What is Involuntary Muscle Trembling?
Involuntary muscle trembling, officially known as fasciculation, describes a condition in which muscles tremble, twitch, or spasm uncontrollably. This can occur in cats and other companion animals for various reasons. Muscle trembling normally occurs in response to irritants or emotions and is not necessarily related to any medical condition. It is also possible that trembling or twitching is caused by a genetic condition and is untreatable, but not dangerous. In some cases, fasciculation occurs as a symptom of another disease or disorder. Some medical conditions that cause muscle trembling can be severe and may be life-threatening. If muscle trembling continues, seek medical attention.
Symptoms of Involuntary Muscle Trembling in Cats
Involuntary muscle trembling can take many forms. The trembling can occur rapidly with the movements happening in quick succession, or it may occur at a slower pace often described as twitching. The fasciculation may also be localized, meaning it only affects a certain part of the body. Localized trembling or twitching in cats most commonly affects the head or hind legs. The muscle trembling could also be general, meaning it affects the entire body. In both localized and generalized trembling the movement may be persistent or episodic. Additional, seemingly unrelated, symptoms may also be observed depending on the underlying cause of the fasciculation.
- Uncontrolled trembling or twitching
- Sensitivity to touch
- Repetitive pawing or scratching
- Pain and vocalizations that are related to pain
Causes of Involuntary Muscle Trembling in Cats
Various conditions may cause involuntary muscle trembling as a symptom, or there may be no discernable cause. It is possible for the twitching or trembling to simply be part of your pet’s normal response to certain stimuli in their environment or to be an emotionally-triggered response. Involuntary trembling can also be a primary condition, rather than a symptom of something else. Some of the potential causes for involuntary muscle trembling in cats and other companion animals include:
- Nervous system disorder
- Kidney failure
- Certain medications
- Toxicity or poisoning
- Injury or trauma
- Strong emotional responses like excitement, fear, or anxiety
- Deep or REM sleep stages
- Itchiness from dry skin, mites, or fleas
- Low blood calcium
- Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar
- Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Seizure disorders like epilepsy
- Feline hyperesthesia or rolling skin disease
- Congenital or genetic conditions
- Certain cancers, especially those affecting the nervous system or muscles
Diagnosis of Involuntary Muscle Trembling in Cats
Various diagnostic techniques may be needed to determine what is causing the trembling or twitching. Your veterinarian will begin with a full physical examination and medical history. You should discuss any symptoms you have observed, including how frequent the trembling occurs and which portions of the cat’s body are affected. If the fasciculation is episodic and does not occur all the time, a video recording of the trembling may aid your veterinarian in forming a diagnosis. Veterinary staff will take samples of your cat’s blood and urine for laboratory analysis. The blood sample will be tested for blood cell counts, biochemistry and electrolyte panels, and antibodies that might indicate an infection. Urinalysis and analysis for proper kidney function will be checked using the urine sample. Additional diagnostic methods, including x-rays or other imaging techniques, may be needed to diagnose your pet properly.
Treatment of Involuntary Muscle Trembling in Cats
The treatment method used by your veterinarian will be determined by their diagnosis of the underlying cause of the fasciculation. These treatments can vary widely depending on the condition causing the trembling and may include surgery, medications, or other methods. If no cause is determined, treatment may be prescribed to aid in a reduction of the trembling. Some of the common treatments used for muscle trembling include:
Drugs in this category are designed to relax muscles, which may help reduce or eliminate the tremors. This treatment must be properly dosed for your pet’s size and physical condition to reduce the risk of side effects. If a medical condition has been determined to be the cause of the trembling, this treatment method may not be used.
If a deficiency or imbalance is the cause of the trembling, your veterinarian may recommend supplementation to restore the cat’s nutrient balance. This treatment method is relatively low risk but requires monitoring to make sure levels remain in balance.
Anti-Depressants or Anti-Anxiety Medications
If the cause is determined to be psychosomatic, medications designed to improve mental state may be recommended. Proper dosing is needed with this type of treatment to minimize the risk of side effects.
Recovery of Involuntary Muscle Trembling in Cats
The prognosis for recovery will depend on the underlying cause of the muscle trembling. If no cause is determined, the prognosis for management is good. Trembling may never go away in these cases, but it is still possible for your pet to live a normal life. If the underlying cause is treatable, most cats will make a full recovery as long as they respond well to treatment. Certain causes of involuntary muscle trembling, like kidney failure or some cancers, are both untreatable and life-threatening. In these cases, recovery may not be possible. In any case, your care and support will benefit your pet.
Involuntary Muscle Trembling Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
MY cat was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism about two and a half weeks ago. SHe is 14 and in great health the doctor said. They prescribed her medication and she seemed to get better. Before she was constantly vomiting. While taking it at first her symptoms subsided and she seemed better. Now she is breathing strange, raspy sound and she is throwing up multiple times a day. She has no interest in food or water and her head randomly twitches. It’s hard to explain but she will just have a spasm and then go back to being normal.
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My 3 kittens were neutered (castrated) on Tues. They are 23 weeks old and all went well I beleive. They were also microchipped at the time also. However 3 days later, the smaller kitten/cat has a foul odour coming from his mouth and also I noticed a spasm type thing going on with his tounge/mouth upon him waking, when he was yawning which was quite startling to witness. He has also been sticking his tounge out slightly since the operation - something he didnt do before. Hes eating and playing, racing about the house etc. he is the more nervous one and hope it may be just a result of the anesthetic and will stop. I mentioned this to our vets and thats what they mentioned it may be - a reaction to the drugs.
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My cat is twitching today, but was fine yesterday. The only problem is that he was having a hard time walking, but yesterday he walked and went to the bathroom without my help.
My cat's head unvoluntary intermittently and is getting more pronounced all the time. The vet said I need to do a 700.00 Ultra Sound to find out, I can't afford that what else can be done
Thank you I'm going to take him to the vet
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