Seeing your cat shaking may be very alarming for a cat owner. For one thing, it’s an unusual behavior, and your first instinct will likely be to assume the worst and Google, ‘Why is My Cat Shaking?’
First things first – don’t panic. Try to remain calm, there are several reasons for a cat shaking.
Shakes can result from something as innocuous as your cat dreaming, to feeling cold or an illness. So bear in mind that not all shaking in cats is cause for immediate alarm.
In this article, we’ll look at the most common causes of why you have a shivering cat and what you can do to alleviate at least a few of the reasons. In all situations, though, consider consulting your vet if this odd cat behavior persists.
Why is My Cat Shaking? 4 Causes
One thing to know is that there are different degrees of shaking and trembling behavior. If only one section of the body is shaking (like a leg, the tail, or the belly), It could be more severe. A kitten shaking or trembling is another thing to monitor well. However mild or severe, it’s best not to ignore it.
You could often alleviate the symptoms of a cat trembling to some degree. In fact, you should try to do so until you can see a vet (if necessary). As a cat owner, you can offer the vet insight into when you noticed it, how severe it is, or what you suspect might be the cause.
The first thing to determine is whether the shaking is isolated to a body part or looks more like a tremor or seizure. If the cat seems disoriented or seems to be losing muscular or mental control, or other symptoms accompany the shaking, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
So let’s look into what may be causing that shaking.
1. Inappropriate Body Temperature
A cat whose shaking could be too cold. Cats have a physiological temperature between 100.5°F (38°C) and 102.5°F (39°C). Yep, that’s warm compared to us humans. When they drift outside these parameters, cats can quickly get uncomfortable.
Under 100°F (37.7°C) and your cat could be in danger of hypothermia – for example, if they’re stuck outside on a cold day or get wet and can’t dry off.
If you have a pet thermometer on hand, try to take their temperature.
Shaking could also be an end-stage sign of heatstroke. Though less common, it is a life-threatening condition caused by a cat being too hot. Panting (like a dog), dribbling, loss of cohesion in movement, sweaty paws and loss of consciousness are signs of heatstroke. Keep an eye on your cat if your area experiences sweltering days and take them to the vet immediately if you see any of these signs.
Fluffy cat breeds are more prone to overheating. So, providing them with a cool, damp towel in 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 out of direct sunshine will do.
2. Pain, Fear, or Anxiety
Fearful or anxious cats may shake their heads or bodies periodically. This is usually the case if there is no apparent injury or temperature-related discomfort. It’s usually also accompanied by aggressive or hyper-defensive behavior.
Sometimes, it may also be due to pain without an apparent cause. So, 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 experimenting with pet hemp chews or pheromones, to help cats deal with stress.
In many cases, loud noises or other animals trigger anxiety. This is because cats are susceptible to stressors in their environment.
Side note: Cats can also become depressed. The stress that this induces may indirectly cause other kinds of reactions. For example, going without eating can lead to hypoglycemia (see below). Sometimes, depression over long periods can lead to serious health issues for your cat.
Oddly enough, hypoglycemia is a more common cause of why cats shake than you might imagine. Also known as “low blood sugar,” it is when the blood contains too little glucose. It’s usually evident when your cat hasn’t eaten for a while, and their body reacts to the condition.
Hypoglycemia may answer your question, ‘Why is my kitten shaking?’ because it’s often seen in young kittens. Their tiny bodies aren’t entirely used to processing food yet and they’re not old enough to have reserves, so they can shake or tremble.
This is why providing kittens with a healthy, balanced food regime is essential. 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?
Older cats that vomit may need a special diet. This is because they may suffer due to their bodies not processing as efficiently (or not eating regularly enough). A blood test will reveal whether this is the case.
Note that if left untreated, hypoglycemia is dangerous and can even be fatal. Extreme symptoms of hypoglycemia include lethargy, seizures, unconsciousness, or even a coma.
4. Other Illness
There is, of course, the possibility that your kitten shivering is a sign they’re ill. There are several possible ailments or conditions. Generally, owners can tell when their cats feel poorly, even if the cause might not be too obvious. Some possibilities include the following:
Cats are wandering creatures, and minor cuts, ingestion or fighting, can result in an infection. When asking, ‘Why does my cat shake?’ note if it’s also accompanied by nausea, loss of appetite, and fever. Your poor kitty may also become anxious and try to avoid contact.
The ears, mouth, nose, paws, and eyes are often routes of entry for disease-causing microorganisms.
Cats are vulnerable to accidental poisoning, as they like to play and hunt in gardens. Cats sometimes ingest pesticides, rodenticides, and anti-freeze (ethylene glycol) and result in poisoning.
Of course, there could be other potential cat toxins in your house such as plants or beauty products.
Besides shivering, your cat may also drool and try to vomit to eliminate the toxin. These are crucial signs to look at and report to your vet when you rush your pet to them.
Skin bumps could indicate tumors, especially in older cats, which can sometimes be severe and lead to shaking. As cats get older, they become more susceptible to cancers and diseases of age, just like humans.
They can become lethargic, sensitive to light and touch, and twitch uncontrollably.
None of us like to see this, but it is a part of life’s journey. Talk to your vet if you think your cat might have a tumor, to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Twitching in their sleep is normal. Cats, like many other animals, can twitch their skin. However, if they have skin irritation, 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.
This causes crusty deposits on the skin, which is uncomfortable and irritating for poor felines. Proper anti-parasite treatment helps prevent this.
Here is a short list of the most common skin conditions in cats:
- Abscesses – for example caused by infected wounds from scratches or bites can lead to complications.
- Ear mites – mites living in a cat’s ear, especially in kittens.
- Endocrine Dermatosis – Yes, dandruff can affect your cat.
- Environmental allergies – Allergies vary from cat to cat and can be as varied as those in humans – from food to fleas to the environment.
- Feline Acne – This is not just for teenagers; changes can appear on your cat’s chin.
- Fungal infections – Cats can suffer from fungi such as ringworm.
- Mange – Microscopic mites burrow into the skin. The irritation causes scratching, leading to hair loss and scabbing.
- Stress-induced alopecia – Stress can cause skin irritations, inadequate sleep, or loss of appetite.
- Stud tail – A strange ailment caused by excessive oil secretions from the skin, usually affecting the tail.
- Ticks and fleas – The eternal enemy of hairy pets.
Medication Side Effects
If your kitty is already on medication, shaking may be a side effect of that medication. In this case, your vet could remedy the situation by prescribing an alternative medicine if 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 problem, so talk to your vet for a possible course of action.
What Should I Do If My Cat is Shaking?
Your cat shaking may be very distressing – especially if you need to get to a vet and can’t get to one immediately. So, here’s a checklist you can follow in an emergency.
- Call the vet and let them know what’s happening and if you have any suspicion of the cause.
- Turn down the lights, or draw the curtains to lower the light in the room and keep the atmosphere calm.
- Open a window or a door for ventilation. If your cat’s temperature has risen, try to keep it cool.
- Remove sharp, glass, or possibly dangerous objects from the environment.
- If possible, place soft pillows or blankets around the cat.
- If your cat has seizures, wait until it subsides before you try to move it to its cat box for transport.
Final Thoughts on ‘Why is My Cat Shaking?’ and What to Do
As you can see, there are many answers to your quest, finding ‘Why is my cat trembling?’. But not all the causes are cause for concern.
Be sure to have a vet’s number on hand in case 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.
Meet the Veterinary Expert
Charlotte recently became a doctor and studied at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. She’s volunteered in her university’s obstetrical clinic, and equine clinic, and is dog mum to 14-year-old Chiki. Charlotte loves to travel and has completed externships in Austria, Spain, and Belgium.