A closer look: Head Shaking in Cats
Head shaking is very common in cats. Alone, it is usually a sign of itchiness or discomfort in the ears, and is unlikely to be an emergency. Excessive head shaking warrants prompt veterinary examination to rule out underlying health concerns.
If presenting alongside other symptoms such as seizures, vomiting, or difficulty breathing, emergency intervention is indicated.
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As a symptom, head shaking primarily varies in how often it occurs. Frequency of head shaking is not always indicative of severity.
If itchiness is the underlying cause of head shaking, cats may also paw at their ears, or rub themselves on furniture in an effort to scratch themselves.
If caused by a neurological condition, the head shaking may be accompanied by seizures and abnormal mentation.
Testing and diagnosis
- A physical examination
- Otoscopic examination
- Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays, CT or MRI
- Ear and skin cytology
- Neurologic exam
Treatment depends on underlying causes, and may include:
- Removal of irritants from the ear
- Cleaning the ears
- Medication, such as antibiotics or antivirals
- Topical ointments
Head shaking is often a sign of normal cat behavior, as a response to mild irritation or itchiness of the ears.