Seizure Disorders

A seizure is a sudden and uncontrolled burst of activity that may include one of the following: champing and chewing, foaming at the mouth, collapse, jerking of the legs, loss of urine and stool. Some seizures are characterized by abnormal behavior, such as sudden rage or hysteria. Some cats may scratch or bite the owner.


  • Poisoning. Most classic seizures in cats are caused by acute poisoning. Common poisoning agents that may cause seizures include strychnine, antifreeze (ethylene glycol), lead, insecticides (chlorinated hydrocarbons, organophosphates) and rat poisons.
  • Head Injury. Seizures after head injury may occur at the time of the accident, but in most cases appear several weeks later as a result of scar tissue on the brain.
  • Kidney and liver failure
  • Epilepsy. This is a recurrent seizure disorder of cerebral origin. It is far less common in cats than in dogs. To establish a diagnosis, the attacks must be recurrent and similar. Your veterinarian will ask you to provide a complete description of your cat's behavior, before, during and after the seizure.

There are a number of conditions that, while not true seizures, can easily be mistaken for them. Bee stings, for example, can cause shock and collapse. Fainting spells assiciated with advanced heart or lung disease look like seazures.

Narcolepsy-Cataplexy is a rare condition in which the cat suddenly falls asleep and drops to the ground. The cat may have one or dozen of such attacks in a day lasting a few seconds or up to 20 minutes. The attacks can be reversed by petting the cat or making a loud noise. The cat is completely normal when awake.

First Aid

If having a classic seizure, cover your cat with a blanket and stand aside until the animal quiets down. Do not put your fingers in the cat's mouth or try to wedge something between the teeth. Then call your veterinarian to examine the cat to determine the cause of the seizure.

Seizures lasting over 5 minutes are dangerous. They must be stopped to prevent permanent brain damage. Valium is given intravenously to stop a continuous seizure. Recurrent seizure disorders can be controlled with medications. These are the same drugs used in treating people. However, in cats they can be quite toxic and require close veterinary supervision.

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