A cat that suddenly starts shaking its head continuously may be ill, it may be a mild illness, but it may be something serious that will require veterinary attention. Whether it is a symptom of an ear infection or a more serious medical condition, you need to deal with it quickly and consult with your veterinarian so that you can start treatment and your cat can start feeling relief. Read on to know why do cats shake their heads.

why do cats shake their heads

why do cats shake their heads

Ear infections and ear mites

In fact, of all the causes of head shaking in a cat, an ear infection is the most likely cause. When you bring your cat to the vet with a shaking head, your veterinarian first checks your cat’s ear canals with an otoscope. This allows them to detect any potential inflammation in the canal, as well as determine if the eardrum is intact or not.

Once your veterinarian has checked your cat’s eardrums, they will take samples of your cat’s ear discharge. A veterinarian can detect two different types of bacteria: either cocci (in the shape of a circle), rod-shaped bacteria, and ear mites.

Ear mites are a type of ectoparasite that, although not entirely common, is certainly more common in cats than dogs. Ear mites can cause a severe itching sensation that will surely make your cat shake its head.

Depending on what is visible on the microscope (and depending on whether your cat’s eardrums are intact), your veterinarian will determine which medication to treat and what to do.

why do cats shake their heads


Cats can sometimes develop ear polyps. These are benign growths that develop in the mucous membranes of the middle or outer ear of a cat.

Symptoms of an ear polyp vary depending on where it is located but may include coughing, sneezing, tilting the head, or nasal discharge. Polyps can only be treated with surgery.

Insect bites

Cats are prone to insect bites, mainly on the face and paws. Some cats will have a localized reaction at the site of the bite, which may include swelling, inflammation, itching, hives, and head shaking.

If the veterinarian suspects that the cat has been bitten by an insect, he or she may give antihistamines to control the inflammation. In more rare cases, the cat may experience an anaphylactic reaction and this requires immediate veterinary attention.


Like humans, cats can suffer from allergies. In cats, allergies can result from contact, inhalation, food, or insects (especially from flea bites) and most commonly presents as severe itching around the head, neck, ears, and may include head shaking.

Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to relieve itching, but they will also try to figure out the allergen. He may prescribe monthly flea prophylaxis.

He may also suggest changes to your cat’s diet. Such a diet is incredibly strict – nothing but the prescribed food for six to eight weeks.

why do cats shake their heads

Ear hematoma

There are a number of small blood vessels in the auricle, and if the cat shakes its head enough, one of these blood vessels may burst. When this happens, the pinna fills with blood and takes on a plump, pillow-like appearance.

Let’s sum up

A cat can have several different reasons for shaking its head. The veterinarian will help you determine the true reason, do not self-medicate.

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