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Cat Seizures: Everything You Need to Know

The Basics About Seizures in Cats

By Madeleine Burry. June 19, 2013 | See Comments

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Cat Seizures: Everything You Need to Know

Watching your cat have a seizure is incredibly scary, especially if you don't know the cause. Find out the causes and treatments for seizures in cats.

When cats experience seizures, the minutes of the seizure’s occurrence can feel very long, since it’s such a frightening episode. There are several reasons why your cat may be having a seizure, from an injury to their brain to the ingestion of something poisonous to their system. Regardless of the cause of the feline seizure, instructions for how to help your cat when the seizure is occurring remain the same: stay calm, and move them away from hard surfaces that they might flail into amidst the episode. Find out more about causes, symptoms, and treatments of cat seizures below.  

Causes of Cat Seizures

Your cat’s seizure may occur for a number of reasons. Epilepsy is one of the best known causes of seizures, however, epilepsy is more uncommon for cats than it is for dogs. A main reason for a cat to have a seizure is as a result of some sort of damage to their brain, like a hit to the head. A seizure can occur immediately after the injury, but is also quite likely to occur a few weeks after. Seizures can also happen due to exposure or ingestion of poison. And, very commonly, seizures are a symptom of a disease -- feline leukemia, FIV, liver failure, or kidney failure can all lead to seizures.  

Symptoms of Feline Seizures

Seizures are divided up into stages -- the phase leading up to the seizure is known as prodromal. In this period prior to the seizure, your cat may act oddly. You may notice them being anxious, on edge, or starting at nothing. Once the seizure commences -- the ictal stage -- your cat may foam at the mouth, become incontinent, and move limbs and body erratically and jerk body parts around. It can look very alarming, since your cat is clearly not in control of their motions. After the seizure is complete, which generally occurs in a few minutes, your cat will be in the post-ictal phase, which is a recovery period. Seizures generally last a minute or two, possibly up to three or four minutes. A seizure that lasts more than five minutes is problematic, and you should immediately reach out to your vet. Similarly, frequent seizures are another reason to alert your vet.

Treatment of Seizures in Cats

There are two ways to think about treatment of seizures. The first important point is that you need to know how to handle your cat when the seizure is occurring. The next treatment consideration is if your pet needs medications to reduce the seizures -- since these drugs can have a negative impact on the liver, vets often avoid using medication unless absolutely necessary. And of course, treatment can be done for the underlying cause of the seizures -- whether the cause be poison or a disease -- in order to reduce the seizures that way.

While your cat is experiencing a seizure, there are a few things you can do to help.

  • Remain calm, and speak with your cat in soothing tone. No need to make them more stressed by having an anxious tone of voice.
  • Keep track of the duration of the seizure, and note how your cat behaves -- this information will be very helpful for the vet.
  • Move your cat away from hard objects like furniture and walls to help them avoid injury through impact.
  • No need to try to protect your pet’s tongue -- certainly don’t try to hold the tongue yourself, since that could result in injury to yourself. Cats aren’t in danger of swallowing their tongues during a seizure like people are.
More on Cat Health

Reading Cat Body Language
When to Take a Cat to the Vet

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Cat Seizures at a glance

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  • 1They can occur for many reasons, from poison to disease, but epilepsy is a rare cause in cats.
  • 2While a seizure is alarming to observe, it’s thankfully short in length, lasting for only a few minutes.
  • 3During a seizure, avoid interacting with your cat except to move them away from danger.
  • 4Contact your vet with notes on the progress and duration and discuss whether a treatment plan is needed.