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Seizures in Cats | What You Need to Know

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If your cat has experienced a seizure, you know how startling the experience can be. Seizures in cats often spring up from seemingly nowhere, overtaking their nervous systems and motor function before you’re even aware something’s off.

For all their grace and beauty, cats may surprise their owners to see them in the midst of a seizure, as the jerks and twitches feel particularly out of character. And because cats are sensitive creatures with an independent streak, they may try to hide their symptoms or slip away to suffer in silence.

As responsible pet parents, it’s on us to recognize the signs of seizures in cats, keep our collective cool and know how to react in the moment.

Types of seizures in cats

Though the differences may be faint, medical professionals have a few different ways of categorizing feline seizures. Petit mal seizures are typically mild, and may be as subtle as a temporary glassy-eyed look or spacey appearance. Grand mal seizures typically last minutes or, and are more jarring to the eye. Continuous seizures, while rare, may last even longer still — up to hours. 

While terminology may overlap, the most important distinction you’ll need to know are generalized seizures vs. focal seizures for emergency assistance purposes.

Identifying and responding to focal seizures

Originating from a limited area of the brain (often the portions that have to do with motor function and facial control), cats experiencing a focal seizure will typically twitch their whiskers or begin winking unusually.

Focal seizures may last as little as seconds, and may not even appear to affect your cats consciousness. If your cat is experiencing one, the most important thing you can do is keep calm and help them see it through to the other side.

Speak to your cat in hushed tones and let them know you’re there. If your cat responds well to physical touch, gently stroke their back and pay close attention to their physical cues. Once their behavior returns to normal and you feel comfortable leaving them on their own, make an appointment with your veterinarian to help diagnose what caused the focal seizure.

Identifying and responding to generalized seizures

Generalized seizures originate over a much larger swath of the brain, which can cause even  more severe symptoms. If your cat is experiencing a generalized seizure, you may notice severe jerking movements throughout their body, sudden rigidity, limbs paddling in the air or even loss of consciousness. 

Stay calm and do your best to remove any potential obstacles or dangerous objects from their path. The last thing you want is for them to strike their head or limbs in the midst of an attack.

Once the seizure has passed, slowly and gently re-engage with your cat. Generalized seizures can be taxing on a cat’s physiology, and it may take them a few minutes or hours to regain their balance. Call your veterinarian immediately and see how soon you can get an appointment — generalized seizures can happen in clusters, and the sooner you can speak to a professional, the sooner you’ll be able to get to the bottom of it.

Why seizures in cats happen

Not all the causes behind seizures in cats are entirely clear, but scientists know that conditions such as epilepsy, cancer and metabolic diseases can all lead to both focal and generalized seizures.

In humans, evidence is beginning to point toward the benefits of a healthy microbiome and high-antioxidant diet in stopping seizures before they happen. While far less research has been done relating cat diets to seizure frequency, some experts suspect that the same ideas around a metabolically-friendly diet could hold true for cats.

Whatever you’re feeding them, we encourage all cat parents to know the signs of a seizure before it happens, regardless of whether your cat is epipletic or not. Think of it as just another tool in your first aid kit.

Effective March 28, 2022: we have discontinued our cat foods at this time, due to supply chain and ingredient issues. We are so sorry. Read more here.

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