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Cat Twitching: Signs, Causes & When to See a Vet

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on May 16, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat scratching ear

Cat Twitching: Signs, Causes & When to See a Vet

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats have many strange behaviors, like the peculiar chattering sound they make when seeing a bird or a laser pen. But when we see their muscles twitch involuntarily, it’s natural to be concerned and look for the underlying reasons for this phenomenon. We’ve consulted the experts to gather as many explanations for this behavior as we could, and we are going to list them for you here. We’ll also teach you what to look for so you know when it’s time to take your pet to the vet.

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Why Is My Cat Twitching?

Involuntary muscle movements in cats are classified according to their causes. We will review some of the most common causes.

1. Your Cat Is Dreaming

One of the most common reasons a cat might have uncontrollable muscle movements is sleeping and dreaming. Much like people, your cat can have dreams that cause it to act strange when it’s asleep, so it wouldn’t be uncommon to see uncontrollable muscle movements or vocalizations.

Should I see a vet?

No, there is nothing to be alarmed about if you see your cat twitching while it sleeps.

man is sleeping with a cat on a bed
Image Credit: NancyP5, Shutterstock

2. Hyperesthesia

Hyperesthesia is a condition that causes the cat’s backsicat’s become extremely sensitive. It causes the cat to have sudden episodes where it can suddenly become quite vocal and start running around the house. You will also see a twitching of the skin on the back that resembles rolling. Your cat may even begin to scratch or lick the area intensely, resulting in hair loss.

Should I see a vet?

Though the condition can be annoying for your cat, it is not life-threatening, and you do not need to rush to the vet unless you begin to see hair loss or your cat is injuring itself in other ways. However, if you happen to be at the vet already, it can help get an early diagnosis and some advice to help combat it in the future.


3. Nutritional Deficiencies

Several nutritional deficiencies can cause involuntary muscle movements in your cat. Vitamins, particularly vitamin B1 or thiamine, are of great importance as cats require up to three times the amount of B1 than dogs. It is important to make sure this nutrient is present at an adequate level in your cat’s diet. Cats fed mostly on a raw fish diet need additional supplementation of B1 as the fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase that can break down the B1.

Minerals such as calcium play an important role in the fluid concentration of the cells and the regulation of muscle contraction. Cats with calcium deficiencies have seizures. Feeding a good quality diet with adequate levels of calcium and a good multivitamin with minerals can help reduce any chances of nutritional deficiencies. However, hypocalcemia is usually secondary to other diseases, such as kidney disease or parathyroid disease.

Should I see a vet?

Yes, if your cat is presenting tremors frequently. Getting your cat and his diet checked by a veterinarian will help rule out any nutritional deficiencies or electrolyte imbalances due to the disease.

cat sleeping in a sofa
Image Credit By: Pixabay

4. Low Blood Sugar

If your cat has low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, it can experience involuntary muscle twitching.

Should I see a vet?

If your cat is experiencing muscle twitches and you also notice it is drinking and urinating more often, please bring them to the veterinarian for a blood test. Low blood sugar in a cat that is eating normally is generally caused by diabetes. A cat that is suffering from diabetes will need to follow a specialized diet and treatment to manage its condition, so you must take your cat to the vet.


5. Toxicity or Poisoning

Your pet may have ingested something that is affecting its system and causing its muscles to twitch. Several toxins can lead to muscle twitches, as can several medications that your cat may be taking.

Should I see a vet?

Yes, if you suspect your cat has eaten something it shouldn’t or developed a twitch after obtaining a new medication, you should see a vet immediately. It would help if you also kept a supply of activated charcoal on hand and a feeding syringe because you may need it at times like this.

grey cat just finished eating
Image Credit: mik ulyannikov, Shutterstock

6. Nervous System Disorder

A nervous system disorder like epilepsy is a common cause of involuntary muscle movement in cats. No one is sure what causes epilepsy in cats, but many believe it to be genetic. Your cat may act strange and seek attention or hide before an episode, and it can take your cat up to 24 hours to recover.

Should I see a vet?

Yes, while cats with epilepsy can live long and happy lives, early detection is critical to getting your cat the care it needs while you get the required training to know what to do when a seizure occurs.


7. Kidney Failure

Kidney failure causes electrolyte imbalances and can make your cat’s muscles contract uncontrollably. Several factors can cause kidney failure, including bacterial infections, blockage of urinary flow due to urinary stones or masses, cancer, genetics, fungal infections, and more.

Should I see a vet?

Yes, you should take your cat to the vet immediately if you think your cat is suffering from kidney failure, as loss of muscle control means the disease has progressed to a critical level, and your cat needs attention.

Sick cat medicines
Image Credit By: one photo, Shutterstock

8. Rabies

Rabies is the most serious cause of muscle twitching on our list. It is a viral infection that is zoonotic, which means humans and any other mammal can contract it as well if bitten by an infected animal. Rabies attacks the nervous system and causes muscle twitches and extreme changes in behavior and aggression. Vaccinations are the best way to prevent it, and every cat and dog must be vaccinated against rabies.

Should I see a vet?

If you suspect your cat has rabies, please isolate it in a room and report it to animal services. This virus causes extreme changes in the behavior of animals, and you are at risk of getting bitten and contracting the disease. It’s highly contagious and easy to spread to any other pets or yourself. Animal services staff have the training and equipment to handle animals with rabies in a safe way.


9. Injury and Trauma

Injury and trauma are common causes of muscle twitching in cats. As the muscles heal, they can twitch, and if there is a broken bone, you may also notice twitching.

Should I see a vet?

If you notice your cat has suffered an injury and is presenting involuntary muscle movements, it could have a broken bone or an injury that needs immediate attention, so please take your cat to the vet.

Abyssinian cat opened its mouth_Slava Dumchev_shutterstock
Image Credit By: Slava Dumchev, Shutterstock

 


10. Itchy Skin

Another common reason for twitching in a cat is itchy and irritated skin. The skin can get irritated when the cat has fleas or mites. The cat will continuously scratch, and it may use the muscles under its back to move the skin in a twitching motion to be more comfortable.

Should I see a vet?

Occasional scratching throughout the day is normal for a cat, but if you see your cat routinely scratching the same spot (or multiple areas), you should take him or her to the vet for professional advice.


11. Fasciculation

Fasciculation is the medical term for involuntary muscle spasms. It can occur rapidly and resemble a seizure, or it can be more subdued and better described as a twitch. It can be local to one part of the body or more general. Benign fasciculations can be caused by exercise or stress. However, toxic substances, neurological disorders, and metabolic disorders such as hypercalcemia can cause fasciculations.

Should I see a vet?

It’s not necessarily essential to see your vet if you suspect your cat has fleas, but it is important to immediately get them medication. Fleas can cause a number of problems for your cat besides itchy skin, including anemia, so you will want to eliminate them quickly.

cat itchy
Image Credit By: Pixabay

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Summary

The most common cause of involuntary muscle twitching that we experienced after owning several cats was dreaming. Our cats will twitch their paws and eyes while sleeping, often accompanied by chatting noises. This action usually comes after an exciting day when the cat has seen a bird or squirrel in the yard. We’ve also seen a few cats with hyperesthesia. While it did not cause them to chew off their fur, we would see their skin twitching occasionally, and they would suddenly run around the house, making loud vocal noises.

We hope you have enjoyed reading and feel like you have found the cause of one of your cat’s strangcat’saviors.

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Featured Image: fotovictoria, Shutterstock

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