Why Is My Cat Walking in Circles?

Picture of a white cat on a rug

Cats can sometimes be a little weird and act in an unusual manner, but if you have noticed that your feline friend walks in circles too often or all the time, something else might be at the root of the behavior.

In this post, we’ll look at the majority of reasons why a cat could walk in circles. Some of them are pathological, but there are less worrying causes, too.


It’s not exactly common for a cat to greet you by walking in circles, but this can also happen, at times. If a cat wants to get your attention on something in particular, she might be doing something called ‘herding’. In essence, she is trying to get you to walk somewhere so that she shows you something.

Other cats are known to walk in circles for display purposes. This usually happens if the cat is trying to establish her dominance over you. However, we’d like to note that walking in circles, in this case, is usually associated with aggression or different sounds that might tell you that the cat doesn’t like you at that moment.

If your cat walks in circles only when you get home, you’ll be happy to know that she’s effectively saying ‘Hello!’. Other common behaviors shown by a cat who’s happy that her owner is home is rolling over onto her back, verbalizing, and stopping and rubbing her head against your legs.

If your pet also seems disoriented besides the walking behavior, something more serious might have affected her.

Vestibular Disease

The vestibular system can be found in a cat’s inner ear. Along with the cerebellum, the inner ear is in charge of keeping a cat’s balance. A cat that suffers from vestibular disease will walk in circles and will do so often. Some cats might even be incapable of walking properly at all.

The causes of this medical condition are varied. There are some breeds that are genetically predisposed to developing it, such as Burmese and Siamese cats. However, most will develop it as a result of inflammation, untreated inner ear infections, or severe periodontal disease.

If it is caused by an infection and the cat undergoes treatment, vestibular disease disappears on its own. Some cats might take up to 24 hours to begin to walk properly again, but in the majority of cases, this happens quickly.

There can be cats that lose their hearing if the inner ear is affected by a chronic infection, polyps, or tumors. These pets might have a harder time keeping their balance in the long run.

Ear Infections

As we have already mentioned, the inner ear is responsible for a cat keeping her balance properly. But how can you tell if your feline companion is suffering from an ear infection? Well, there are some typical symptoms that show up in most such conditions, such as drooling from one side of the mouth, vomiting, lack of motor coordination, and uneven pupil size in the cat’s eyes.

When the infection is left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the inner ear. In this situation, the cat might be incapable of walking properly for the remainder of her life. In even worse cases, the infection can spread, affecting the cat’s respiratory and cardiovascular health.

Head Injuries

A cat who’s walking in circles could have suffered a head injury or could have a brain or sinus tumor. Besides this clinical sign, pet parents might notice that the cat is lethargic, has unusual eye movements, or that the cat is visibly hurt.

If you suspect that your cat fell from a higher plane and has hurt her head, take her to the vet as soon as possible. Concussions aren’t uncommon in animals, and they might leave permanent damage. Some can even be life-threatening.


High blood pressure is more common in older cats, and unfortunately, geriatric cats are more predisposed to developing vestibular disease.

If the cat suffers from permanent hypertension, there will be too much blood going to her brain. The cat might walk in circles, lack coordination, and might also be a little clumsy.

Because of the severity of this health condition, you should take your feline friend to the vet at least twice a year as she ages. Older cats can develop kidney failure because of hypertension, and if that happens, there is almost no treatment option available. If your cat is diagnosed with hypertension in due time, you will have to give her medication, but at least there isn’t going to be any other complication.

Feline Senility

Geriatric cats develop dementia and a variety of other neurologic issues just like people do. This usually happens in cats that are older than 15 years of age. Also known as Feline Cognitive Dysfunction, feline senility can leave your cat in a state of confusion that’s almost permanent.

The cat might be disoriented and circle around you at times, but the behavior isn’t necessarily consistent. A pet who has Feline Cognitive Dysfunction will also be more fearful and have unexpected reactions to stimuli she’s never even noticed before.

Get in touch with your veterinarian to find out what the appropriate medication and lifestyle changes you have to ensure, in this case. If caught early, feline senility can be slowed down.

Low Blood Sugar

Although walking in circles isn’t a specific behavior displayed by cats that are diabetic or that might have low blood sugar for other reasons, it can happen. Hypoglycemic cats are confused and might also suffer from muscle tremors. Some even have seizures.

Besides diabetes, hypoglycemia can be caused by the following factors:

  • Poor diet
  • Severe bacterial infection
  • Liver or pancreatic disease
  • Hypothermia
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Intense physical activity

Brain Tumors

The word ‘tumor’ has a frightening meaning associated with it, but you’ll be glad to know that around 90% of all brain tumors are benign. However, malignant brain tumors significantly affect the way a cat behaves.

If a cat has a brain tumor, she will show a lack of coordination, she’ll walk in circles, and she might also tilt her head to one side or have seizures. If you notice any of these signs, take your feline companion to the vet as soon as possible.

Final thoughts

The majority of cats that walk in circles suffer from idiopathic vestibular syndrome. Most cats show significant improvement within the first 24 to 72 hours, and they usually return to their normal behavior in approximately three to four weeks. If this is what your cat has, the vet can’t do anything more than prescribe anti-nausea, anti-vertigo, or anti-inflammatory medication.

If you notice any other worrying signs besides the walking in circles, seek medical assistance for your cat right away.



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