Tremors in cats are considered a clinical sign and not a disease itself. They almost never happen on their own – whether they are caused by an accident, an illness, or poisoning, there’s something at the root of this symptom.
In today’s article, we’re looking at what causes tremors in cats, how they are diagnosed, if they can be treated, and if there is any way for you to prevent this from affecting your own feline friend.
What causes tremors in cats?
Tremors can be caused by a truly wide variety of illnesses or health complications, but one of the most common ones seems to be poisoning. As you probably know if you have been a cat parent for a while now, this species can be extremely sensitive to a variety of medications, topical products, and even foods (or plants), so they have a much higher likelihood of experiencing the worst in terms of symptoms.
Here are some examples of toxicological causes that can lead to shaking and tremors in cats:
- Essential oils
- Amphetamines (or exposure to human ADHD medications)
- Methomyl or carbofuran (carbamate insecticides)
However, tremors and twitches can be caused by many other factors, including neurologic causes, orthopedic ones (especially those that affect a certain nucleus), and even cardiovascular and metabolic imbalances. Respiratory distress can also cause tremors in some situations.
Trauma or any other type of injury can also lead to the cat experiencing tremors, and any type of severe pain, too. Low blood sugar can do the same, especially in severely malnourished animals or those that are suffering from malabsorption or metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
There are also cats that are born this way due to genetic factors, although the type of twitching or tremors that they experience might look a little different. This is called ‘Wobbly cat syndrome’ and is characterized by mild head tremors or an abnormal gait with excessive swaying from side to side.
As you can see, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the exact causes of tremors in this species. Even pain, inflammation, a too-low body temperature, or hyperthermia can cause your cat to shake. Extreme fear or anxiety are two other possible reasons, especially if your feline companion is not accustomed to interacting with other animals or people and you take them to the vet.
How are tremors in cats diagnosed?
In this specific health complication, the diagnosis can be quite complex because finding what is at the root of the shaking, tremors, or twitching can be a little challenging.
When you take your cat to the veterinary clinic, you will be asked a number of questions such as when the tremors started, what seemed to have caused them, if your cat ate anything out of the ordinary over the past few hours, if you’ve seen them exhibit and unusual behaviors, and a lot more information that’s a part of a detailed anamnesis process.
If your cat experiences tremors on occasion and the cause doesn’t seem to be too apparent, the vet will also ask you to shoot a video of these episodes at home so that you can show them the footage the next time you go to the animal hospital.
As for the tests that you can expect, they can range from anything, such as a complete blood count and urinalysis, to blood biochemistry or imaging techniques, such as an ultrasound, an X-ray, MRI, or a CT scan.
Metabolic complications such as hypocalcemia or hypoglycemia can be diagnosed with simple blood tests, and sometimes, even kidney abnormalities can be discovered in the same way.
If your veterinarian suspects that a neurologic issue is what is causing the tremors that your cat is experiencing, they might resort to more advanced diagnostic methods, such as the analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid.
Tremors are the clinical manifestation of a health complication. Since they are merely the symptom and not the main disease, the cat can sometimes receive symptomatic treatment, but this type of therapy is not going to do much in the way of solving the main problem.
Once the underlying disease is discovered, the vet will administer the appropriate treatment – in case it exists. Some of these conditions can be treated whereas others, especially those that involve severe damage to any major part of the nervous system, mainly the brain and the spine (which can get hurt very badly, especially in accidents), might not be treatable.
Many poisoning cases nowadays are treated successfully, especially if you bring your cat to the veterinary hospital as soon as possible and you do not wait for the toxins to produce potentially untreatable conditions such as organ failure.
If a growth such as a tumor is putting pressure on one part of the nervous system and the tremors are a result of that, surgery could be a possibility, too.
Can you prevent your cat from experiencing tremors?
It depends on the exact cause. Of course, you can do your best at hiding potentially toxic foods and other items in your household so that your cat never has access to them and, therefore, never experiences tremors for this reason.
You can also ensure that your cat spends as much time indoors as possible, therefore making the possibility of an accident minimal. Outdoor cats are always more exposed to such dangers, and others too, such as parasites, potentially life-threatening diseases, and even viral illnesses that can be passed to humans.