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What is a seizure and how does it affect cats?

A seizure is sometimes called a ‘fit’ and can be a scary event for a cat owner to witness. Any age and breed of cat can be affected and there are a range of possible causes. A seizure is always something that needs to be investigated by a vet.

It isn’t always easy to tell if you cat has experienced a fit or something else, such as a collapsing episode. It can be useful to video the event to show to your vet.

Signs of a seizure

Sometimes, the signs of a seizure are hard to miss. This is typically the case with full Clonic-Tonic seizures which can cause a cat to:

  • Lose all control of their muscles
  • Paddle their outstretched limbs
  • Experience muscle tremors
  • Vocalise, even scream
  • Pass urine or faeces

These seizures usually last from 30 seconds to three minutes.

Less common seizure types include Partial or focal seizures (your cat may simply stare into space or lose concentration on what they were doing) and Cluster Seizures (when your kitty has many seizures, one after the other).

Importantly, many cats will experience both a ‘pre-ictal’ and ‘post-ictal’ period where their behaviour is altered. So, both before and after the fit for a short time, they may act aloof, anxious or lethargic.

Reasons cats have seizures

There are lots of different reasons your cat may have a seizure. We need to consider a toxin ingestion, a brain tumour, trauma, liver or kidney disease or an infection.

Epilepsy is the diagnosis we make when all other potential causes have been ruled out. For the majority of epileptics, they will experience their first fit between the ages of one and five.

Can seizures be cured?

This will depend on what has caused the seizures in the first place. For example, a young kitten who has a fit due to low blood sugar would be expected to make a full recovery once stabilised and they may never have a seizure again. Those with epilepsy, however, will be affected for life.

How are seizures treated?

If there is an underlying medical issue, this should be addressed where possible. For many, they will require ongoing anti-seizure medicine. These patients need regular check-ups and blood tests to ensure the medicine is at the right level in the blood and is not damaging their liver.

Owners of pets who have fits are usually given rectal Diazepam to keep at home. This can be given during a seizure to try and stop it. This is important as a seizure that lasts a long time can have serious adverse effects and can even lead to a cat passing away.

The bottom line

If you think your cat has had a seizure, be sure to bring them to see their vet as soon as you can. The vet will likely run some tests and may start your cat on anti-seizure medicine.

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