Why Is My Cat Shaking: Causes and What You Can Do to Help

As a veterinarian, I often receive panic calls from pet owners asking why their cat is shaking so much. The largest concern is when it becomes seemingly uncontrollable. These complaints are common in my daily routine, and can cause a bit of alarm for pet parents.

Sometimes, trembling or shivering in cats proves fatal. So you should take this odd symptom seriously if it’s sudden or has become common.

Pets may shiver for many reasons, including fear, anxiety, cold, and noise. Additionally, various medical issues are also associated with the intense shaking of your kitty. Also at play, the age and breed type also directly affect the shivering among pets. Young cats are more vulnerable to shaking as compared to older ones.

Below, I’m going to share the most reliable information targeting all your concerns about the shaking of your beloved fur-balls. [1]

Why Does Shivering Occur in Cats?

Sometimes, you notice involuntary seizure-like movements across the head, legs, and tail of your kitty. These tremors can be scary for both cat and pet owner as well. It can last either for a few minutes or continue for an hour or more.

So, you must take appropriate measures to overcome this painful shaking in your furry friend. Several stimuli can cause trembling in your adult cat or kitten.

These include the following, which I’ll dive into more detail below:

  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hypothermia or hyperthermia
  • Kidney disease or kidney failure
  • Psychological stress
  • Pain or injury
  • Shock
  • Toxicity
  • Noise
  • Trauma

1. Hypoglycemia

This is the most common cause of shaking among kittens. If your cat has not eaten enough food for an extended period, its blood sugar level can become quite low. This condition leads to the shivering of your cat in most of cases. It’s no different than what happens to some people who’s blood sugar drops too low.

On the other hand, diabetes is another major cause of shaking in cats that needs medical treatment and can become an emergency if your cat has not been diagnosed. Mostly, older cats become victims of diabetes and can experience shivering. [3]

If you notice your cat drinking a lot more water than it used to, this is also a sign that you pal may be diabetic.

2. Hypothermia

Another contributing factor in the shivering of kittens includes hypothermia. Young, especially newborn kittens, fail to maintain their body temperature.

Cats with internal health issues may also suffer from hypothermia. Normal body temperature for cats ranges between 100.5 to 102.5F (yes, they are warmer than us!).

Furthermore, harsh weather conditions or staying outside for a long time can also lead to shaking among kittens who are outdoors and not in he comfort of either their mother or a warm area that a human provides.

Just because cats are furry animals and seemingly have natural coats and blankets to keep themselves warm, they can become quite cold, especially when very young.

3. Hyperthermia

A high fever can also cause trembling among young feline. It is s generally observed that your kitty gets sick and shivers due to any kind of infectious disease it may be battling.

This situations demands medical attention to reverse the effect of shaking. Hyperthermia can prove fatal if it is left untreated. High temperature is a major cause of stroke in alarming conditions among felines. [4]

4. Chronic kidney diseases

Many breeds of cats experience seizures due to chronic kidney failure. Kidney issues is a biggie among our feline pets. In many cases, their liver and kidney organs fail to function properly, which builds up waste products in the bloodstream.

Prolonged conditions can even lead to death. In this scenario, your feline loses appetite and undergoes general malaise. Kidney diseases are the leading cause of shivering among cats, and it’s a tell-tale sign that something could be wrong with their kidneys.

If you suspect this, or have ruled out the other causes listed here, by all means get some blood work done with your vet as soon as possible.

5. Psychological stress

Sometimes, anxiety and stress induce trembling among our kitties. You should observe the behavior of your furry friend to counter this if this is the underlying issue.

Moreover, emotional disturbance, alienation, and social issues are the factors associated with the trembling of young kittens. A fearful or traumatic condition can also lead to the shaking of cats. [5]

6. Toxicity

One dominating cause for shaking in cats involves toxic chemicals. It’s not uncommon to see in my clinic, poisonous plants or herbs becoming the source of stomach ulcers. It results in shivering among our pets in most of the cases.

If you suspect this, know that poisonous, rotten food can also cause vomiting for your four-legged friend. If this goes hand-in-hand with the shaking, then there may be an issue with something they ate. Seek medical advice as soon as you can.

7. Pain or injury

The most apparent factor responsible for a cat that is shaking includes pain or injury. Sometimes your kitty gets hurt accidentally, and it causes an internal ailment, which leads to shivering of her body. So you cannot deny the underlying effect of any pain while observing trembles in your kitten.

Harmful Effects of Shivering in Cats

You should also be aware of any of the following associated symptoms:

  • Extreme weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in how your cat smells
  • Lethargy
  • Blue or pale gums

It goes without saying that any of the above can turn south and lead to worst case scenarios:

  • Coma
  • Heart stroke
  • Death [2]

How to Help and Prevent Shaking in Your Cat?

1. Environmental adjustments

Sometimes, elderly cats feel cold in a warm house and start shaking. You’ll notice this even while petting them. They will purr and accept you love and attention…and their little bodies will be vibrating.

In this situation, provide them with a comfy warm environment by putting them safely near your house heater or near the fireplace. If you have a sunny day outdoors while it’s colder indoors, let the sun fall through the window. Your cat will love soaking up the heat! Either way, you should keep them near these heat sources to maintain their normal body temperature.

Cats are heat seekers and gravitate towards warm spots naturally. In addition to this, you should cover newborn kitties in warm pads or towels right out of the dryer to avoid shaking.

2. Balanced diet

A balanced diet plays an evident role to upgrade normal body functions. You should consult your vet expert to draw a diet plan for your kitty according to her breed and age. Moreover, supplements should also be administered when required to meet their nutritious demand.

A well-balanced diet enriched with protein, fiber, and vitamins is essential to minimize shaking among cats. Make sure fresh fruits and food is always available to your kitty.

In the case of diabetes, your vet may remove any foods the cat may be used to eating that are high in grains or fillers. Remember, cats are carnivores and not used to processing so many carbohydrates found is 90% of dry cat foods. Look to whole meat diets or special foods formulated for diabetic cats.

3. Add glucose in hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia tends to occur in young kittens. To deal with this issue, you should add some honey drops, corn syrup, and maple syrup to upgrade its sugar level. Moreover, in the worst cases, you should give your cat glucose injections if required.

4. Regular checkups

To control shaking among cats, regular checkups are very important. You should take your kitty to a veterinarian for a blood test if you observe any sign of numbness and shivering.

The doctor will provide you with complete medical treatment to overcome its trembling. In addition to this, proper vaccination is also effective to defeat bacterial and viral infections.

5. Hydration to minimize kidney infection

To tackle the issue of shaking, make sure you provide plentiful clean water to your cat. It will hydrate its vital organs like the heart, kidney, and lungs.

Water is essential to increase the metabolic rate as well. It helps to excrete waste products from the body and assist in maintaining normal body temperature in warm conditions.

6. Nice background music

Another very profound way to control a fearful cat is to soothe her. It would be best if you play nice background music to minimize the unwanted noise of fireworks. It will make your feline comfortable and helps to calm her in adverse conditions.

Furthermore, you should give company to your cat if the shaking is caused by sudden noise or fear. You must ensure a conducive and playful environment to reduce the impact of shaking among your kitten.

My Final Advice

Any severe shaking for your kitty is no doubt a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention. Prolonged or intense shaking sometimes proves fatal so you should take your kitty to some vet expert.

Aside from something dangerous, you should take precautionary measures for your cat to escape fear and anxiety invoked by any stimulus that could be the culprit. It’s up to you to help manage the environment for your feline. Sometimes, you cat is just sensitive to the stimuli in its environment.

In the end, it never hurts to further investigate a behavioral change like your cat shaking. It could just be that your little friend needs it a little warmer in your house and loud sounds turned down.

But why not be assured from a professional, who can run the appropriate tests to rule out anything serious outlined above.

References:

[1] Jukes, A., Gunew, M., & Marshall, R. (2017). Severe muscle fasciculations and tremor in a cat with hypochloraemic metabolic alkalosis secondary to duodenal obstruction. JFMS open reports, 3(1), 2055116916686427. https://doi.org/10.1177/2055116916686427

[2] Merola, I., & Mills, D. S. (2016). Behavioral Signs of Pain in Cats: An Expert Consensus. PloS one, 11(2), e0150040. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150040

[3] Zini, E., Salesov, E., Dupont, P., Moretto, L., Contiero, B., Lutz, T. A., & Reusch, C. E. (2018). Glucose concentrations after insulin-induced hypoglycemia and glycemic variability in healthy and diabetic cats. Journal of veterinary internal medicine, 32(3), 978–985. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.15134

[4] Adams, T. (1963). Body-temperature regulation in the normal and cold-acclimatized cat. Journal Of Applied Physiology, 18(4), 772-777. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1963.18.4.772

[5] Arnold, R., Issar, T., Krishnan, A. V., & Pussell, B. A. (2016). Neurological complications in chronic kidney disease. JRSM cardiovascular disease, 5, 2048004016677687. https://doi.org/10.1177/2048004016677687