You go out to the kitchen to get more coffee and your cat wants to walk in circles around you. But you have no idea what it wants. A cat walking in circles around its owner is a common but curious phenomenon, and it can happen for a few reasons.
Your cat is walking in circles around you because the cat is excited and happy to see you. Or they are expressing their herding instinct by getting you in one spot. They also could be trying to assert their dominance over you, or it could be due to a range of health conditions.
This article will explain in-depth the many reasons that your cat walks in circles around you. Let’s get started.
A Sign of Happiness and Excitement
The most delightful reason for your cat walking around you in circles is that they are simply happy and excited to see you. This is often accompanied by their tail forming a question mark shape, a sign of openness, friendliness, and willingness to play.
Cats sometimes roll over on their backs after walking in circles around their owners, demonstrating trust and loyalty. When your cat does this, they want to gain your attention, and a pat on the head or stroke on the back will probably be very welcome.
Or your cat could be very bored, as this YouTube video by Jackson Galaxy suggests:
Although you are technically your cat’s owner, your cat may not see it the same way.
When cats want to assert dominance over their owners, they will often circle the person and prevent them from walking forward. In the cat’s mind, they are dominant, and the other person is their follower.
This action may or may not be accompanied by rubbing the forehead and sides of the head against the owner’s legs. This marks the person with the cat’s pheromones and, to other cats, means that you are their territory.
Cats sometimes circle their owner’s legs because they are trying to direct their owner’s attention to a specific object or situation. When your cat is hungry and wants you to feed them, they will often walk in circles around you to let you know that it’s mealtime.
Your cat may also be feeling bored and trying to find some entertainment.
This is known as herding and is your cat’s way of telling you that you need to investigate something. It could be a strange sound they heard, an unfamiliar animal in their territory, or anything else that the cat finds odd or uncomfortable.
A more concerning reason your cat could be walking in circles around you is because of an underlying health condition. Some of these health conditions are temporary and not serious, while others warrant a visit to the vet as soon as possible.
Older cats, especially those 15 years and older, are especially prone to health problems. Let’s now discuss the most common health conditions that can cause this phenomenon.
Like all mammals, cats’ ears affect balance and depth perception and can be prone to infection. When the ears are infected, this can prevent your cat from walking straight, making it look like they are walking around in circles.
Other signs that your cat has an ear infection include discharge from the ear, continuous ear scratching, red or swollen ears, and drooling.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases blood flow to a cat’s brain, which can cause several problems and symptoms, one of which is walking around in circles. Overweight, obese, or senior cats are more susceptible to high blood pressure.
Common signs of hypertension in cats include apparent vision problems, confusion, and lack of coordination.
Diabetes in cats can often cause hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episodes, resulting in confusion and muscle weakness. When this happens, it’s common for cats to walk around in circles and appear confused.
This is a severe condition as feline hypoglycemia can cause unconsciousness and permanent damage to blood vessels. If you think your cat might be having a hypoglycemic episode, you should take them to the vet immediately.
Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome
Idiopathic vestibular disease is another ear-related cause of cats walking around their owners in circles. This condition affects your cat’s inner ear, which is responsible for coordination and balance.
The idiopathic vestibular syndrome causes the inner ear to become inflamed or infected, resulting in the cat walking as if intoxicated or confused.
Cats are naturally curious, and they can sometimes get injured or fall during their exploratory adventures, especially if they are outdoor cats. A blow to the head when falling, a fight with another animal, or if knocked down by a car can result in severe head trauma or concussion.
Head injuries in felines can cause confusion and disorientation, and one of the critical signs is walking around in circles.
Certain neurological conditions can cause cats to walk around in circles around their owners. It is difficult to diagnose a neurological disorder in a cat and, if you suspect your cat may have one, it’s best to consult with your vet.
Some common neurological conditions that can make a cat walk in circles around its owner include the following conditions.
Dementia or Senility
Senior cats are those that are 15 years and older. Like humans, cats can also experience dementia when they are elderly.
It is also called feline cognitive dysfunction, and the symptoms include decreased memory, confusion, disorientation, and worsening spatial ability. Senior cats with dementia can sometimes wander around aimlessly and in circles.
Brain tumors in cats are thankfully relatively rare and can be either benign or malignant.
One of the first signs of a feline brain tumor is continuous circling and pacing. If this is accompanied by seizures, balance problems, muscle weakness, or head tilting, you should contact your vet as soon as possible.
Hyperesthesia Syndrome is a scarce condition in cats that is also known as rippling skin disorder. When touched or petted on the back, the skin will ripple, and the cat will react by having a sudden burst of energy or running around in circles.
Vets believe that Hyperesthesia Syndrome is due to anxiety, and the cause would need to be investigated and treated.
How To Discern the Reason Your Cat Is Walking Circles Around You
Now that you’ve read about the reasons for cats walking in circles around their owners, you’re probably wondering how to tell what the exact cause is. If you have a close relationship with your cat, they are not a senior cat, and their tail is in a question mark shape, chances are the cat is expressing happiness at seeing you.
When your cat seems concerned about something and is making meowing or chirping sounds, they might be trying to herd you and tell you about something.
Senior cats or those with a medical history of diabetes, hypertension, or other health conditions may have an underlying health condition causing the cat to walk around in circles. The same can be said if you think your cat has suffered a head injury recently.
In these cases, it’s always best to consult with your vet as soon as possible.
When your cat walks in circles around you, it is typically not something to be worried about. They could simply be happy to see you, be asserting their dominance over you, or herding you, which is all normal feline behavior.
Underlying health conditions, such as an ear infection, high blood pressure, diabetes, vestibular syndrome, head injury, or a neurological condition, could be the cause. In such cases, you should take your cat to a vet for evaluation as soon as possible.
- Chewy: My Cat Has Started Walking in Circles
- Cuteness: My Cat Is Walking in Circles and Acting Disoriented
- The Dodo: Why Do Cats Try to Gerd People While They’re Walking?
- Cat Care Center: Felines, Pheromones, and Claws
- NCBI: Assessment of Depth Perception in Cats
- Cornell Feline Health Center: Feline Hypertension
- Pet Plan: 4 Ways to Spot Hypoglycemia in Cats
- Carolina Vet: About Vestibular Disease in Cats
- MSD Vet Manual: Ear Structure and Function in Cats
- Wikipedia: Siamese Cat
- Wikipedia: Burmese Cat
- Trupanion: Cat Dementia
- NCBI: Cognitive Dysfunction in Cats
- Everything 2: Spatial Awareness
- Cornell: Hyperesthesia Syndrome
- The Spruce Pets: Rippling Skin Disorder
- YouTube: Your Cat Is Bored and You Can Fix It!
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.