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Why Is My Cat Suddenly Walking Like They’re Drunk? 10 Possible Reasons

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	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Vet, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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It’s a question that concerned cat owners may find themselves asking — why does my cat walk like they’re drunk? There are many possible reasons for this, and in this blog post, we will discuss some of them. Cats can become unsteady on their feet for a variety of reasons, including age, injury, or illness. If your cat has suddenly started walking strangely, it’s important to take them to the vet to rule out any health problems. In the meantime, here are some of the most common reasons why cats walk like they’re drunk.

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Possible Reasons Your Cat May Be Walking Like They’re Drunk

1. Age

As cats get older, they can sometimes become unsteady on their feet. This is usually due to arthritis or other age-related health problems.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent age-related health problems, but many of them can be treated or managed with the help of your veterinarian. You can make sure your cat is comfortable by providing them with a warm bed and plenty of cushions. If you have an older cat, make sure to feed them a healthy diet, give them plenty of attention and take them to yearly vet checkups to spot issues before they become bigger problems.

Treatment

If your cat is in pain, your vet may prescribe medication to help relieve their symptoms.

Tuxedo cat in a room
Image Credit: Chen, Unsplash
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2. Injury

If your cat has had an injury, it could affect their balance and make them walk strangely. This is especially common if they have injured their back or legs.

Prevention

You can help prevent injuries by keeping your cat indoors at dawn and dusk and providing them with plenty of toys, scratching posts and stimulation instead.

Treatment

If your cat has had an injury, they will need to see a vet for treatment. This may involve rest, physiotherapy, or surgery.

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3. Illness

There are a number of illnesses that can cause a cat to walk strangely, including vestibular disease, infectious disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.

Prevention

Vaccinating, deworming, and de-fleaing  your cat and taking them for regular check-ups will help to prevent some illnesses. It will also allow other illnesses to be picked up sooner when there are more treatment options.

Treatment

If your cat is ill, they will need to see a vet for treatment. This may involve medication, special diets, or hospitalization.

Snowshoe cat on the grass
Image Credit: _Anna Krivitskaya, Shutterstock
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4. Medication

Some medications can cause side effects that make a cat walk unsteadily. If your cat is on medication, talk to your vet about whether this could be the cause of their problem.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent side effects from medication, but you can talk to your vet about whether there are any alternatives. This is more commonly seen with anti-anxiety medications.

Treatment

If your cat is having side effects from their medication, they will need to see a vet for treatment. This may involve changing their dose or switching to a different medication but don’t do this without discussing it first with your veterinarian.

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5. Stress

Cats can sometimes walk strangely when they are stressed or anxious. If your cat is experiencing stress, you may need to provide them with more environmental enrichment (such as toys, climbing structures, and hiding places).

Prevention

You can help prevent stress by providing your cat with a comfortable home and plenty of attention.

Treatment

If your cat is stressed, you may need to provide them with more environmental enrichment (such as toys, climbing structures, and hiding places). You can also talk to your vet about whether there are any medications that could help. These might include anti-anxiety medication or pheromone therapy.

stressed cat
Image Credit: yvonneschmu, Pixabay
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6. Obesity

Obesity can also lead to balance problems in cats. If your cat is overweight, talk to your vet about a weight-loss plan.

Prevention

You can help prevent obesity by feeding your cat a healthy diet and providing them with plenty of exercise.

Treatment

If your cat is obese, they will need a weight-loss plan, and addressing any contributing factors such as pain.

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7. Poor Vision

If a cat’s vision is poor, they may walk unsteadily as they try to navigate their environment. This is more common in older cats.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent poor vision, but you can make sure your cat’s environment is safe and easy to navigate, especially as they age. Avoid making changes to the layout of the environment.

Treatment

If your cat has poor vision, they will need to see a vet for treatment. This may involve medication, special diets, or surgery.

One eyed cat Pirate
One eyed cat Pirate (Image Credit: matin fattahi via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)
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8. Inner Ear Problems

Problems with the inner ear can cause a cat to walk unsteadily and even fall over. This is usually due to an infection or inflammation, which can cause balance issues in your cat.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent inner ear problems, but you can talk to your vet about investigation and treatment.

Treatment

If your cat has inner ear problems, they will need to see a vet for treatment. This may involve antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or on occasion-surgery.

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9. Neurological Problems

Neurological problems can also cause a cat to walk unsteadily. This could be due to a brain tumor, stroke, or other condition.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent neurological problems. Be vigilant for any changes in your cat’s behavior and health and consult with your vet.

Treatment

If your cat has neurological problems, they will need to see a vet for treatment. This may involve medication, special diets, or surgery.

yellow sad sick cat
Image Credit: Nikolay Bassov, Shutterstock
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10. Pain

Finally, pain can also make a cat walk oddly. If your cat is in pain, they may walk hunched over or be reluctant to move. If you think your cat is in pain, talk to your vet about possible treatment options.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent pain per se but you can talk to your vet about ways to manage it.

Treatment

If your cat is in pain, they will need to see a vet for treatment. This may involve medication, special diets, or surgery.

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Medical Conditions: A Closer Look

A Word About Idiopathic Vestibular Disease in Cats

One of the most common illnesses that cause cats to walk like they’re drunk is idiopathic vestibular disease.

Idiopathic vestibular disease is a condition that can cause a cat to walk like they’re drunk. However, the exact cause is unknown. If your cat has this condition, they will need to see a vet for treatment. This may involve medication or a wait-it-out approach. It is treated on a case-by-case basis, but care typically includes supportive therapy to help the cat recover from the episodes. With proper treatment, most cats make a full recovery within a few weeks.

A Word About Ataxia in Cats

Ataxia is a word that describes unco-ordinated body movements. You may hear you vet describe your wobbly cat as ataxic or having ataxia.  It is not an illness in itself but a description of a symptom.If your cat has ataxia, they will need to see a vet for investigation of the underlying cause and treatment.

sick cat with feline disease
Image Credit: Kittima05, Shutterstock

A Word About Paw Care

Caring for a cat’s paws is an important part of cultivating its health and happiness. If you notice your cat is walking oddly, it’s important to take them to the vet for an evaluation, yes, but in the meantime, you can help by making sure their nails are trimmed and their paws are clean and free of debris.

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Are Certain Breeds More Likely To Walk Like They’re Drunk?

While any cat can develop the conditions listed above, certain breeds are more prone to them. For example, Siamese cats are more likely to have neurological problems, while Ragdolls are more likely to be obese. If you’re concerned about your cat’s health, talk to your vet about which breed-specific conditions you should be on the lookout for.

When to See Your Vet

It’s important to see a vet if your cat starts walking like they’re drunk and you can’t figure out a cause, especially if it’s combined with other symptoms including:

  • Not eating or drinking
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Inconsolable crying or meowing
  • Inability to urinate or defecate
  • Any sudden change in behavior

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to take your cat to the vet so that they can rule out any serious medical conditions.

American Polydactyl cat walking outside
Image Credit: Jenny Margarette, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

If your cat is walking like they’re drunk, it’s important to take them to the vet so that any underlying health problems can be treated. There are many things you can do to help your cat feel more comfortable and reduce their stress levels. Talk to your vet about what might be best for your cat. Thanks for reading!

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Featured Image Credit: lagunabluemolly, Pixabay

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