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Why is my cat shaking

The essentials

  • Low blood sugar, kidney disease, poisoning, or shock — If you believe one of these is causing your cat to shake, call your vet at once.
  • Cats may tremble from fear or dreams while they sleep — You don’t need to load your kitty in the car every time they shake, but be mindful of other tell-tale signs of serious illness to distinguish a medical emergency from harmless behavior.
  • It’s possible to prevent or at least determine the cause of shaking — Note how frequently your cat shakes and any other adverse health symptoms to help your vet diagnose the cause of their behavior.

Causes of shaking in cats

Cold weather, low blood sugar, or fear are some of the many reasons why your cat might shake. One of the most dangerous — and time-sensitive — reasons your cat may have tremors is if they ate poisonous plants such as poinsettias or lilies or toxic foods.

If you suspect your cat might have ingested something other than their food, make note of what and how much they’ve eaten, and call the vet immediately. Common causes of shaking include:

Hypoglycemia. Your cat’s blood sugar could have dropped, resulting in hypoglycemia. Usually, this occurs because they haven’t eaten or they’re diabetic. If your cat doesn’t go to the vet for blood work often, they could have undiagnosed diabetes.

Fear or anxiety. Cats are creatures of habit. They can feel anxious about or fearful of changes in their environment, such as a new pet or work schedule. New stimuli, like seeing something unfamiliar or the sound of a garbage truck, can cause shaking, too.

Irregular body temperature. The normal body temperature for cats ranges between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. If your cat’s temperature is 103 or higher, then they’re running a fever. While fevers can help fight infections, they can be dangerous if they’re 105 degrees or higher, or last longer than two days. If your cat has a lingering or high temperature for no apparent reason, you should take them to the vet for diagnostic testing. If there’s no obvious cause, your vet may run bloodwork to rule out a variety of illnesses, including cancer.

Kidney disease or kidney failure. Shaking could be a symptom of kidney disease, so take your kitty to the vet to determine if they have this serious condition. If kidney disease isn’t treated early enough, it can result in kidney failure, which is one of the leading causes of death in cats.

Toxicity.  Common household items such as toxic plants, chocolate, and coffee can be life-threatening to pets. You should take your cat to the vet if you suspect they ingested something poisonous.

Shock. Shaking could be a sign your cat is going into shock, which could be caused by sudden trauma or injury, blood loss, heart attacks, or anaphylactic (allergic) reactions. Regardless of the cause, going into shock is a medical emergency that requires immediate action.

Pain. Your cat could be shaking from an extremely painful injury or infection. Examine your cat for any sores, cuts, burns, or signs that they have external injuries. If you still don’t see the reason and you’ve ruled out other causes, take them to the vet because they could have an internal injury or infection.

Ear issue. If your cat is shaking its head instead of twitching all over, it might have an ear ailment such as an infection.

Cold weather. Kittens are especially susceptible to pneumonia and hypothermia. If you notice your young cat shivering, hold them against you and rub them gently to help warm them up.  Make sure to keep your little ones — and older cats — bundled in blankets during the winter.

Treatment options for when your cat is shaking

When you notice your cat is shaking, note how long they’ve been doing it, the frequency, and if they’re shaking one part of their body or if the tremors are all over. If your pet shakes for a couple of minutes and then stops without the episode repeating or any other symptoms,  they may be cold or scared.

🚨If the tremors are severe, long-lasting, or accompanied by any other signs of discomfort, it’s best to take your cat to the vet.

All of these clues will help your vet determine the proper treatment, including for some of these conditions:

Sweets to reverse hypoglycemia — This condition may be temporarily reversed by offering your cat something sweet to eat such as honey or even whipped cream. Just be sure to never feed your cat candy, which might contain chocolate or xylitol, which is toxic to cats.

Keep in mind that if your cat hasn’t eaten to the point that they’re hypoglycemic, they probably have an underlying illness that may need medical attention. Even if you can get their blood sugar levels under control, it’s always best to follow up with a vet to make sure your cat isn’t diabetic or seriously ill.

Heating pads for severe cold — If your cat is dangerously cold, you can use a heating pad or a heated blanket on low to warm them up until you can get them to the veterinarian. Always make sure there’s a towel or blanket in between the heating pad and your cat to prevent burns. You can also use a heat lamp instead.

Seek help for high temperatureHyperthermia is often the result of fever due to a virus or an infection. Consult your vet to determine the cause of the high temperature. A fever of unknown cause will also need to be assessed based on external (injury, outward infection) and internal factors (bloodwork) by a vet.

👉 Shock, toxicity issues, and pain are illnesses that typically need to be professionally treated. If you notice signs of extreme lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, or other signs of poisoning or shock, head to your vet immediately. 

Many emergency visits to the vet are covered by pet insurance — find out what is (and isn’t) included by reading our pet insurance coverage guide.

Prevent shaking in cats

Numerous things can cause your cat to shake, such as low or high body temperatures, an illness, or low blood sugar. To ensure your feline is in optimal health, follow these tips:

  • Monitor eating habits to prevent hypoglycemia — Eating a few small meals a day will help cats regulate their blood sugar, ensuring it doesn’t spike or dip with infrequent feedings.
  • Keep your cat away from toxic substances — Common human foods such as coffee, alcohol, and chocolate, as well as a variety of houseplants, are toxic to cats. Other items in your home could also become choking hazards, such as hairpins, decorations, and toys. Make sure your curious kitten doesn’t have access to anything that could be harmful if swallowed.
  • Keep up with their blood work, especially in older cats — Routine blood work can give you an early diagnosis of kidney disease. If caught early, the prognosis is generally good, but it can be fatal if you allow it to progress without intervention.
  • Keep your cats warm in winter to prevent hypothermia — Kittens are especially susceptible to cold weather, which is why they’re typically born in the spring and fall. If you have a winter kitty, ensure they stay warm.
  • Introduce new environments and external stimuli slowly — Cats are known to shake when scared — new situations tend to stress them out. Try not to put them in an unfamiliar place without some element of comfort. For example, if you must travel with your cat, provide them with their favorite toys and blankets. If you adopt another animal, gradually introduce them and don’t force the new relationship.

Frequently asked questions

Why is my cat shaking or vibrating?

Cats can vibrate for numerous reasons, and the severity depends on the situation. Low blood sugar, fever, ear infection, and kidney disease are a few common causes. Monitoring your cat’s overall health can help determine the cause. If the shaking continues or if you suspect serious illness, take them to the vet.

Why is my kitten trembling?

Kittens are extremely susceptible to fear from unfamiliar surroundings since they’re still new to this world. They are also sensitive to cold, so make sure they stay bundled and warm in cold weather and keep your house AC at a reasonable temperature. If you’ve ruled out these two common reasons for shaking, monitor other aspects of your kitten’s health, such as their eating habits and if they’re in any obvious pain. You might need to take them to the vet if they keep shaking for seemingly no reason.

Why is my cat shaking while it’s sleeping?

Like humans, cats can tremble from dreams. If your cat doesn’t tremble in their waking hours, then it’s probably no problem but keep a close eye on them to make sure.

Why is my cat shaking its head so often?

If your cat is shaking its head (not its whole body), it could have ear discomforts such as an infection or ear mites. Look inside your cat’s ears if you can. They should be shiny and clean, without the presence of dirt or insects. If you see anything out of the ordinary, take your cat to the vet. Thankfully, ear mites and infections are simple to treat but may require medicine.