Although not in the medical field, medical topics fascinate this author. Liz urges folks with any medical issues to see their doctors.
I Do Not Have Epilepsy
This account is from what you might call 'first-and-a-half-hand' experience in dealing with one of our cats who had epilepsy since she was a tiny kitten. Regardless of the species affected, the condition manifests in the same ways.
Patches on the Day We Brought Her Home
What Is Epilepsy, Anyway?
The simplest analogy to explain what causes epilepsy is that of a short circuit in the wiring of the brain. A signal starts from point 'A' heading for point 'B' and partway there, it hits an open gap, or roadblock, but the signal keeps trying anyway to get through; it may then try to find another path, and it eventually spreads throughout the brain.
This results in the seizure, as the motor control functions are disrupted. In the generalized seizure, the animal will fall down and begin thrashing about uncontrollably. While this is happening, they are "not there"; they will not respond to you. Their eyes may be open, closed, or rolling around.
Afterwards, they may be confused, dazed, and very certainly tired and sore. (I used to have a neighbor with the condition, and he described coming out of a seizure as feeling as if he'd been run over by a Mack truck; every muscle in his body ached.)
How Can I Tell If It's a Seizure?
First, you need to be familiar enough with your kitty to recognize unusual behavior or actions. Cats do dream, and they can be twitching in their sleep, as they dream of catching something.
A seizure looks different, however. A mild seizure is sometimes barely noticeable; it may be only rapid blinking of the eyes a few times and/or the twitching or shaking of a single paw. If you are not looking at the cat, you may not even notice it happening.
The video just below shows this type of seizure. That cat's problem was caused by diabetic shock, according to the owner. There are many other causes as well. Some of the causes may be:
- trauma (this is what happened to our cat; trauma from anesthesia overdose)
In the absence of any of these conditions, it is quite rare in young cats.
A Mild Type of Seizure
Helping Kitty Through the Seizure
Toss out most of what you may have learned in first aid classes for humans having a seizure. A cat is not a human, and different measures need to be taken.
- If you can safely move the cat, do so; preferably onto a bathroom or kitchen floor, where there is no carpet. During the episode, the cat may drool profusely, and/or lose bladder or bowel control or both. This is in addition to shaking or twitching, sometimes violently, as happened with our kitty.
- Use a towel to put over the kitty's head, to block light from their eyes. In a full-blown whole-body seizure, you will notice their eyes may be fully dilated, even in bright light. While their eyes are usually wide open, they are actually unconscious. The towel will protect their eyes, as well as sometimes shortening the duration of the episode.
- Keeping your hands well away from the mouth, gently restrain the cat, so it does not hurt itself on nearby objects. (See the video down the page of the white cat for illustration of this method.) A cat thrashing its limbs about will manage to "crawl," even if lying on its side, which is common, due to the claws pulling them along. If their claws get hold of carpet, it can end badly.
In fact, this happened to our kitty once! We had gone out for an errand, and on our return, found the evidence of a seizure, along with some bloody footprints. Upon examining her feet, we discovered that she'd caught her claws in the carpet, and 2 of them had been ripped out of her paws to the roots! Poor Patches!!
After the Seizure
Once the episode has passed, kitty may exhibit any of several behaviors. She may act confused and disoriented; she may be very hungry, or very sleepy.
Our kitty would have very violent 'grand-mal' or 'generalized' seizures, involving her entire body. Afterwards, she would still be very out of it, and I would hold her, wrapped in a towel for comfort, until she came to enough to want to be put down.
At that point, she would head right for her food bowl, and eat a large portion, then go to sleep for several hours. When you think about it, this is not surprising. What has just happened amounts to one heck of a cardio workout. I'd be tired and sleepy after that as well!
This Cat's Seizure Looks Just Like What Patches Went Through
Stopping a Seizure Before It Happens
One thing we learned was that any kind of a repetitive clicking or ticking noise was likely to trigger a seizure. We learned to be very careful about unconsciously making such noises, such as tapping pencils or drumming fingers while waiting for something, or making clicking sounds with the tongue, or we would almost instantly see her start to twitch.
We found a few tricks, as well. If we caught her immediately prior to seizing, just starting with tiny little 'body quakes,' if we could get to her and pick her up suddenly, tap her gently on the head, or ruffle her fur quite vigorously, it seemed to interrupt the short-circuit in the brain, by giving it something else to process; but once the seizure was full-blown, these things did not work.
If the seizure was longer than normal, we would sometimes carry her to the sink, and run some water over her head. This seemed to have the same effect as the tricks we used in the pre-seizure mode, except that it could bring her out of a full-on seizure.
The Onset of a Seizure Poses a Real Danger for Kitty
The dangerous part for kitty, however, was that she seemed to realize when one was about to hit, and would attempt to run away from it. She would frantically run blindly about, trying to climb walls, furniture, anything she could, until the escape failed, and the seizure overtook her.
Ironically, a seizure would often come upon her and waken her when she was sound asleep! This would begin her panicked flight about the house.
This is where and why we had to try to intercede and stop the process from continuing, as she had gotten into some real predicaments from time to time that could have turned out very badly.
The photo below shows where we found her one morning after searching the whole house. This must have happened while we were asleep, and did not hear her running. Who knows how many minutes or hours poor Patches was stuck in there?!
Some Terrible Predicaments
Beware the Bite!
During the seizure, while we were holding her and watching that her claws did not become ensnared, it was also important that we kept our hands well away from her mouth, as the jaw muscles were also involved, and she would be involuntarily snapping her mouth open and closed.
That was a lesson learned the hard way! During one of her early seizures, my husband was trying to help her out of the seizure, and got his hand in the way of her mouth. Her teeth pierced clean through the web between his thumb and index finger, and locked! He is a six-foot, two-hundred pound man with a lot of muscle, and it was hard for him to get her mouth opened to free his hand! Where was I? Outside, cleaning up after the dog we had at the time, so I did not hear him calling for assistance!
Be advised that your little pet kitty's jaw can produce enough force to break finger bones! In fact, their bite force amounts to about thirteen pounds of pressure per square inch (PSI). Bolstered with sharp teeth, that's plenty to do some real damage! (In fact, adjusted out on a relative pound of force to size ratio, a cat bites with more force than the long extinct megalodon super shark!)
How Did She Come to Have Epilepsy?
The history on our poor kitty was this:
We adopted her from a rescue organization back in 1998. She was a tiny thing, barely 6 weeks old, and under a pound. She fit in the palm of my husband's hand. She and her siblings had been found, just days old, inside a paper sack tossed into a paint locker at a local school.
The kittens were placed with a foster family to bottle-feed and raise until they were old enough to adopt. One of the litter didn't make it. The others were placed for adoption. Up until that point, the kitten we picked out did not have epilepsy.
I now volunteer with a rescue organization myself, and I know how the system works. If the family fostering the kittens had seen any such evidence, the cat would have been put down, and not put up for adoption.
Is Early Spaying a Standard Practice?
Most rescue groups enforce an early spay/neuter policy—but not with kittens that young. The current standard for early spay/neuter is a minimum of 2 months and 2 pounds for males; closer to 2.5 pounds for females.
The group I'm with will not display the kittens for adoption until they have reached that point and are already spayed or neutered, or, in special circumstances, they will allow the adoption, but the kitten stays with the foster family until the procedure is done.
Unfortunately, that was not true of this other group, and they insisted she had to be spayed at such a tiny and delicate stage.
The Wrong Anesthesia, or an Overdose . .
According to my current veterinarian, a commonly used anesthetic for cats is isoflurane. In looking this up on the Internet, I found that it can cause a marked increase in intracranial or cerebrospinal pressure.
Pressure on the brain often causes brain injury of some kind--it is the reason shunts are installed for conditions such as hydrocephalus, or to relieve pressure from accidental traumas.
Because she was so tiny, the anesthesia had a more pronounced effect, and the end result was some brain damage, which caused her to have epilepsy. We noticed her first seizure after we'd had her home only 2 days.
It was what is called a "petit mal" or "absence" seizure--she simply stiffened up and zoned out, and was "not there" for about half a minute.
It Soon Got Worse
Within a couple of weeks, we saw the onset of grand-mal, or what are now called 'tonic-clonic' or 'generalized' seizures, involving full-body involuntary muscle spasms. These would last anywhere from a few seconds to almost a full minute. Whether you are watching this happen to a tiny kitten or to a child, the feeling of sadness and helplessness is overwhelming.
The poor cat was having these episodes several times a week. It was heartbreaking to see, but at the same time, when she was not in the throes of a seizure, she was a normal. sweet kitty, and nothing else was wrong with her. She had already stolen our hearts, and we could not bear to think of putting her down, as she was not suffering 24/7.
Challenging the Veterinary Medical Profession
The worst part, actually, was getting a veterinarian to listen to reason and convince them of the problem. The vet we had at the time wanted to 'pooh-pooh' the idea that a cat could have epilepsy, and especially that young. He claimed that dogs sometimes start having seizures as they get old, and cats, less often.
The vet responsible for the surgery, further wanted to lay the blame on some obscure birth defect, called a 'liver shunt,' and send her to a university veterinary teaching hospital at great expense for surgery. We declined. You see, my husband had an uncle who suffered from epilepsy, and he knew very well what an epileptic seizure looked like in all of its forms.
It took an entire year of helplessly watching kitty have these episodes before we finally found a vet who listened, and put the cat on appropriate medication.
If this happens to your pet, stick to your guns, and keep searching until you find a vet who has their head on straight.
Patches in Normal Kitty Mode
For many years, the barbiturate, Phenobarbital, was used to help control seizures in people. Some human medications can also be prescribed for animals. In this case, it was the Phenobarbital that was given to the cat, even though for people, it is considered an 'older' treatment that is not much used anymore.
A Secondary Medication Is Sometimes Needed
Her seizures were fairly well under control once we got her on the medication. We got this kitty in 1998, and she was started on the Phenobarbital in 1999. That helped a lot. It reduced the frequency from several times a week to once or twice a month.
As the years went by, however, we began seeing an upswing in the frequency again, to sometimes once a week. In 2003 we moved to our current location, and our new vet added Valium to her regimen. This helped to reduce the frequency back down to once a month or less. Though there were bound to be "break-through" seizures, as I'm sure any human sufferer can attest.
In her later years, and with the knowledge and consent of our vet, we tried her on cannabis butter, which has been shown to work in humans with the condition. It was nearly miraculous! Instead of being a zoned-out zombie on hard drugs, she was again alert, and even learned to play again!
The butter was given in a dose about the size of a pea, twice daily. It lasted for about six hours. Unfortunately, this meant she had to have the hard stuff overnight, as we sleep longer than six hours. However, by the time she was ready for the next dose of butter, she'd slept off the barbiturate, and we had our kitty back.
At the age of 16-1/2 years, on the 25th of March, 2015, our dear Patches had to be helped to cross the Rainbow Bridge.
She had gone down hill suddenly in the last week, and very suddenly on that day, all her medications had stopped working; she was experiencing multiple mini-seizures throughout the day, and had lost even the ability to stand up. Her eyes were dilated and unfocused. It was time, and we tearfully said farewell to our beautiful, sweet old girl.
She sleeps the long sleep in a sunny spot in the yard, for she always loved to lay in a sunny window or in a "sun puddle" on the carpet.
Fly Free, Dear Patches!
References and Sources
- Cat Seizures and Epilepsy 101
Seizures are not uncommon, but learn what can make them dangerous and when your cat needs emergency care.
- Seizures in Cats | Epilepsy in Cats | Signs of Seizures | petMD
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes the affected cat to have sudden, uncontrolled, recurring physical attacks, with or without loss of consciousness.
- Pot for Pets: How Medical Marijuana Can Help Your Cat - The Conscious Cat
CannaVet, formed by two Seattle veterinarians, is one of the pioneers of using medical marijuana for pets.
© 2012 Liz Elias
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on February 23, 2017:
Hello, always exploring,
Thank you so very much. I know what you mean; in the beginning, I did not worry about SEO; I just wrote whatever I felt like writing. As the years passed, however, the realization that I could make at least some pocket change or 'mad money,' to assist with our limited budget on a fixed income changed that for me. So, now, 7 years into writing here, I am still learning stuff as if I were a newbie! :-(
I have made (I believe) all of the changes that were suggested to me in the help forum, so now it's just a waiting game. ;-)
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 22, 2017:
I see that I didn't read this. I was not following you back then. I see absolutely nothing wrong with your hub. I do see that you gave a lot of good information on caring for an epileptic cat. I write for pure pleasure. I do not worry about SEO, for me, it takes all the fun out of writing. I'm positive that you helped the people who read this piece.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 09, 2013:
Thank you very much for your input. I'm so sorry your Dad had to deal with this condition, and also your Lab. It is very heartbreaking to watch a pet suffer this, as you cannot explain to them as you would a person.
I would ask the vet about the B-12 and thyroid meds--I might still, but at this point, Patches is a very senior kitty, and is lately showing signs that she may not be with us much longer, so all I want to do is keep her comfortable. She is on a medication for some arthritis in her hips, as well.
Thank you so much again for your contribution!
ahorseback on December 09, 2013:
Dzy , you certainly don't need my two cents here , this hub is amazing , My Dad had this too, now My chocolate lab "Bud " has it and it absolutely breaks my heart to watch this happen ! It kills me , however the vet gave us thyroid medicine and that helped however .....he had several more and then she told us to get vitamin B-12 Pills [cheap ] and I believe that helped tremendously ! Disguise them with a favorite treat with food !,...Good luck .....Ed
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on November 17, 2013:
Thank you so much for your kind comment; I appreciate that. Thank you, also, for your own work in rescuing these wonderful creatures.
When I got my first cat, the veterinary standard for spay/neuter was set at 6 months of age. In cats, that can be too late, as they can mature that early and start producing litters. I think 2 months is a bit young, but it seems to be the new standard, and they say the kittens bounce back faster.
I know from watching the "kitten cam" of Foster Dad John (near Seattle, WA), that the kittens are only dopey the day they get back from the surgery, then they're full of vinegar again, while the mom cats always seem to be slower to recover, so I guess 2 months makes sense.
Thank you so much for the comment, the compliment, the votes and share!
FlourishAnyway from USA on November 17, 2013:
Aww, Patches is so lucky to have a cat mother as devoted as you are. She is a beautiful cat. I used to do cat rescue, too, and have several "leftover" kitties with disabilities whom I love dearly and whom require special care. I advocate spay neuter but my vet requires the limits you referred to (2 months and 2 pounds). When I had kittens available, I never even showed them until they were spayed and ready to go. Although I probably lost some potential homes that way, the good ones will understand why and will wait. Bless you for the work you do for them. Voted up and more, plus sharing.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on November 15, 2013:
Wow--a 20-year-old cat. What a wonderful milestone! A seizure might be possible, but it might just be that he loses his balance while scratching, because of his age, just as we all lose some of our coordination with advancing years.
If you think a seizure is a possibility, I would strongly urge you to see your vet. I know there are downsides to the medications, but kitty can also get hurt in the throes of a seizure, and if you can control or prevent those, you're ahead of the game. In any case, it could be something simple, and you'd set your mind at ease by having it checked out.
Thanks so very much for sharing about your wonderful fur-baby.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on November 15, 2013:
I am glad to meet a fellow cat-lover. It is a sad thing for her, but we love her, and committed to her lifelong care by adopting her, so we just give her all the love we can, and are glad that when her time comes to cross the Rainbow Bridge, she will know she was loved.
How wonderful that your kitty has been with you for 17 years! That is awesome. Patches colors are in the family called "Tortoiseshell." She is a smoke, or muted "Tortie."
Thank you so very much for stopping by and your thoughtful comment. You enjoy your weekend as well!
Rebecca Furtado from Anderson, Indiana on November 15, 2013:
I think my 20 yr old male Manx may be having seizure. He acts like he is scratching sometimes and then thrashs about. He is never vetted; except to be fixed and one case of urinary crystals when he was eight. I just hate to vet him at this age. He has been more than healthy. I wonder if there is a natural remedy to try. He is so old, I hate to put him on prescription medication. He will be 21 in March.
kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on November 15, 2013:
I am a big cat lover and I am sad that you cat has epilepsy! It's remarkable that your cat is still alive; she must be around 15 years old. It must be hard for you to see her trying to run away from the seizure; poor thing, it's hard to explain to a child what epilepsy is... imagine a cat! I have a 17 and half years old cat with the same kind of colors than yours; I think those kind of colors show that they Siamese in their ancestors.
Have a great weekend!
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on February 21, 2013:
Epilepsy can be a rather serious condition, about which I knew little myself until our kitty was affected. Thank you very much for commenting; I'm pleased you found the article useful. Thanks much, too, for the vote!
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on February 21, 2013:
Hello, Suzie HQ,
I'm glad you liked the article. I did try to diligently research what was happening with our poor kitty, and in the process, the memory of my former neighbor's testimony came back to me. I've never witnessed a person suffering an attack, but thanks to my research, I'll be prepared if I ever do.
I'm sorry you have been stricken with this condition, but it sounds like you're a very positive person who refuses to let it get you down. Brava for that outlook! It just goes to prove that people can do anything they set their minds to doing.
Patches was 14 years old in Sept. of 2012, and is still hanging in there. Tonight (in Feb. of 2013) she was actually playing a bit...which she does rarely anymore.
Thanks very much for all the votes and the share!
torrilynn on February 21, 2013:
DzyMsLizzy, im sorry that your cat has epilepsy. i never knew much about epilepsy or what would or does cause it. thanks for this hub. voted up.
Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on February 21, 2013:
What a great job you have done highlighting Epilepsy (which I have had for over 30 years) in both cats and in humans. I was diagnosed with grand mal or tonic clonic seizures when I was 14. Interestingly how you mentioned Phenobarbital as I was on it along with another drug. The Phenobarbital was eventually phased out completely. It was not something I related to little kittens and it must have been so distressing for you not getting help from the medical profession.
Your pointers in how to deal with seizures is excellent and what people with Epilepsy are not. i have never let it stop me doing most things I love including traveling alone, playing International Sport and living alone at times. Life is for living and your hub is a great alert for pet owners and for people who may suspect Epilepsy in others.
Voted up, Useful, Interesting, Shared.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on January 19, 2013:
Thank you so much for your kind words. I am sure your Little Miss Tiffy and Mister Gabriel are most beautiful, well loved and lovingly spoiled companions for you. Blessings upon you for your love of kitties.
I realize this is not the most pleasant of topics, but I did want to get the word out. The early spay/neuter policy of most rescue groups now stands at 2 months AND 2 pounds. Run away fast from any outfit that insists on having the procedures done any earlier. This young is still a huge departure from the former standard of 6 months of age.
Thanks very much again for sharing your thoughts.
(P.S.--I hope you enjoy the G&S Hub as well.)
epigramman on January 19, 2013:
I was eyeing your Gilbert and Sullivan hub and got distracted by this title and for good reason - I live for my two cats - Little Miss Tiffy and Mister Gabriel - and I was shocked to think this terrible illness could ever happen to a kitten. It certainly wasn't a very pleasant read for me but at the same time an essential one which left me naturally moved but also educated and enlightening.
Thank you for your loving heart, your sensitive nature and your keen eye for detail and research.
Sending you warm wishes for your continued health, happiness and prosperity in 2013 from lake erie time ontario canada 4:09pm
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on January 17, 2013:
Hello there, crazybeanrider,
Long time, no see! How have you been?
Animals are, indeed, amazing, and capable of so much more than many people give them credit for. I feel for your losses of 2 of your furry friends; I know personally how heartbreaking that is.
Thanks so much for stopping by and for your complimentary comment. To us, we have not done anything extraordinary--we just love our kitties, that's all.
Boo McCourt from Washington MI on January 17, 2013:
So heartbreaking, I am so glad Patches has such a loving and kind family to take such wonderful care of her. Not giving up on her, giving such passion when most people would have put her down. It is amazing what she has lived through. I have lost 2 of my precious ones, I have a 18 year old who is still strong. I hope Patches has many years yet to come. Thank you for such a compassionate hub.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on October 08, 2012:
Thank you so much. Aww, I'm sorry about your dog--it is so sad, and so hard to watch an animal go through this, as it cannot be explained to them as with a person. It was good of you to look after your classmate; very caring and kind.
Thanks very much for the vote and share.
Michelle Liew from Singapore on October 08, 2012:
This is great, Liz. My dog just had a run in with epilepsy as well. I used to be seated with a girl with the problem in elementary school because the teacher felt I could look after her if she had a problem. The other girls in the class used to make fun of her. She had seizures in class frequently too. This is useful, and shared here on HP.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on September 24, 2012:
Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I'm pleased you liked the article, and I thank you for the praise.
drbj and sherry from south Florida on September 24, 2012:
Excellent easy-to-understand explanation, Liz, of the causes of epilepsy and the best treatment to date for animals.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on September 23, 2012:
Thank you, aguasilver, for that explanation. I understand, on one level the whole keywords/SEO thing, but from a practical standpoint, I just find it very confusing and the analytics and stats don't mean much to me; I'm not a 'numbers person.' But I do see your point. I may change it some, then.
John Harper from Malaga, Spain on September 23, 2012:
"As for the title, it is not meant to be a species-specific treatise"
Understood, but (from a keyword perspective) epilepsy is a widely searched word, and very well covered, so you will rank low in searches until the hub has built up 'steam', whereas Animal Epilepsy (along with species specific keywords) should (I am no expert) provide you with a niche to gather species-specific searchers. i.e. I think it would open up a faster route to a higher ranking overall, if more people find your species-specific site because they are looking for species-specific information.
Just my thinking, and I must say again, I am no expert, just that I noticed that from my search stats the most successful hubs I have currently contained a keyword in the title that took them out of the general melee and into a niche.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on September 23, 2012:
Thank you so much for your compassionate comment. You are right--our fellow mammals are indeed susceptible to many of the same ailments as we humans--but the differences are sufficient that the same medications are not always appropriate. For example, Pepto Bismol is poisonous to cats.
We actually trim all the kittys' claws all the time. It was just that one time, that we happened to be away on an errand at probably the same time as she was due for a nail trimming. Needless to say, we were devastated and felt absolutely horrible for not having gotten to the task even an hour sooner. (At that point, she was also still an "only cat," and the only other pet was a dog, whose claws I dared not trim on my own, as they were black...I let the vet handle those!)
Now, we actually use a people nail trimmer--just as our current vet does--and it works for us better than the specialized kitty types. With 6 kitties, it is important to get through the lot of them quickly with minimum fuss--as the word seems to get out, and some of them hide...my longhaired Maine Coon mix, in particular, as his fur is so long it is virtually impossible to trim his claws without pulling hair! I keep threatening to shave his feet! ;-)
kathleenkat from Bellingham, WA on September 23, 2012:
I am very inspired by this story (obviously, I love cats). I have never thought about epilepsy in animals, although I don't doubt that it occurs. I have known cats with arthritis and diabetes, and as they are mammals, too, they are probably susceptible to diseases which affect humans, too. Just wondering; have you tried trimming her claws with a kitty nail clipper? My cats, though completely disease free (that I know of), get their claws caught on things all the time. Trimming them has more-or-less solved that problem.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on September 23, 2012:
@ Hyphenbird—Thank you so very much for your kind comment. We do love our Patches kitty, and and it is heartbreaking to see her go through these seizures. Even though she is now an old cat (just turned 14), and we know she may not be with us much longer, it will still break our hearts when her time comes to cross the Rainbow Bridge.
I’m glad you liked the article, and I thank you again for stopping by and commenting.
@ shingingirisheyes—Oh, bless you for taking care of your friend’s pet. You are right—remaining calm is essential. Sometimes, with Patchy-Cat, we might not ‘sound’ calm, as another trick we use is to yell her name at her; “PATCHES!!! PATCHES!! COME BACK!” Sometimes, it gets through, and she comes out sooner if it’s a bad one. Hope sounds like she was a wonderful companion. It is a lesson for us all that we can learn from the animals. Just because someone has a condition doesn’t make them any less who they are, or less human. Thank you so very much for sharing your experience, and for the high praise!
@ aguasilver—Thanks so very much for your well-thought-out comment. I did check out the website you referenced, and sent an e-mail to the doctor about our cat’s condition.
As for the title, it is not meant to be a species-specific treatise; as I mentioned in my first paragraph, the condition manifests pretty much the same regardless of the species of the sufferer. My intention was but to detail what happens, and look at some possible causes, and how to help a victim in the throes of a seizure, that’s all. Thanks for stopping by and adding your input.
John Harper from Malaga, Spain on September 23, 2012:
Good article, though you may wish to add the words 'in animals' to the title! Check with the title tuner on your accounts page!
Also take a look at the following vets site, who has had great success with epileptic animals
In fact a good title for the page could be:
Epileptic animals--What It Is, What It Is Not and What Causes It.
As a point of reference we used the vets advice to stop our daughters epilepsy! - she has been fit free for over two years now!
Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on September 23, 2012:
I was unaware of this condition in animals until I rescued a furry friend named "Hope". The first time I witnessed her seizures it was one of the most helpless and terrifying moments. Hope was the furry child of an elderly woman who was going into an elderly care facility that did not allow animals. She told me what to expect with the seizures but it is just not the same until you witness one first-hand. This woman stated that Hope and she were in a car accident where Hope was banged up pretty bad. They suspected this might have been the cause of the seizures.
Needless to say, Hope was a wonderful friend and we worked with each other during the seizures. I found staying calm and massaging the back of her neck seemed to alleviate the discomfort until the episode passed.
I had a wonderful ten years with my buddy. She is now enjoying a seizure-free life with all her friends that went before her.
Fantastic and extremely informative article.
I commend you.
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on September 23, 2012:
Patches is so very sweet. It makes me cry to know she goes through this and tries to escape an oncoming seizure. Bless her and you for caring about her so much. This is a testament to the danger of medications and of spaying animals too soon. You did a fabulous job on this Hub. It is well laid out, easy to follow and useful information.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on September 22, 2012:
Wow--you are fast! Thanks for being first in the comment queue. Patches is getting old now--she just turned 14, but she is still with us, still on the drugs, and still loved. She is, however, once again starting to have a few more breakthroughs, so I'll be discussing that with the vet at her next evaluation which is coming up soon.
You got lucky with the Benadryl...and that is one that can be used; I've had my vet recommend it for the cats from time to time, once when one of them seemed to be having an allergic itching problem, and another time for some other reason (years back--don't recall exactly.) I'm glad you found a natural medication to help your pooch. Thank you very much for sharing your experience and for the vote!
Denise Handlon from North Carolina on September 22, 2012:
Wow, this is an amazing story, Lizzy. So glad you finally found someone to help you with this problem. Interesting. I also liked the warning you posted re: human medications. I gave our dog a benadryl to calm her during a storm and it wasn't until later (it worked btw) that I realized that may not have been smart. I spoke with the vet to check and she okayed it but since then we got a spray to help calm her more effectively naturally. Thanks for sharing. Voted Up/I
Seizure Signs and Symptoms
Most affected cats will show most of these six signs during a seizure.
- Loss of consciousness (seizing cats may appear distressed but they are unconscious so have no awareness of what’s happening).
- Flailing movement of the limbs i.e. extension and flexion, rapid paddling as if trying to run while lying down.
- Urination and defecation.
- Staring, with wide-open eyes and dilated pupils.
- Vocalization, which can sound distressing (even though seizing cats are unconscious so they are not aware that they are vocalizing)
- Autonomic activity i.e. salivation and drooling, rapid heart rate, and panting.
CBD for Cats With Seizures
Does your cat suffer from seizures?
If so, I’m sure you’re desperate to find a reliable, safe medication to help relieve her symptoms.
CBD promises to help drive down seizures in humans, but does this stuff work for cats and other animals?
In this post, I’ll show you exactly how CBD works to reduce seizures in cats and even recommend a few CBD products designed specifically for felines.
If your cat has seizures, we believe that HolistaPet has the best products to help. They have treats, capsules and oils.
What Causes Seizures in Cats?
Seizures in cats can be caused by many different things.
Some cats may experience regular seizures as part of a congenital condition like epilepsy (which I’ll explore in more detail below).
However, feline epilepsy isn’t very common, and chances are your cat experiences seizures as a result of some other cause, including:
- Low/high blood sugar levels.
- Low levels of oxygen in the blood. Anemia, heart conditions, or diseases affecting your cat’s breathing may cause a sudden drop in blood oxygen levels.
- Brain tumors or brain damage.
- Toxins like permethrin (found in flea products), bromethalin (found in rodenticides), or even certain medications (mirtazapine, ibuprofen, diphenhydramine, or some antibiotics).
- Extreme infections, fevers, or hyperthermia
- Disorders of the kidneys and/or liver.
What Causes Epilepsy in Cats?
Epilepsy is a brain condition that you may already be familiar with, seeing as it affects humans, dogs, and other animals.
The effects of epilepsy on cats are pretty similar to its effects on humans.
The main symptom of epilepsy is regular seizures that can cause a variety of pronounced physical symptoms, including shaking, chomping of the jaw, salivating, urinating, and more.
These seizures are caused by a misfiring of the neurons in the brain which are responsible for sending information around the body.
When these neurons start firing off signals in an abnormal fashion, a seizure occurs.
Unfortunately, the root cause of epilepsy in cats isn’t clear.
Epilepsy starts to present itself in cats aged 1-4 months.
It can affect cats of any breed and is a chronic condition with no cure.
There is evidence to suggest that it’s a genetic condition, but it isn't enough to suggest that genetics is the sole cause of epilepsy.
What Does a Cat Seizure Look Like?
Feline seizures are pretty shocking.
They are typically broken down into 3 stages:
- The “Aura.” This is the period just before a seizure takes place. You might find your cat meowing, seeking out attention, pacing around or acting restless. The aura tends to last only a few minutes.
- The “Ictus” or Seizure. Some of the most common symptoms of a cat seizure include sudden collapse, uncontrolled muscle spasms, stiffness, “paddling” of the legs, salivating, vomiting, urinating, or defecating. Most feline seizures last for only a few minutes.
- The “Post-Ictal” Phase. This is the period after the seizure in which your cat might seem disoriented and uncoordinated or even temporarily blind. The post-ictal phase can last anywhere from a few minutes to multiple days.
Keep in mind that the actual symptoms of a seizure can vary.
The symptoms I listed above are just some of the most common, but the exact symptoms will vary depending on the kind of seizure your cat is experiencing.
There are 2 main types of seizures:
- Partial seizures, which tend to affect only one side of the body.
- Generalized seizures that affect the whole body.
There are 2 types of generalized seizures:
- Grand Mal Seizures: These seizures usually cause your cat to fall on its side and suffer from uncontrollable muscle spasms. It's common for cats with grand mal seizures to salivate profusely and urinate/defecate involuntarily.
- Petit Mal Seizures: These seizures are less common, and will cause a cat to temporarily lose consciousness. They may collapse, or simply stare out into the distance and seem “spaced out.”
In extreme cases, cats may experience “status epilepticus.”
This is when the cat suffers from multiple, repeated grand mal seizures.
Status epilepticus can last for hours and lead to death.
You should seek immediate medical attention if you notice your cat suffering from multiple seizures lasting more than just a few minutes.
How Can CBD Help With Epilepsy?
Given the amount of media attention CBD has attracted over the years, you may already be familiar with its anticonvulsant properties.
You might even remember the news report that shocked the world with the story of Charlotte Figi.
Charlotte suffers from a rare form of epilepsy which left her experiencing hundreds of severe grand mal seizures per week.
After years of ineffective treatment using a cocktail of different pharmaceutical drugs, Charlotte’s parents discovered the power of CBD.
Within just weeks of treatment using a CBD-rich tincture now sold as Charlotte’s Web, Charlotte experienced a huge decline in the severity and regularity of her seizures.
From there, CBD really started to take off.
More and more stories like Charlotte’s started to make their way into the news, and a multitude of studies started taking a closer look at CBD and its anticonvulsant properties.
Today, a multitude of studies exist on the topic.
The majority of these studies show that CBD is able to drive down the number of seizures in epileptic patients, as well as the severity of the seizures they’re experiencing.
In 2017, for example, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study examining the effects of CBD on seizures caused by Dravet Syndrome.
The study featured a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial including 120 children and young adults with Dravet Syndrome.
Half of the patients received a placebo drug, while the others received a daily dose of oral CBD solution at a dose of 20mg per kilogram of body weight.
All the patients continued receiving their standard antiepileptic medications.
The treatment lasted 14 weeks, and the researchers’ primary focus was the effect that CBD had on the frequency of seizures.
The group of patients receiving CBD experienced a median drop in the number of monthly seizures from 12.4 to 5.9.
Meanwhile, the median monthly seizure rate for the placebo group went from 14.9 to 14.1.
Another commonly-cited study comes from the highly-renowned medical journal The Lancet.
Published in 2016, the study tracked 210 epileptic patients across 11 different epilepsy centers across the US and their response to CBD.
The patients received CBD at daily doses starting between 2-5mg per kilogram of body weight.
The doses were then upped until the medication became intolerable or reached a maximum of either 25 or 50mg per kilogram of body weight.
The study showed that CBD reduced seizures by around 36%.
2% of patients also became completely seizure-free using CBD.
These are just 2 popular studies exploring the effects of CBD on epilepsy.
For a more comprehensive look at these studies and others, check out ProjectCBD.
Does This Mean CBD Can Help My Cat?
On my blog so far, I’ve written a lot about the benefits of CBD for dogs with seizures.
These benefits are exactly the same for cats.
I know that might seem strange, seeing as dogs, cats, and humans don’t really seem similar (at least not in a physiological sense).
But one thing that we do have in common is our Endocannabinoid System.
This system is made up of the main receptors that are triggered by CBD when it enters the body (namely CB1 and CB2, although there are others).
Exactly how the Endocannabinoid System and CBD help to stop seizures isn’t completely clear.
However, studies have shown that Endocannabinoid System is involved in regulating neurological activity in the brain and body.
It does so by blocking the activity of specific neuronal channels.
This suggests that CBD can help restore order to the disrupted electric activity in the brain that causes a seizure.
While I haven’t personally used CBD to treat epilepsy in cats, I have used it to help my dog Rosie, who was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and cancer.
Once I witnessed the positive effects CBD had on my Rosie, I began to research CBD in more detail and create this website.
In my research, I learned that CBD has many positive health benefits, and huge potential as an anticonvulsant.
Are Other Pets Using CBD to Treat Epilepsy?
There are many pet owners who have seen success with CBD on cats and dogs who struggle with seizures and epilepsy.
The Canna-Pet website, for example, is full of positive reviews of cat owners using CBD to treat epilepsy, seizures, and many other conditions.
P.J, for example, is an 18-year-old cat who struggles with kidney disease.
Screenshot taken from Canna-Pet.com
As his kidney problems progressed, P.J started experiencing seizures.
His owners almost immediately started him on an anti-seizure medication prescribed by their vet.
The medication didn’t work and P.J’s seizures only started getting more severe and frequent.
P.J’s owners decided to try CBD and saw immediate improvements. Within a month, P.J’s seizures became less frequent and less intense. He has also become more affectionate and relaxed thanks to the medication.
And as I mentioned above, cats respond the same way to CBD as dogs do, and humans to a certain extent. I highlighted the story about Charlotte's success with CBD and her seizures above, so here are a few other pet reviews from dog owners:
Next we have a testimonial from Barry.
Screenshot taken from HolistaPet.com
Barry explains that his dog was experiencing up to 3 seizures per day.
His vet finally recommended CBD and Barry began his research. He started using CBD and instantly saw results.
He reports that not only are his dog's seizures happening much less often, they are also way less severe.
This is a very common outcome. CBD might not cure seizures completely, however many pet owners report that it greatly reduces the frequency and severity of them.
Screenshot taken from Canna-Pet.com
Rex's story is a great one.
After using CBD for almost 3 months, Rex's owners are happy to report that he is completely seizure free!
They have also noticed that Rex seems to be in much less pain, which is not a surprise as CBD is a very powerful anti inflammatory.
Although Rex's story might seem like a miracle, there are many other pet owners who have reported that CBD has totally eliminated their dog or cat's seizures. This is not a guarantee, but it can happen.
Which CBD Product is Best for Cats Suffering From Seizures?
If you’ve already shopped around for CBD pet products, you’ve likely asked yourself this question:
How do I know which product is best for my pet?
Today I’m going to help you answer that question.
I have plenty of experience with CBD pet supplements, and recommend 2 main brands for cat owners in particular.
First and foremost, I highly recommend HolistaPet for its line of products tailored specifically for cats.
For seizures, in particular, I’d recommend using a high-strength product, like HolistaPet’s CBD Pet Tincture.
For serious health conditions like epilepsy and seizures, I find products with higher concentrations of CBD produce the best results.
Alternatively, I also recommend HolistaPet’s CBD Cat Treats.
Cats really love the natural salmon flavor and crunchy texture of the treats, making them super easy to administer.
Plus, seeing that each treat contains exactly 2 grams of CBD, they are very easy to dose, too.
My second recommendation for CBD cat products is Canna-Pet.
I used this brand with my dog and was super impressed with the results.
Currently, Canna-Pet offers CBD capsules for cats, which are best opened and mixed into your pet’s food.
Keep in mind that these capsules will take longer to take effect, and therefore aren’t ideal for treating acute seizures.
Instead, they can be used as a regular supplement to drive down symptoms over time.
For more information about either of these 2 brands, make sure to check out my CBD for cats main page.
Hey I'm Blake, the founder of this website. Our family was fortunately to have discovered CBD products after our dog Rosie was diagnosed with a few common ailments. I truly believe they enhanced her last few years, and it's my passion to spread the word through this website. Thanks for visiting!
Can Cats Have Seizures?
Seizures are one of the scariest things pet owners may have to face. We often focus our education of seizures on dog owners, especially those with particular breeds. But can cats have seizures too? If so, what should you do if your cat has a seizure? And what can we do as vets?
What is a Seizure?
A seizure is a temporary state of excitation in the brain that results in abnormal electrical activity. The brain is made up of cells called neurones. These are like telephone wires that connect every part of the brain and allow it to send messages around the body.
Neurones are stimulated by electrical activity to carry messages and cause an effect, such as moving muscles. Normally, there is a balance in the brain between excitation and inhibition some neurones will be active and some will be inactive. This means the brain can coordinate itself and does not get overloaded. However, if there is a seizure, a lot more of the brain is excited and millions more neurones are firing the brain and body cannot cope with all these signals, causing symptoms of seizures.
Seizures can be caused by problems outside the brain (extracranial), such as toxicities, electrolyte abnormalities, a lack of oxygen or hyperthermia. Alternatively, a seizure can be caused by problems within the brain (intracranial). Caused by damage, infection or blood clots in the brain. Any animal of any age can have a seizure.
Seizures often present as body-wide convulsions (though this is variable, as we will see later), as all the muscles are being told to move by the overexcited neurones. Other common signs include behavioural changes, salivation, urination, defaecation and loss of consciousness. If untreated, seizures can lead to heat stroke, heart and other organ damage, trauma and even death.
This is a group of neurological disorders that cause periodic seizures. Recurrent brain dysfunction leads to repeated over-excitation of the brain and epileptic seizures. Epilepsy can be caused by a physical problem or an unknown functional problem within the brain. We generally say that any animal that has two or more seizures within a short period of time (variable) has epilepsy.
Can Cats Have Seizures?
Like all animals, cats can indeed have seizures. However, there are a number of key differences between dog seizures (the animal we most commonly see seizuring in practice) and cats.
Seizures in cats are much rarer than dogs, but they aren’t impossible. Some studies say up to 2% of the feline population have seizures. Seizures are common in very young and very old dogs, whereas in cats most seizures are seen in older animals younger cats can have seizures, but it is much less common. This is because many of the causes of seizures in cats are related to old age.
Cats also tend to have different symptoms compared to dogs. Dogs tend to have generalised seizures where most of their brain is seizuring – these are the ‘classic’ seizures where the whole body convulses. Cats are more likely to have focal or partial seizures. This is where only one part of the brain has seizure activity. As a result, the signs can be a lot more subtle.
Symptoms in cats with partial seizures include salivation, licking, aggression, excessive swallowing, facial twitching, vocalisation, hiding and other unusual behaviour. Cats can still have generalised seizures as described above, or partial seizures can progress to generalised. Severe seizure activity can occur multiple times within short periods (cluster seizures), or can last for many minutes (status epilepticus) – both are emergencies.
Causes of Seizures in Cats
Most cat seizures are caused by intracranial disease.
One of the most common intracranial diseases in older cats is sadly cancer – older cats can develop cancer within the brain that grows and compresses the healthy brain around it. This leads to dysfunction and seizure activity. The most common seizure-causing cancers in cats are meningioma, lymphoma and glioma. These cancers often cause other symptoms as well, such as progressive neurological issues, weight loss, behavioural changes and changes in toileting. Treatment is difficult and prognosis varies.
Vascular (blood vessel) disease is another common cause of seizures in cats. High blood pressure is a common finding in older cats, often related to heart disease, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and more. The high blood pressure leads to increased pressure around the brain that can cause neurological dysfunction and seizures. Seizures can also be caused by a lack of oxygen reaching the brain – we aren’t sure why this happens in cats, though it could be related to blood clots, low blood pressure, or if you are in the USA, certain types of parasite.
Metabolic abnormalities secondary to other diseases are quite common in older cats. Older cats often have disease of the liver or kidneys – these organs are responsible for filtering out toxins from the body. If they aren’t working, these toxic products can reach the brain and cause seizures. We term these diseases hepatic encephalopathy and renal encephalopathy respectively. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can also lead to seizures, as it increases the brain’s oxygen and glucose demand – if the body cannot deliver these, the brain starves and can seizure. Other causes of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) cause seizures in a similar way.
Idiopathic epilepsy (this is epilepsy without an obvious cause) was once thought to be rare in cats, especially compared to dogs. However, recent studies have shown that it is more common than we thought. Many of these cats were actually younger, between age 1 and 7. If your cat has regular seizures and is younger, idiopathic epilepsy may be more likely.
As with dogs, a number of toxic substances can cause seizures as well. Toxins affect cats of any age, though outdoor cats may be more likely to eat something they shouldn’t. Common toxins include lead, rat poison, permethrin flea products, fertilisers and more.
Finally, certain infectious agents can cause seizures in cats of all ages. There is a nasty disease in cats called feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), caused by a virus. It mostly causes fluid build-up in the lungs and abdomen, but it can also cause lesions in the brain that cause seizures. Toxoplasmosis is another disease, caused by a parasite, which can lead to seizures – toxoplasmosis rarely invades the brain and mainly causes gastrointestinal issues. Finally, a fungus called Cryptococcus that can reside in a cat’s nose sometimes invades through the brain in severe cases, causing seizures (although this is fairly uncommon, and the fungus is rare in the UK).
What to Do If Your Cat Has a Seizure
Although seizures are not a normal event, some animals have one seizure in their life, and never show seizure activity again. It is entirely possible that if your cat has a seizure and is fine afterwards, you don’t need to worry. However, it is always a good idea to mention this to your vet as soon as you can. They will probably recommend keeping an eye on them and watching out for further seizure activity. If your cat has more than one seizure within 6 months, further investigation is usually recommended.
If your cat has a seizure, there are a number of steps you should take.
Firstly, check the time. It is important to know how long the seizure lasts, especially if it is a long “status epilepticus” seizure. A seizure is caused by increased activity within the brain, so it is helpful to reduce stimulation as much as possible. Turn off lights, reduce excess noise, act calm and give your cat space.
In fact, it is a good idea to avoid touching your cat as much as you can. Cats in seizures can be aggressive, or you can hurt them accidentally. If you have to move them (such as to the vets), wrap them in a towel and keep them secure.
If your cat has had a seizure before, has a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes, or the seizure is severe, please contact your vet and ask for emergency care – they may ask you to bring your cat in straight away. Even if your cat stops seizuring in the car, continue to your vets so they can check they are okay.
Emergency care for seizures at the vets include drugs to reduce brain activity, cooling your cat, fluid therapy, oxygen, monitoring of blood parameters, and nursing care. It is critical that vets try and stop the seizure activity as soon as possible, and then manage post-seizure complications. This treatment may require your cat staying at the vets for a while. Be aware that the outcome is not always positive for severe seizures.
How We Diagnose Seizures
Investigating why your cat has seizures can be tricky as there are many potential causes. We generally start by asking about your cat’s history – we will want to know the history of their seizure activity, any behavioural changes, your cat’s travel and vaccination history, if they have had any access to toxins, their diet, and so on.
Clinical examination of your cat can help rule out obvious causes of seizures. This may involve a neurological exam, blood testing to rule out metabolic causes, sampling cerebrospinal fluid to look for signs of lesions, or imaging such as ultrasound, x-rays, CT or MRI. If we suspect your cat has diseases that could cause seizures, such as liver or kidney disease, we may do urine or faecal tests, or take biopsies of these organs. Idiopathic epilepsy is trickier to diagnose, as there are few physical changes diagnosis is usually only possible once we have ruled out all other causes.
Preventing future seizures will depend on the specific cause.
Most age-related diseases in cats are managed with their own specific treatment plans – successful treatment should prevent seizure activity. Cancers causing seizures may be able to be removed surgically or with chemotherapy. There are also a number of drugs available that prevent seizures phenobarbital is the cheapest and most common, although less well tolerated by cats than dogs but other options include imepitoin, levetiracetam and gabapentin.
It can initially be difficult calculating the ideal dose for individual cats, so treatment often starts with some trial and error. Most drugs will need to be given orally at least once a day, which requires a lot of input from you. Furthermore, the drugs do have a lot of side-effects that need to be managed. All of this information will be given to you by your vet, if they feel your cat needs long-term anti-seizure medication.
Seizures can definitely occur in cats, and although they are uncommon, you now know what causes them, how you can identify and manage a seizuring cat, and how vets will diagnose and treat them. The most important thing for you as an owner to do is to be on the lookout for unusual activity that could indicate your cat is seizuring – most of these strange signs will be innocent, but it is good to identify them just in case. Don’t be afraid of seizures – be prepared so you know the best way to help your cat.
What are seizures in cats?
When we reference seizures, it is common to use the term epilepsy interchangeably. Epileptic seizures refer to a broad group of seizures which have various causes. However, not all seizures fall under this general heading. On the other hand, they do all share certain characteristics.
A seizure is a series of uncontrolled repetitive movements produced by an alteration of normal brain activity. A simple way to explain the process is to look at how neurons are effected. Neurons are nerve cells which are a vital part of the nervous system. They send signals from the brain to other parts of the body via electrical impulses. When they don't work at all, they can lead to conditions such as paralysis. During a seizure, neurons receive greater stimulation than they can handle, causing them to send aberrant signals to the rest of the brain.
When the brain sends out such abnormal signals, it responds with the obvious signs of a seizure in cats (see below). The danger lies not only in the violence of the seizure itself, but with the potential brain damage which can result. If the brain does not work, it can send the wrong signals to the rest of the body and result in organ failure. For this reason, early detection is vital.
Seizures are one of the most common neurological problems recognized in cats  . Fortunately, seizures are still a relatively rare occurrence, affecting 1-3% of the feline population. They usually present as the symptom of another pathology. Epilepsy is a condition of its own, although it also covers a range of neurological disorders. A seizure is one of the symptoms of epilepsy, but is also a symptom of other problems.