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The essentials

  • Cats may tremble in fear or when they’re dreaming — These shakes are innocent enough. However, be mindful of other tell-tale signs of serious illness.
  • Noticing the details helps you prevent or at least determine the cause of a cat’s shaking — Monitoring how often your cat shakes and any other symptoms can help your vet diagnose the root cause.
  • Shaking may be a result of low blood sugar, kidney disease, poisoning, or shock — If you believe one of these medical emergencies is causing your cat to shake or seize, call your vet at once.

Causes of shaking in cats

Cats can shake for a number of reasons, ranging from harmless to extremely dangerous. Here are some common causes of cat shaking:


 Your cat’s blood sugar may have dropped, resulting in hypoglycemia. Usually, this can occur if your cat hasn’t eaten or there is an underlying diagnosis of diabetes. Hypoglycemia can also be a symptom of other health problems. Connecting with your vet is the best possible way to determine the possible causes of shakes, as they can rule out or diagnose any disorders in your pet.

If your cat’s shaking is caused by low blood sugar, your vet may choose to correct levels by offering your cat something sweet. We don’t recommend doing this at home unless it’s under a vet’s guidance and you’re en route to their office.

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 or hearing something unfamiliar, can cause shaking in an anxious cat, too. 

You can help calm an anxious cat by wrapping them in blankets, speaking calmly, and using slow movements around them. Pet parents can reach out to their vet for anxiety medicine for their cat or experiment with calming pheromones (a more natural method of anxiety management).

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 over 105 degrees or last longer than two days.

If your cat has a lingering or high temperature for no apparent reason, they may be dealing with an infection or some other underlying illness. Consider taking them to the vet for diagnostic testing.

Kidney disease or kidney failure

 Shaking could be a symptom of kidney disease, especially if there are no other causes behind it (such as a decreased sugar level or anxiety). Your vet can help you run diagnostic blood work to determine if your cat has this serious condition.

If you suspect kidney disease to be the cause of your cat shaking, don’t put off the vet appointment. 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.


Common household items, such as lilies, chocolate, and coffee, can be toxic to cats and are considered life-threatening. If you suspect they have ingested something poisonous, take them to the vet immediately.


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. If you think this is the underlying reason for your kitty’s shaking, get them to the vet right away. Your vet can help to diagnose and treat the health issues that may be causing your cat to go into shock.


Your cat could be shaking from pain due to an injury or infection. If you believe this could be the cause, examine your cat for any sores, cuts, burns, or signs of external injuries. If you still don’t see the reason and you’ve ruled out other causes, it’s time to take them to the vet in case they are experiencing 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. These can easily go undetected in healthy adult cats and young kittens, and they can wreak havoc on your cat’s body temperature and ear pinna. 

Other signs to watch for include sensitivity to loud noises, excessive noise and “complaining” (such as irregular or pained meows), dizziness, or any discharge or odor coming from the ear. Your vet can diagnose and treat a cat’s ear infection after a complete physical exam.

Cold weather

Kittens are especially susceptible to pneumonia and hypothermia when the temps drop too low. If you notice your young cat shivering, hold them against you and rub them gently to help warm them up to a cat’s normal body temperature. 

You can also 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. 

👉Make sure to keep your little ones — and older cats — bundled in blankets during the winter. This gives them a safe space that guards against lower temperatures and offers them the proper care they need to stay safe in the cold. 

When to see a vet 

Not all causes of shaking warrant a vet visit. However, if your cat exhibits other symptoms, such as vomiting, trouble breathing, pale gums, confusion, seizures, or loss of balance, call your vet immediately. Tell your vet when the problems started and any other relevant information to help them get to the bottom of the issue quickly. 

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. 

Keep up with their blood work, especially in older cats — Routine blood work can give you an early diagnosis of kidney disease, cancer, and other serious conditions. Early intervention is key to a potentially positive outcome.

Keep your cats warm in winter to prevent hypothermia — Cats and kittens are especially susceptible to cold weather. Be sure to take proper precautions to keep your pet warm, dry, and comfortable in the winter months.

Introduce new environments and external stimuli slowly — Cats are known to shake when scared, and 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. Or, if you adopt another animal, gradually introduce them and don’t force the new relationship too quickly. 

While seeing your cat shaking sets off alarm bells in your head, not every cause justifies rushing to the vet. Monitoring your cat for other signs of illness gives you the best clues to the problem — including if you should take your cat to the vet.

Frequently asked questions

Should I be worried about my cat shaking?

It’s always a good idea to figure out why your cat is shaking, even if it’s something relatively harmless like fear or a mild chill. Some causes of shaking can be signs of serious medical problems, especially when paired with other symptoms. Call your vet immediately if your cat struggles with balance or shows any signs of neurological distress. 

How do you soothe a shaking cat?

If your cat is cold, warm them by holding them and wrapping them loosely in a towel. You can also lay them on a heating pad as long as there’s a layer in between the pad and their delicate skin to prevent burning. 

Some cats may shake when they’re scared. Figure out what they’re afraid of and either eliminate the problem or soothe your cat by talking to them softly, petting them, and maybe diffusing Feliway to reduce anxiety. 

All medical issues related to shaking should be solved by a veterinarian. 

Why is my cat shaking while it’s sleeping?

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

Why is my cat shaking its head so often?

If your cat is only shaking their head, they could have ear discomforts caused by an infection or ear mites. To check this, 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 they require prescription medication from a vet to fully resolve.