If your cat suddenly starts acting as if she's had a few, don't panic. A wobbly, dizzy cat isn't necessarily an emergency, but the symptoms should be taken seriously. Here's what to do right away.
0-30 minutes in: Take Note of Symptoms
The symptoms of this particular condition look a lot like drunkenness or seasickness in humans! Your cat may fall down, have trouble getting up onto all four feet, or wobble to and fro when walking. Her head might tilt drastically to one side, and you may notice her eyes darting back and forth in her head. Your cat may also vomit. What's going on? It's likely your cat is experiencing an issue with her vestibular system. The feline vestibular system is essentially the balance center of her brain. When something is amiss in this complex web of nerves and synapses, she's likely to become dizzy, disoriented, and have trouble with muscle coordination.
30 minutes – 1 hour in: Watch and Call Your Vet
It's important to note that there are several common vestibular problems experienced by cats. Central vestibular disease (CVD) starts in the brain and is usually the result of a lesion or tumor. It's the most serious and difficult to treat kind. Peripheral vestibular disease (PVD) directly affects the nerves and brain and is usually caused by some sort of infection, drug reaction, or tissue growths within the ear canal itself. Most cases of sudden kitty imbalance are chalked up to idiopathic vestibular disease (IVD), for which no determined cause exists. The good news is, IVD almost always goes away on its own after a couple of days and isn't usually indicative of other serious issues. Of course, if you don't know what's causing your cat's dizziness, call your vet right away. Be sure to let the vet know what your cat's been eating, whether she's been showing any other behavior or physical signs of note, or if she's taking any new medications. Your vet may advise you to watch and wait or she might ask you to make an appointment to have your cat evaluated.
1 hour – 2 hours in: Follow Your Vet's Advice
If the vet suspects your cat is experiencing IVD, she may suggest simply watching to see if her symptoms subside over the next day or two. You can expect them to come and go, and you can expect your cat not to eat or drink much as well as to be less likely to want to play if she's feeling unbalanced. If she's vomiting, your vet will likely want to see her. During the wait-and-watch period, if you suspect your cat's condition is deteriorating - i.e. she seems to be in pain, she's growing weak or lethargic, vomiting begins or intensifies - it's smart to get her to an emergency clinic as fast as you can. There's no one single test that determines what's causing your cat's vestibular issues but veterinarians can perform certain blood tests, urine tests, and even imaging tests like MRIs that might shed light on the cause. You know your cat best, so if her dizziness starts to feel worrisome, don't hesitate to take her in.