Nystagmus in Cats – Quivering Cat Eyes

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Originally published Oct 30, 2015

The first time I took Trigg, my blue lynx mitted Ragdoll cat, to the acupuncturist (can’t remember how old he was, but it’s been a few years), she asked me, “Did you notice the Nystagmus in his eyes?” I had never even heard the word and my regular vet had never said anything. Nystagmus is when the eyes quiver back and forth or oscillation of the eyeballs. She said it wasn’t a big deal and that it is quite common in Siamese cats.

I have always thought Trigg has somewhat of an eyesight problem – for example, I can come home and be wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up and he freaks out, not recognizing me until I vocally say, “It’s OK, Chiggy, it’s me.” and then he settles down and relaxes.

Anyway, I wanted to share his Nystagmus with you guys – hopefully, you’ll be able to see it.

Here’s what our regular vet said when I asked her about it:

“The nystagmus or rotary movement of the eyes are a normal finding in some breeds of cats. These are usually very mild like what we saw with Trigg.

Increased nystagmus can cause balance problems and that is when we need to treat. If Trigg is having trouble with balance or has a permanent tilt to his head then we should take a look. If he is “normal Trigg” but seems to have a little more ‘shakiness’ to his eyes when he is holding still than this is likely normal variation for your boy.

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One more test would be to take Trigg’s head and gently but quickly move his head from side to side (2reps). If this movement causes increased nystagmus and immediate balance problems then we should take a look.”

Does anyone have experience with Nystagmus?

Categories Health Care, TriggTags featured

Comments (22)

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      1. Nystagmus is an involuntary eye movement. In people, about 2% of the population has this naturally. In law enforcement, we use the observation of nystagmus in identifying drivers who are impaired by alcohol.

  1. Yes, it’s just part of their inherent genes coming from their Siamese background like you said. Nothing to worry about and totally endearing to me. Illaria has it a lot but Gracie, just every now and then but very slight.

  2. Thanks for the heads up about this condition, Jenny! I was totally unaware this even existed. And thanks for making the video with Triggy. I’m so sorry he has the twitchy eyes but at least it’s nothing life threatening. Thank goodness! I’ll have to take a closer look at our Miss Pink Sugarbelle’s eyes and see if they twitch. I’ve never noticed it but I wasn’t looking for it either. If I see that they twitch I’ll let you know.

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

    P.S. Meowloween is almost here! Yay!!!!

  3. Nala has this in her right eye, but not her left. Her one eye will randomly (but very briefly) go out of synch with the other one. Kind of weird, but doesn’t seem to affect her in a negative way.

  4. Hi-I am a new ragdoll owner only had him for 15 days-He is awesome. I am familiar with nystagmus my son has it let me know how I can help.

    Look forward to getting to know all the fellow ragdoll fans out there-my seal mitted is 7 1/2 months old, very chatty, so social, and so kind. Very happy!

  5. Hi Jenny!

    I would like to ask, if you have taken Triggy for a vet about the Nystagmus? Or have you had any information how it affects his eyesight and quality of life? We have two years old Ragdoll boy Ville, who has this nystagmus, rotational kind. He has had it from his birth, at least we think so. We made a contact with his breeder about his condition, but she washed her hands out of it. She also claimed that she had no idea what this nystagmus is. We think every breeder should’ve atleast heard of this and she should’ve taken this seriously. Because she is still a breeder.

    1. Also, i forgot to say, that we have watched your videos even before we took our cats and have really enjoyed them! I would appreciate if you’d have time to answer my questions 🙂 -Hannes from Finland

    2. Hi Hannes,

      It was a vet that told me that Trigg had Nystagmus – so that would be the answer to your first question. I verbally say that in the video too. If you read the comments on YouTube – there are people with Nystamus that respond about what it is like.

      Sorry to hear the breeder doesn’t seem to care.


  6. My snowshoe has this problem. He is half siamese. It doesn’t happen all the time. Usually when he is focused on something. Sometimes slow. Other times its fast movement of the eyes like he is really dizzy. He has a small head tilt sometimes as well. And we started noticing it when he was an adult. But his vison seems fine and he is a healthy 10yr old cat

    1. My Ragdoll has a snowshoe sister. She is a most loving and loveable kitty. She licks Tommy ragdolls head like she was his mom and cries when she can’t find him.
      I’m so lucky to receive some of her kitty affection.
      Rich and two carnivorous kitties LA california USA

  7. Funny that this link pulled up b/c all I searched was “cats eyes shaking” in google and this site pulled up on the first page. Just so happens our cat is a ragdoll too. Our cat was classified as siamese by the humane society (adopted as a kitten) but have come to realize she is really a ragdoll (never heard of this breed prior to getting this cat). Anyway her shaking is very minor and just realized it today. She seems totally fine so I’m not concerned but will keep an eye (pun intended) on it just to make sure it doesn’t get significantly worse.

  8. My Siamese mix, Mickey does this usually when she’s purring and looking at me. I always thought it was because she was happy (which she was also) but I thought I should look it up. She doesn’t have any balancing problems, but she does get nauseous and throw up a lot.

  9. I just noticed this recently with my 10 year old Himalayan. It’s not bad but seems most active when he’s staring straight ahead at something. He’s an indoor kitty in good health but his brother doesn’t have have it so I was terrified it was a neurological problem. Very relieved to find this website, I feel comfortable waiting until my next vet visit to ask about it. The eye shaking doesn’t seem to affect his coordination or mood. He’s a very happy baby who loves snuggles and shoulder rides.

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