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Why Is My Cat Suddenly Walking Like They Are Drunk? 4 Possible Reasons

Sarah Psaradelis

By Sarah Psaradelis

Walking unhappy ginger homeless cat

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Dr. Lauren Demos

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It can be quite concerning for cat owners to suddenly see their cat walking off-balance and wobbly, almost as if they are drunk. There are a few different reasons why your cat might be acting this way, such as vestibular disease, ear infections, or a neurological problem that affects your cat’s balance and coordination. These conditions can be the result of various causes such as infection or injury, that can cause your cat to appear off-balance and walk abnormally.

If you notice that your cat’s behavior has changed and they are walking like they are drunk, it is important to take them to a veterinarian right away.

The 4 Reasons Your Cat Is Walking Like They Are Drunk

1. Vestibular Disease

  • Circling to one side
  • Head tilting
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Poor appetite caused by nausea and vomiting
  • Vertigo

If an injury or infection disrupts the normal function of the inner ear (vestibular apparatus) which controls their balance and coordination, your cat may appear to walk off-balance. Vestibular disease can be caused by a head injury or an ear infection and will need to be diagnosed by a veterinarian.

A cat suffering from vestibular disease may appear to have lost their sense of balance and may alsol act confused. Aside from appearing to stagger when they walk, cats with vestibular disease may also have a head tilt and rapid eye movement.

This uncomfortable condition will need to be diagnosed and treated appropriately by a veterinarian who will run blood tests, conduct a neurological examination, and check for a spinal cord injury to rule out possible reasons for your cat’s sudden loss of balance.

laying cat sick
Image Credit: Sisacorn, Shutterstock

2. Ear infections

  • Nausea
  • Smelly breath
  • Poor coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Head tilting

Ear infections can be common in cats. This condition can be uncomfortable; however, it is not usually serious and can be easily treated with help from your veterinarian. It is caused from inflammation which impacts the vestibular system of the middle ear.

Treatment usually involves antibiotics, however nausea can be treated separately with anti-nausea medications as prescribed by your cat’s veterinarian.

3. Central nervous system disorders

  • Abnormal gait
  • Loss of sense of feel
  • Weakness or falling over

Kittens are especially susceptible to certain forms of ataxia, which affect the cerebellum and cause poor balance and incoordination of kittens’ movements. They may walk with exaggerated movements and a stagger. This occurs when a cat has abnormalities of their cerebellum which is responsible for their coordination and balance at the back of their skull.

Several forms of CNS disease can lead to ataxia including stroke or hypertension, blood clots, infections, and others.

This condition needs to be treated by a veterinarian who will diagnose and work to treat your cat’s condition.

sick cat
Image By: one photo, Shutterstock

4. Peripheral Neurological Problems

Peripheral neurological problems can cause your cat to appear off balance, and impact anything apart from the brain. This can occur after a stroke, trauma, slipped discs, cancer, or a variety of other causes.

  • Unsteadiness
  • Loss of balance
  • Delayed reactions to stimuli
  • Weakness

This problem can require various interventions by your veterinarian, including medication, or even surgery to alleviate disc problems. It is important to seek care, if you notice any of these signs.


Most of the conditions that cause your cat to experience abnormal gait arise from issues within the nervous system or sensors for the nervous system such as the inner ear. Walking like they are drunk is never a normal condition for a cat, so if you find your cat doing this, make sure they are diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian.

Featured Image Credit: Stavklem, Shutterstock

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