Seizures in cats

Seizures, also known as fits or convulsions, can affect cats of any age, size or breed. Around 1-2% of cats in the UK will have a seizure at some time in their lives. Severity, treatment and outlook depend on the cause of your cat’s seizure.

Seizures are caused by an uncontrolled flare of electrical activity in your cat’s brain. They look scary, but seizures are not painful, and they usually only last a minute or two. However, your cat may seem sleepy and out of sorts for several hours afterwards.

What to do

What to do if you think your cat is having a seizure

  • Stay calm
  • Turn down the lights
  • Keep the room quiet
  • Try not to touch your cat during the seizure
  • Remove children and other pets from the room
  • Keep your cat safe from injuring themselves


What causes seizures in cats?

Changes inside their head and the way their brain works:

  • Head injuries
  • Strokes or bleeding inside the head
  • Infections
  • Tumours
  • Epilepsy

Changes starting outside their head:

  • Eating poison
  • Certain flea and worm treatments containing permethrin (especially preparations meant for dogs!)
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Low blood sugar (insulin overdose)
  • Problems with electrolytes (salts) in their blood
  • High blood pressure

The cause of your cat’s seizure can depend on their age, breed and general health. Getting the best outcome for your cat depends on finding out why the seizure happened.

When to worry

When to worry about your cat having fits

Call your nearest vet if your cat’s seizure is lasting more than 5 minutes

Speak to a vet if your cat has more than one seizure in a day.

Joii can help with:

  • Recognising the signs of a seizure
  • Keeping your pet safe during a seizure
  • Professional and caring person to talk to for advice and support while a seizure is happening
  • Real-time guidance during your pet’s recovery and beyond



How to prevent your cat from developing seizures

  • Keep chemicals and potential toxins away from cats
  • Never use medicine for dogs on your cat.
  • Treat other illnesses promptly
  • Stay up-to-date with preventive care like vaccination and worming


What seizures look like in cats

Cats may experience full (generalised) or partial seizures. Symptoms of both are extremely variable.

Partial Seizures

  • Twitching on one side of the body: eyelids, whiskers, ears, limbs
  • Abnormal behaviour
  • Abnormal body position or posture
  • Drooling
  • Vocalising

Generalised Seizures

  • Becoming unsteady, losing balance
  • Falling over, jerking their limbs, extending their claws
  • Jerking can be intense, even looking like your cat has been thrown into the air or to one side
  • Chomping and biting movements
  • Passing faeces (poo) or urine (wee) without being aware of it

These are signs of the main seizure. The medical name for this is an ictus.

For a period of minutes to hours after the seizure, your cat may appear:

  • Disorientated and wobbly
  • Very hungry
  • Very sleepy

This is known as the post-ictal phase.

It’s best to leave your pet to recover safely and peacefully in their familiar surroundings until this phase passes.

There can be many other symptoms of ‘full’ or ‘partial’ seizures

Sometimes a seizure may be a one-off and your cat will never have another. Seizures may be more frequent or regular in cats with epilepsy or other ongoing illnesses

Home treatment

How to treat a cat who has seizures at home

  • Please follow the advice above to reduce the risk of seizures happening
  • Give any medication recommended by your vet at the correct times and doses
  • Stay calm and make sure your cat is safe from becoming injured during a fit
  • Administer any emergency medication, if you have some, as recommended by your vet

Vet treatment

How vets investigate seizures

To find out why your pet has had a seizure, vets will check the following

  • ‘History’ – your account of what happened and your pet’s general health
  • General and neurological examination – checking things like balance and eyesight
  • Blood and urine  tests to check for liver or kidney disease, low blood sugar or abnormal electrolyte levels
  • MRI or CT scans – vets may recommend a closer examination of your cat’s brain using advanced tests such as MRI
  • Tests on samples of fluid from around the brain (the cerebrospinal fluid or CSF)

These tests don’t always find something specifically wrong with your cat. This doesn’t mean the investigation has ‘failed’. Rather, the cause of your cat’s seizure is most likely an intermittent ‘electrical fault’ in their brain. The ‘fault’ comes and goes and leaves no trace in between.

How do vets treat seizures?

In emergencies, vets use sedatives and anti-seizure medicine injected directly into your cat’s veins to control seizures. An ‘emergency’ is a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes or recurring multiple times in a short period.

Longer-term treatment for seizures depends on the underlying cause but could include:

  • Anti-seizure medicine given daily as tablets or liquid
  • Specific treatments to control blood sugar, electrolytes (salts) or other illness
  • Emergency medication for treatment of seizures at home


Which cats are at higher risk for seizures?

  • Adult to middle-aged cats
  • Cats with other illnesses
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