My elderly cat has poor balance

by Paul

We have an elderly cat. She is about 17 years old. She keeps falling over & staggering about like a drunk! Her back legs don't seem to be doing the job of keeping her upright correctly. Sometimes she will turn around & then fall over. She's eating & drinking as normal. She's had a few “accidents” indoors of late, which she's not done before.

She seems quite content & appears to have no pain. You can stroke her, etc., without any problems. As she's quite elderly, could she have had a small stoke or similar?


Dear Paul,

I’m sorry to hear that your cat is having such difficulty. Thank you for writing in with your concern for her.

It sounds like there may be a neurological cause behind your cat’s current symptoms. As for a “stroke,” in terms of as we know it, a cat having a stroke is rare, but is certainly possible. Other possible causes for her lack of balance include elderly cat vestibular syndrome, which is an inflammation or infection of the balance mechanism in the brain, and the onset of symptoms would have occurred rather quickly. Brain tumors can also cause similar symptoms, in which case the onset of symptoms would likely have been more gradual.

It is also possible that her symptoms are resulting from weakness or stiffness. If it is weakness only in her back end and legs, possible causes include low potassium, which could be secondary to kidney disease. If the legs are stiff, it could also be arthritis.

Differentiating between neurological symptoms, weakness, and stiffness can be very difficult. Only a visit to a veterinarian for a thorough exam can determine the cause of your kitty’s symptoms. I would recommend bringing her to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Best wishes,
Dr. Neely

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