Head tilting in cats can be a very frightening experience for any cat lover as it is usually accompanied by other problems soon after the initial tilting.
In almost every case where your cat starts to tilt their head, they will also start to fall, roll, or start to circle continuously.
It is usually the result of an inner ear condition, but it may also be caused by something much more sinister that is threatening your cat’s life.
If it is a severe case head tilting in cats, your pet may also develop what is referred to as nystagmus, which is a condition where they will develop jerking movements of the eyes.
If the head tilt and the falling scares you, this reaction may absolutely terrify you as it definitely not normal.
What Exactly Is It?
Head tilting in cats is a persistent tilt or turning of your pets head that is associated with the moving of the central axis to one side as if they are losing their balance.
The reason for this is very simple; they are loosening their balance.
The tilting are signs of a vestibular disturbance that are usually form some type of an inner ear infection, but it could also be caused by something much more serious such as cancer or an inflammation that is attacking not only your cats ears, but their brain.
The vestibular system in your cat controls their balance and equilibrium, and it is essentially responsible in keeping your cat from falling down.
It performs this task by constantly assessing the head movement as well as the body movement relative to their position, and sends information to the central nervous system generating a neural code.
A neural code basically controls how both sensory and other information is represented in your cats brain by neurons.
The vestibular system itself in your cat is a sensory system that is made up of a receptor organ that is found in your pet’s inner ear, as well as the vestibular nerve itself.
It also incorporates the balance control center that is found in the back of your pet’s brain.
The organ in your cat’s inner ear detects the movement of your cats head at all times so it reads if your cat is moving, resting, or sleeping.
When this system is affected by some type of an infection or a disease, it becomes a very eventful situation for both you and your cat.
The head tilting in cats that can and does occur can happen in a clockwise motion which is frightening in itself, but it can also be a counter clock wise movement.
When this happens, it can almost look like a scene from the Exorcist.
To make this experience even more eventful, your cat’s eyes may start moving in very abnormal movements.
There are several symptoms that you can watch for, but the most obvious will be the head tilting in your cat from one side to the other.
It normally starts out very gradually and as the actual underlying condition increases, so will the tilting.
Once the tilting does start, the next thing you can look for is any type of a redness in your pets ears or any pain that is associated by touching them; indicating an infection of some kind.
As the head tilting in cat’s increases, your pet will start to fall in the same direction that the head is tilting, acting almost like something is dragging them down.
They may also drop and roll, again in the same direction as the tilting, or start to circle like they are trying to follow what is dragging them.
Once this starts to happen, the next set of symptoms to watch for is both nausea as well as vomiting due to the vertigo.
Your cat may also have a lot of trouble eating due to the fact that it is hurting them to chew or open their mouth.
If this is occurring, you may also hear them cry out in pain when trying to eat or attempting to open their mouth.
In the majority of cases the common cause of head tilting in cats is the result of ear infections and is not near as serious as it appears.
Infection of your cat’s inner ear can be the result of a bacterial infection or ear mites,
Or it could be simply something that has become lodged in their ear such as a small twig or even grass seed.
These types of infections generally affect only the outer portion of your cat’s ear, but if they do enter into the inner ear, it causes the vestibular signs that you are seeing.
There are also certain types of drugs that may be the underlying cause and can include several types of antibiotics that are actually being administered for an external ear infection.
Some cats may also have a reaction to simple ear cleaning solutions that include iodine, alcohol, or some types of chloride.
If your cat suddenly develops tilting and they are on an ear medication or you have recently cleaned their ears, your veterinarian can run some simple tests to help identify what may be causing the tilting.
However, although not quite as common as ear infections, there are other potential causes of head tilting in cats.
Hypothyroidism, which is a disorder of your cat’s thyroid glands, is responsible for producing and secreting thyroxine which affects all of your cat’s body systems, including the vestibular system.
But there are two other potential causes that you should be aware of and they are both extremely serious and life threatening.
Neoplasia is the abnormal proliferation of cells that can cause either cancer or tumors to develop, especially in older cats.
Once these growths affect your cat’s ears or their brain, it severely affects their vestibular system and causes tilting.
Encephalitis is inflammation of your cat’s brain and is a reaction of your cats immune system to either an infection or an all-out invasion and causes swelling in the brain.
The underlying cause can be Distemper, which is very rare in cats, but it can also be Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease which is rapidly advancing in both cats as well as dogs.
Head tilting in cats is a very scary condition, but in most cases it is not near as severe as it actually looks.
Once your pet does start to show the symptoms and actually falls or rolls do whatever you can to comfort them and protect them from stairs or anything that may harm them.
In some cases they may need help in walking or you may have to carry them.
Unless the situation is extremely serious, once treated your cat should fully recover. However, it should is all cases be treated very seriously.