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Why Is My Cat Bobbing His Head? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons for This Behavior

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 3, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

woman hands pet and massage on the head of gray and white adorable cat

Why Is My Cat Bobbing His Head? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons for This Behavior


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

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

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Head bobbing in cats can occur for a variety of reasons, some simple and others more serious. In many cases, your cat’s head bobbing may simply be the symptom of a benign, temporary anomaly, like a stressful situation or overheating. However, it could also be an indication of a more serious condition that may need intervention from your vet.

Sudden head bobbing in your feline can be a stressful sight, but there is usually no reason to worry. In this article, we look at common reasons for this unusual behavior in cats and potential solutions. Let’s get started!


The 6 Vet-Approved Reasons Why Cats Bob Their Heads

1. Ear problems

The most common reason for your cat bobbing their head is ear issues. This could be as simple as a build-up of wax causing them discomfort or hearing difficulties, or it could be something more serious, like an ear infection. An ear infection can throw your cat off balance, and the bobbing is their attempt to right themselves. This will usually be accompanied by other signs, like vomiting and lack of appetite. Another possibility is ear mites or fleas, and the constant itching may be causing your cat discomfort.

Perform a thorough check on your cat’s ears for wax build-up or signs of fleas or mites. Gently wipe away excess wax with a cotton ball soaked in warm water, but stay away from cotton swabs, as these can potentially damage their eardrums. If there are any signs of redness, swelling, or pain, there may be an infection, and you’ll need to take your cat to the vet.

grayish cat's owner cleaning its ears_Te9I_shutterstock
Image Credit: Te9I, Shutterstock

2. Reaction to medication

Bad reactions to drugs can cause head bobbing in cats and may even cause seizures in serious cases. Your cat may be having a bad reaction to certain medications, which is fairly common even with cat-approved drugs. Never give your cat any medication that is not prescribed or at least approved by your vet, as this can lead to serious side effects. Reactions to drugs are often accompanied by other signs, like nausea or diarrhea.

If your cat is on medication and you suspect that this may be the cause of their head-bobbing, ask your vet if there is another medication available.

3. Bacterial infections

If your cat has a bacterial infection, more common in older cats and kittens, this could be the cause of their head bobbing. This will almost always be accompanied by other signs, including fever, lack of appetite, runny nose, lethargy, and vomiting. You’ll need to take your feline to the vet for a health exam to determine the exact type of bacterial infection and whether antibiotics are necessary.

sick cat lying on blanket
Image credit: one photo, Shutterstock

4. Head trauma

Head trauma may also be the cause of your cat’s head bobbing. Your cat may have been in a fight, had a high fall, or even been hit by a car, and any of these incidents may lead to a head injury that can cause cognitive dysfunction, resulting in head bobbing. Check your cat’s head for any signs of impact or injury, and again, they may also need an appointment with a vet.

5. Genetics

Although it’s fairly rare, your cat’s genetics may have a part to play in their head bobbing. This is especially common among purebred animals, where poor breeding practices among a small gene pool can result in unhealthy animals. A good example of this is the Burmese cat. These cats sometimes suffer from a hereditary condition called hypokalemic polymyopathy, which is characterized by weakness of the neck muscles, which may result in head bobbing.

6. Vestibular disease

Vestibular disease is characterized by sudden and somewhat drastic disorientation in cats, and this could be the cause of your cat’s head bobbing. Common signs are falling or leaning to one side, head tilting or bobbing, and often, nausea and vomiting. The condition is caused by an abnormality in the inner ear of your cat, the vestibular apparatus, which is responsible for balance and coordination. The exact cause of this condition is not yet fully understood, and diagnosis is based on clinical signs.

The condition typically comes on suddenly and can occur in cats of any age. While there is no specific medical treatment, your vet will most likely prescribe antibiotics or anti-fungal medication, as there is likely an infection of some kind in the inner ear. The condition is not long-lasting and usually resolves itself within a few days.

cat paw divider

Final Thoughts

While sudden head bobbing in your cat can be worrying, this is usually a reversible condition following the right treatment. Please bring your cat for a veterinary consultation. Chances are that after treatment, your cat will be back to normal in no time..

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Featured Image Credit By: PattayaPhotography, Shutterstock

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