There are two primary causes of central vestibular disease in the cat: neonatal syndromes and primary central nervous system disease.
Neonatal Syndromes – Congenital disease is much more common in the cat than the dog as a cause of vestibular disease. Cerebellar hypoplasia is a syndrome where the region of the brain does not develop correctly. The cerebellum is responsible for balance and fine motor control, thereby dysfunction in this region can present as vestibular disease does. Infection with the feline parvovirus (also referred to as feline panleukopenia) is the most common cause. Other cats simply have birth defects that result in poor formation of the cerebellum. Many cats adapt to these diseases well, though some have such severe damage that they cannot function well enough to survive.
Primary CNS Disease – Disease in the brain and spinal cord can present in a variety of different ways ranging from seizures to Alzheimer’s signs to paralysis. Infection is a common cause of CNS disease ranging from viruses, fungi, bacteria or other organisms. The immune system can also be the culprit inappropriately attacking the CNS. There are a number of different tumors that affect the nervous system. If any of these lesions are located where the nerves that control balance (the vestibulo-cochlear nerve), vestibular signs may ensue.