right more)
* Her eyes were darting like a metronome from left to right, left to right. (I haven’t noticed this in Gabby, but her eyes do appear dilated. Several people explained that this symptom went away early with their cats, so it’s possible that Gabby may have had this while I was out of town this weekend)
* She would fall over if she tried to walk and generally seemed dizzy and disoriented. (This is exactly how Gabby is acting. She just seems dizzy. She is falling off laps, couches, etc. When she walks, she stumbles and catches herself.)

The good news is that a lot of pages on the web are saying that most cats recover within 72 hours, and almost all are better within a few weeks. Here’s hoping that’s the case with Gabby.


  1. Monica said,

    July 5, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    I don’t know if my 9 year old cat had the same symptoms that Gabby had but my cat really was so sick that we had to put him to sleep.
    It started when he was acting sorta “drunk” as my husband put it. Then he would not eat, and then got ‘better’. Again the drunken state and would not eat. I took her to the emergency vet and they told me that they found nothing wrong with him and that he may have cancer. That we had to put him through an MRI and we just did not have the money for that. Then I took him to a regular vet who told me that he might have an ear infection or Vestibular Syndrome. I was given some antibiotics to give him that never did anything. This whole drama lasted two weeks being no better but slowly getting worse. I had to be with this cat almost 24 hrs a day force feeding it.
    Wyatt got so bad that one morning, he had labored breathing (lips parted) and was peeing on himself. Anytime I moved him he suffered. I was already sorta exhausted from caring him. It pained me to make this decision. I miss him sometimes.
    It was either see him die or put him to sleep.

  2. Barb said,

    August 17, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I have a 13 yr. old cat Sassy with similar symptoms. I noticed on friday she was walking like she was “drunk”. Using the wall to hold her up, she stumbled with every step she took. Saturday I noticed her head tilting to the right, and she was walking in circles when she wasn’t sitting staring at the wall. It is now 3 days, I am hoping for the best. Although her symptoms are classic textbook Vestibular Syndrome, it is scarey and heartbreaking to see her like this.

    I hand fed her some sardines which she nibbled on and rubbed her lips with water. I just got a syringe to hand feed her small amounts of water. I hope this will be over soon. I don’t want her to suffer.