Medical records of 77 cats that had clinical signs of vestibular disease and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head were reviewed retrospectively. The aetiological, clinical and MRI characteristics were described and evaluated for a relationship with patient outcome. Forty cats (52%) had signs of central vestibular dysfunction (CVD), which was part of a multifocal disease in 17 cats (43%). The most frequent causes of CVD were inflammatory conditions (18 cats; 45%), including bacterial inflammation as an intracranial extension of otitis interna (five cats; 13%), feline infectious peritonitis (three cats; 8%) and toxoplasmosis (two cats; 5%). Neoplasia (12 cats; 30%) and vascular disease (four cats; 10%) were respectively the second and the third most frequent causes of CVD. Thiamine deficiency was diagnosed in one cat based on MRI findings and improvement following vitamin B1 supplementation. Of 37 cats (48%) with peripheral vestibular dysfunction (PVD), idiopathic vestibular syndrome (IVS) was suspected in 16 (43%) and otitis media/interna was suspected in 16 (43%). Within the group of cats with evident MRI lesions, the location of the imaged lesions agreed with the clinical classification of vestibular dysfunction in 52/55 (95%) cats. Most of the cats (nine cases; 56%) with presumed IVS had rapid and complete recovery of their clinical signs. As most of these cats presented with progressive clinical signs over 3 weeks they were classified as having 'atypical' IVS to differentiate them from cats with the typical non-progressive IVS. No underlying systemic diseases were documented in any of these cases. Statistically significant predictors of survival included neurolocalisation (central or peripheral vestibular system), age and gender. No difference in survival was observed between cats with presumed idiopathic peripheral syndrome and cats with otitis media/interna. © 2009 ISFM and AAFP.