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Why is My Cat Shaking? 4 Causes

Why is My Cat Shaking? 4 Causes

Seeing your cat shaking may be very alarming for a cat owner. For one thing, it’s an unusual sort of behavior, and your first instinct will likely be to assume the worst. First things first – don’t panic. Try to remain calm – there could be several reasons for your cat experiencing shaking, and not all of them are life-threatening.

Shakes can result from something as innocuous as your cat dreaming, to feeling a bit cold, to an illness or undiagnosed condition. So bear in mind that not all shaking in cats is cause for alarm.

In this article, we’ll look at the most common causes of the question why is my cat shaking and what you can do to alleviate at least a few of the reasons. In all situations, though, consider consulting your vet if the shaking persists.

black and white cat shaking

Why is My Cat Shaking? 4 Causes

There may be different levels or degrees to the shaking. Perhaps only one section of the body is shaking, like a leg, the tail, or the belly, or the shaking could be more severe. However mild or severe, it’s best not to simply ignore it.

Chances are, you could alleviate the symptoms to some degree. At least, you could try to until you can see a vet (if it becomes necessary). You may also be able to offer the vet some insight as to when you noticed it, how severe it is, or what you suspect might be the cause. 

First, determine whether the shaking is isolated to a body part or looked more like a tremor or seizure. If the cat seems disoriented or seems to be losing muscular or mental control, seek vet assistance immediately.

So let’s look into what may be causing that shaking.

ginger cat shaking

1. Irregular Body Temperature

Starting at what may not be too serious, your cat may be cold! Cats usually function between 100.5°F and 102.5°F. Yep, that’s warm compared to a human. But when they drift outside of these parameters, cats can get uncomfortable quickly.

Under 100°F, and your cat may suddenly be in danger of hypothermia – stuck outside on a cold day could do that. Anything above 103, and you could be looking at hyperthermia. If your cat is enclosed in a hot, confined space, this can become an issue. The cat’s body may respond to this by shaking to rectify its temperature.

If your cat has a high temperature, it may also be a sign of a fever. If you have a pet thermometer on hand, try to determine whether this is a possibility. Fevers usually cause a loss of appetite, so check if your fluffy feline is eating normally.

Another cause may be heatstroke. Though less common, it is a potentially nasty condition caused by overheating, especially on hot days. Panting, dribbling, loss of cohesion in movement, and even passing out may be signs of possible heatstroke. Keep an eye on your cat if your area experiences sweltering days.

Veterinarian listening to cat's heart
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Providing a cool, damp towel on your cat’s favorite resting spot may help alleviate heat-related discomfort for your cat. At the very least, its cat bed or cat tree should be out of direct sunshine.

2. Pain, Fear, or Anxiety

Fearful cats or those that suffer from extreme anxiety may shake. If it seems like there is no apparent injury or temperature-related discomfort, your cat may be suffering from anxiety or fear. Usually, this is accompanied by behavior that is aggressive or hyper-defensive.

Sometimes, it may also be caused by pain, the cause of which may not be obvious. You may also notice that the shaking comes and goes, depending on whether anyone is in the cat’s vicinity. In either case, you will want to consult a vet.

If there is a mysterious, hidden injury, your vet will be able to diagnose and treat it. If it’s a case of mentally-induced anxiety, the vet may prescribe a calming medication. Many owners are touting the benefits of pet hemp chews, for example, when dealing with stress.

In many cases, anxiety is triggered by loud noises or other animals. Cats are susceptible to stressors in an environment. Chances are this will pass after a while.

grey cat shaking outside

Side note: Cats can also become depressed. The stress that this induces may indirectly cause other kinds of reactions. For example, not eating can lead to hypoglycemia (see below). In some cases, depression over long periods can lead to serious health issues for your cat.

3. Hypoglycemia

Oddly enough, animal hypoglycemia is a more common cause for your cat shaking than you might imagine. Also known to humans as “low blood sugar,” it is basically caused by the blood containing too little glucose.

The shaking might come about as the body reacts to the condition, which is usually evident when your cat hasn’t eaten for a while. Hypoglycemia is often seen in young kittens. Their tiny bodies aren’t yet quite used to processing food, so they often shake or tremble.

This is why it’s essential to provide kittens with a healthy, balanced food regime. Also, make sure they are warm and comfortable. Taking care of a kitten is one of those things you want to do right. Who doesn’t give their kitten the best care in the world?

Unrecognizable veterinarian cleaning ears of a cat with cotton buds.

Older cats may suffer from the condition due to their bodies not processing as efficiently (or not eating regularly enough). A blood test at your vet’s will reveal whether this is the case. Note that if left untreated, hypoglycemia can become dangerous and even fatal.

Extreme symptoms of hypoglycemia include lethargy, seizures, unconsciousness, or even a coma. 

4. Other Illness

There is, of course, the possibility that your cat is ill. Several possible ailments or conditions might be causing it to shake. Generally, owners can tell when their cats feel poorly, even if the cause might not be too obvious. Some possibilities include:

Infections

Cats are wandering creatures, and any number of minor cuts, accidental ingestion, or plants can cause an infection. Infections are sometimes accompanied by nausea, loss of appetite, and fever. Poor kitty may also become anxious and try to avoid contact.

The ears, mouth, nose, paws, and eyes are prime candidates for infectious bacteria to invade. 

Veterinarian cleans ears to a small kitten close-up

Toxins

Cats are vulnerable to accidental poisoning, as they like to play and hunt in gardens. Pesticides, old food, and other chemicals may be present out there, and kitty may inadvertently ingest some of these things.

Of course, these may also be around your house. And then there are the foods that are toxic to pets, like chocolate, coffee, and those skin treatments and creams.

Tumors

Medical conditions like tumors, especially in older cats, can sometimes be serious and lead to shaking. As cats get older, they become susceptible to cancers and diseases of age, just like humans. They can become lethargic, sensitive to light and touch, twitch uncontrollably, and generally experience a decline in faculties.

None of us like to see this, but it is a part of life’s journey. Still, talk to your vet about alleviating the symptoms. In some cases, diagnosing tumors can be tricky, but vets can run brain scans and other tests to determine this.

Skin Diseases

Your cat, like many other animals, can twitch its skin. If it has a skin irritation or disease, it may cause spontaneous skin twitching that resembles shaking or trembling. In many cases, a cat’s skin becomes irritated by fleas due to an allergy to flea saliva.

siberian cat in snow shaking

This causes crusty deposits on the skin, which is uncomfortable and irritating for poor felines. Proper flea and tick treatment may help prevent this.

Here is a shortlist of some of the most common skin ailments in cats.

  • Abscesses – infected micro-wounds from scratches and bites can lead to complications
  • Ear mites – mites like to attack ear tissue, especially in kittens
  • Endocrine Dermatosis – yes, dandruff can affect your cat
  • Environmental allergies – this varies from cat to cat, but allergies can be as varied as those in humans – from food to plants to the fabric
  • Feline acne – not just for teenagers; blackheads can appear on your cat’s facial area.
  • Fungal infections – cats can pick up parasites and fungi like ringworm
  • Mange – microscopic mites burrow into the skin. The irritation causes scratching, which in turn leads to hair loss and scabbing
  • Stress-induced alopecia – stress can cause skin irritations, usually accompanied by other indicators like inadequate sleep or loss of appetite
  • Stud tail – a strange ailment that is caused by excessive oil secretions from the skin. It usually affects the tail
  • Ticks and fleas – the eternal enemy of hairy pets
tabby cat shaking

Medication Side Effects

If Kitty is already on medication for a condition, shaking may be a side effect of that medication. In this case, your vet will be able to remedy the situation by prescribing an alternative medicine if one is available.

Appetite stimulants, dewormers, and antibiotics are among the more common types of medication that can cause such side effects. Antihistamines may also be a potential problem, so talk to your vet for a possible course of action.

What to Do When Your Cat Gets the Shakes

The shaking may be very distressing for you – especially if you feel you need to get to a vet, and you can’t get to one immediately. Here’s a checklist that you can follow in case of an emergency.

  1. Call the vet and let them know what’s happening.
  2. Turn down the lights, or draw the curtains to lower the light in the room
  3. Provide lots of ventilation – open a window or a door. If your cat’s temperature has risen, you need to try to keep it cool.
  4. Make sure there are no items in the area that can hurt your cat. Sharp or glass objects can be dangerous.
  5. If possible, place soft pillows or blankets around the cat.
  6. If your cat is having seizures, wait till it subsides before you try to move it to its cat box for transport.
tabby cat shaking on bed

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Final Thoughts on Why Your Cat is Shaking and What to Do

As you can see, there are lots of reasons why your cat may be shaking. But not all the causes are severe or cause for concern. Also, many of the more severe causes are less common in healthy cats.

Be sure to have a vet’s number on hand in caser of any emergency. Remember that your cat probably is unaware of its condition, stay calm, and try to follow these instructions as far as you can if you think there’s a problem.

ginger cat shaking outside why is my cat shaking

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