What Causes Cat Seizures (and How to Help Your Kitty)
Seeing your cat having a seizure is scary. The first thing you need to know is that your cat isn’t in pain. Seizures are the result of abnormal brain activity—communication between the brain and the rest of the body goes temporarily haywire. When you learn the symptoms, causes, and actions to take after a seizure, you’ll feel more prepared to deal with this scary event if it occurs.
Cat Seizure Symptoms
Generalized seizures are the most common type of seizure in cats, according to Small Door Veterinary. They affect the entire body and can range from mild (petit mal) to severe (grand mal).
“Usually grand mal seizures last 20 to 30 seconds,” Erick Mears, DVM, DACVIM, medical director of BluePearl Pet Hospital in Tampa Bay, Fla., says. “Typically, you’ll see your cat lying on their side, often paddling like they’re swimming but with jerky motions. They may also drool and lose control of their bladder or bowels.”
During a seizure your cat is unconscious. Afterward, it’s normal for your kitty to have a glassy-eyed appearance. Your cat may seem dazed for hours afterward, Mears says.
Petit mal seizures don’t trigger uncontrollable muscle movements (convulsions). Signs of this type of seizure are more subtle and include disorientation, a spacey gaze, and strange behavior (for example, moving the jaw in a chewing motion). But this type of seizure is rarely seen in cats, say the experts at VCA Hospitals.
Causes of Seizures in Cats
Multiple conditions can interrupt brain functioning and lead to seizures, including:
- Head trauma
- Low blood sugar
- High fever and infections
- Neurologic conditions such as epilepsy
“We often see seizures in cats with diabetes. Cats with the disease can develop low blood sugar that triggers seizures,” Mears says. “Other common drivers of seizures in cats are infections that cause inflammation in the spinal cord or brain as well as tumors, especially in older cats.”
What to Do If Your Cat Is Having a Seizure
There isn’t a lot you can do while your cat is having a seizure other than make sure they don’t get hurt. Move things out of the way on the floor so your cat doesn’t bump into anything, Mears advises. And avoid putting your fingers anywhere near your cat’s mouth—your cat isn’t aware of what’s going on and could accidentally bite you.
“Just be with your cat. Once your kitty comes out of the seizure, talk soothingly to them,” Mears says. “But still avoid touching your cat’s head. Your kitty may still be out of it and react unexpectedly.”
If you know your cat is diabetic, you can also rub a little bit of corn syrup on her lips to boost blood sugar. Do this once she’s calm and she’ll lick it off, Mears says.
How to Treat Seizures in Cats
When your cat comes out of a seizure and is in a calm state, immediately take her to your veterinarian. If your vet’s office is closed, proceed to an emergency veterinary clinic.
“Although the seizure has passed, your cat could have another one,” Mears explains. “To break a cycle of seizures often requires intravenous (IV) medications.”
Your veterinarian will run diagnostic tests to determine what’s causing the seizures. Tests include blood and urine samples and imaging tests like Xrays and MRI. What treatment your veterinarian recommends depends on the underlying cause of seizures.
How to Prevent Seizures in Cats
Some causes of seizures in cats are preventable, such as ingesting toxins. Keep medications, cleaning products, essential oils, and other chemicals away from your pet. Also, avoid giving your cat medicine meant for people or applying dog products to your cat (like flea prevention products). According to the ASPCA, these are some of the most common causes of toxin seizures in cats.
You can also help your cat avoid another seizure risk factor: diabetes. Obesity increases the likelihood that your cat will develop diabetes. Ask your veterinarian if your cat is at a healthy weight, and if not, what diet would be best.
Maintain regular veterinary checkups to monitor your cat’s overall health too. Usually, the earlier diseases or infections are caught, the easier they are to treat. If your cat takes a prescription medication, be sure to follow the veterinary guidelines for dosage to avoid overdosing your cat.
While seizures are alarming, many are treatable. See your veterinarian if your cat has a seizure or displays any kind of odd behavior. With proper care, cats with seizures often live long lives.