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What can I do for my cat with Vestibular Disease?

By: Dr. Jon Rappaport

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Our question this week was:

I got my cat from the humane society when he was 8-months-old. He was found on the streets and brought in and diagnosed with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease - They did testing at the center to see if he could be put up for adoption. He had passed but they let me know what tests were done and the results. He has had x-rays to check for head trauma, check for parasites, tested for tumors, and blood tests. Everything was negative. He would sometimes stumble, walk into things, and not be able to jump up to a couch or bed. He has always had a head tilt to the right about 45 degrees. He is now a few months shy of 2-years-old and he has mastered chasing my other kitten, chasing the laser light with amazing speed and accuracy, and jumping up to the counters (although he took steps slowly with increasing heights). It does take him a lot of analyzing and judging to figure out distance though. He does still have the same head tilt, but only when he is standing. If he is laying or sitting he can straighten it. He has seemed to have almost completely adjusted to his limitations and learned to compensate for all normal activities. He is completely normal in all his other cat behaviors such as eating, litter box, playing, etc. He is a very loving cat and one of the nicest, most intelligent, and well-behaved cats I have ever known. I have done lots of research, but all I find is that this occurs in older cats. I am just curious as to if he will live a normal healthy life with this disease occurring without a known cause as a kitten or if they can have complications later in life? Also is there anything that needs to be done to help him daily? Is he suffering from any unpleasant side effects of the disease that I can help eliminate or lessen? - Kelly K.

Answer

Hi – thanks for your email. You wrote that you adopted a cat with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease that has resulted in some physical disability – primarily a head tilt. First of all, bless you for taking in a "special needs kitty". It sounds like you have given him a wonderful life and that he has compensated very well. To be honest – it sounds like you are doing everything you can do for him. I'd recommend making sure he is indoor only (I'd worry if he has some disability – he may not have all the resources necessary to run from predators, etc.), given a good healthy diet and plenty of love and play time (which it sounds like you do).

From what you wrote - I think he is doing great. Some cats will have a residual head tilt for the rest of their lives – as is with your cat – and they cope well with this.

An article that might be helpful to you is Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome in Cats.

Best of luck!

Dr. Jon




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