Nystagmus in Cats – Quivering Cat Eyes

The first time I took Trigg, my blue lynx-mitted Ragdoll cat, to the acupuncturist (I 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 heard the word, and my regular vet had never said anything. Nystagmus in cats is when the eyes quiver back and forth or oscillate the eyeballs. She said it wasn’t a big deal and is quite common in Siamese cats.

[adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”1QIICQH9″ upload-date=”2023-03-27T03:20:49.000Z” name=”Nystagmus in Cats – Cat’s Eyes Quiver and Shake – Quivering Cat Eyes” description=”Nystagmus in cats is when the eyes quiver back and forth or oscillate the eyeballs.” player-type=”default” override-embed=”default”]

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 is a normal finding in some breeds of cats. However, 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 it. If Trigg is having trouble with balance or has a permanent tilt of 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 holding still, this is likely a normal variation for your boy.

Another test would be to take Trigg’s head and gently but quickly move his head from side to side (2 reps). The vet should examine him if this movement causes increased Nystagmus and immediate balance problems.

Does anyone have experience with Nystagmus?

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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70 Comments

  1. Jenny, thank you for bringing this up to us! My Raggie girl has this but it does not seem to be continuous. She sometimes loses her footing when trying to jump up (not very often but here & there). Do you think this might be a reason to be concerned? She is my rescue and we love her to pieces.

    1. I am not sure – Trigg doesn’t really have balance problems with it – more like seeing clearly, I think. Maybe ask your vet to be sure.

  2. Yes, my Ollie had a Nystagmus in his eyes, I had noticed it but it wasn’t until a neurologist mentioned it when he had a neurological event. After he recovered, I didn’t see it as much. Apparently in Ollie it was an indication of something more. He ended up having another event 27 months later and a stroke 3 weeks after that which ultimately took him from me.

  3. Hi Jen, Charlie and Chiggy
    My 11 years old Siamese mix has this eye condition, he has gorgeous dark blue eyes. We rescued/adopted him at about 8-10 weeks old. He was almost all white, regular blue eyes. As he got older, his eyes started to cross, only slightly, and his eyes started the twitching. Merlin’s fur coloring started to get darker. The vet said that his eyes are fine, it is a common problem with Siameses. Almost a year later we rescued/adopted Merlin’s younger half brother, Loki. Merlin is long hair lilac point, Loki is dark brown and short hair. He also has ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS blue eyes. But he doesn’t have the eye condition. He does have a white mustache, with 8 toes on his right front paw, with 7 toes on his left.

  4. My year-old, Lancelot, is a lynx-point Siamese and has this in his left eye. It quivers almost constantly, but he doesn’t seem to notice it at all. He zooms around and climbs so surefootedly.

    My 9yo, Merlin, is a Ragdoll-Siamese mix and doesn’t have this. Seeing the two of them walk and run together, you can’t tell the difference between the one with and the one without.

    My late cat, Nebula, was a lynx-mitted Siamese. She had nystagmus and I only noticed her start to get uneasy with her footing occasionally late in life, around the 12 year mark.

    1. Thank you for sharing – I think my Trigg who has it, has problems with distance vision. If I walk into the house with a hood on or something like that – he gets ready to jet, as if I am a stranger, unless I talk to him. So maybe it’s not related, but my other cat doesn’t do that. But other than that, I don’t see him affected by eye sight issues.

  5. Mary Rarden says:

    Yes. My blue point Siamese mix girl, Sylvia, has this. Her vet pointed it out to me. It doesn’t seem to affect her at all.

  6. Yes, my blue-eyed flamepoint Siamese rescue has this, much more pronouced than Trig’s, but it is significantly better than when I first got him. I was worried it was a neurological thing caused by his previous horrible owner during his 7 years with her. I’ve never noticed him having balance or sight issues so far. Thank you for the info about this.

    1. You’re welcome. Sometimes I don’t think Trigg sees terribly well, but it’s never affected him being a cat =)

  7. I have a cat with nystagmus. His name is Saturn because he’s orange and white. He’s 7 now and has never had issues with it. I believe he’s either part Maine Coon or part Forest Norwegian. I found him when he was about 4 months old and he’s always had it. The vet told me years ago that he may have issues with balance as he gets older, but until that happens, it’s nothing to worry about. I just watch him closely (like always, of course), and as long as he’s his normal self, I don’t worry. 🙂

    1. Good to know! My Trigg is almost 14 – the one featured in this post – and he doesn’t seem to have a problem yet.

  8. I have three blue eyed cats- Siamese crosses and a rag doll. I noticed soon after I got my cream point rag doll that he has nystagmus. My vet says it’s fairly common in blue eyed cats and it causes him no difficulty.

    1. Thank you for sharing – interesting about blue-eyed cats – I wonder if its color pointed blue-eyed cats.

  9. I never realized cats could have nystagmus! I noticed it in my cat who is now 5 just yesterday and started researching it. I suspected it was nystagmus right away because my granddaughter was born with nystagmus. What are the odds? he’s probably always had it, I just now noticed it…

  10. Hi Jenny,
    I just came home from the vet with my 4yo blue point who was diagnosed with this. I had never noticed it before, nor had any vet until today’s. I think the vet was intrigued by my cat’s beautiful eyes and was admiring them when she noticed. My vet said it is congenital and won’t be concerning until there are any balance issues or it seems like my cat can’t see. As of now, my cat doesn’t have any issues with sight or balance. She loves to run. She takes off down a long hallway and up the cat tree and around again. She never runs into anything and I’m sure she’s seeing fine. I came to the internet to find out more. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome – my Trigg is now 13 and this has never caused problems for him. I am not sure if I would worry at all. Especially if you are feeding a species-appropriate diet like raw food =)

  11. Anonymous says:

    I also have a blue lynx mitted Ragdoll cat (from breeder in Virginia) with the same issue. I haven’t noted any other issues and her vet isn’t concerned. I do wonder though, how is the temperament of other people’s cats with this condition? Ours is the weirdest cat I have ever known. Purrs like crazy when you look at her and arches against corners etc….and acts like she wants to be petted, then makes a game of ducking you and running… while purring. We call her love adjacent. Anyone else?

    1. Ha ha ha – “love adjacent”. Mine is the cutest cat and funniest cat I have ever known. He is skiddish, but I have seen that in other cats in my family that don’t have this. He is also the biggest snuggler.

  12. Hi Jenny,

    I have a 1 year old Ragdoll/Himalayan and just last night noticed her eyes doing that same movement as Triggs! I had a bit of a freak out as I work in an Emergency and Specialty hospital for animals and know what nystagmus usually means. I have had a number of Ragdolls and Ragdoll/Himalayan and had never noticed this eye movement in any of them. I brought my girl in today and the internal medicine doctor told me she has ‘doll eye’ and that it is normal in these breeds including Siamese. I felt relief right away and then giggled at myself for being a silly “tech mom” – all common sense and information leaves you when it involves one of your own fur babies ☺️.

    1. Interesting! Never heard of “doll eye” – is that the same as Nystagmus? Also, thnak you for your work! Many of my beloved pets have visited Emergency and Specialty hospitals, and I so appreciate what you do!

  13. Anonymous says:

    We got a cat from a shelter about 6 months ago, and he seems to have this issue. He also has a cleft lip and really messed up teeth. Our vet wasn’t worried about the nystagmus, and he doesn’t appear to have any serious issues stemming from it. He does make some weird head movements sometimes though, and he’s definitely not nearly as graceful or athletics as our other cats. I’ve wondered whether the nystagmus plays a part or if it’s just a breed difference. He’s a persian mix and our others are domestic short hairs.

    I’ve had nystagmus myself, which contributes to bouts of vertigo. Vertigo is miserable. Fortunately medication and diet have it under control. The nystagmus was rarely bad enough to be noticeable to most people, unless I was in the middle of a bad vertigo attack.

    1. I am not sure – mine with the nystagmus is really athletic – was just playing with him with a wand toy, actually. he loves to play. I am sorry about your nystagmus, I am glad you have it under control with diet and medication.

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