Congenital Head Tilt in Kittens

A brief cock of the head, not a problem.
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No doubt every kitten cocks his head to one side or the other countless times a day as he explores and listens and absorbs. But a constant head tilt indicates a medical issue. If your kitten goes crooked young, he may have been born with a non-life-threatening condition.

Behind the Tilt

Head tilts that appear in young kittens, those under 6 months of age, usually occur from a congenital condition called vestibular disease. The vestibular system, inside the inner ear, is responsible for balance and orientation. Problems with the vestibular system send your kitten's balance and sense of direction out of whack, causing him to walk like he's had a little too much catnip. Oriental breeds such as Siamese and Burmese tend to fall victim to the congenital form of this condition more than other breeds.

Additional Symptoms

A head tilt is the least of your kitten's problems, but it's one that causes other issues due to his altered perception. Vestibular disease affects every aspect of coordination and can cause frequent falling and walking in circles. His eyes may dart quickly back and forth, and this assault on his senses can cause nausea and vomiting. Many cats with this condition are deaf as well.


Infection-caused vestibular issues resolve with medications, but the congenital form offers no such fix. Any help you can offer your kitten with congenital vestibular disease involves treating the symptoms and side effects from his dizzying condition, such as the vomiting and nausea. His tendency to walk in circles and fall over can lead to further injury, so you have to keep him in your sight.


Although no cure exists for congenital vestibular disease, kittens are resilient. Chances are your little guy will adapt to his condition and eventually become more sturdy and able to mostly compensate for his crooked view of the world. His nausea may subside over time, reducing vomiting episodes. Remain watchful of any dangers, such as pointy objects or open stairways; but once your kitten gets used to his unique limitations, he'll shred your curtains and dig up your potted plants as well as any other cat. Typically, a cat with vestibular problems should lead a healthy and somewhat normal life if he's kept safe. Since his condition is genetic, it's a good idea to have him neutered to prevent passing the condition on.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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