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Cat Seizures: Causes, Symptoms, and How to Help

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If you panic at the sight or idea of a cat having seizures, you’re not alone. Seizures can be a disturbing event to witness! Unfortunately, nearly 1 in 50 cats will experience a seizure at some point during their lives (1). Many of these seizures will be isolated, one-time events, but some cats may have repeated seizures due to an underlying medical condition.

Read on to learn more about seizures in cats, including what they look like and how you should respond if your cat has a seizure. 

Can Cats Have Seizures?

Just like humans, cats can have seizures. A seizure can be thought of as an electrical storm within the brain. All of the outwardly visible signs associated with a seizure are caused by abnormal electrical activity (nerve impulses) traveling throughout the brain. 

There are many potential causes of seizures in cats. Additionally, seizures can take on a variety of clinical appearances.

Types of Seizures in Cats

Woman holding cat with eyes closed

Seizures can be divided into two broad categories: generalized seizures and focal seizures. 

Generalized Seizures

During a generalized seizure, also known as a grand mal seizure, abnormal electrical activity occurs throughout the brain. During a generalized seizure, your cat will lose consciousness and be unaware of their surroundings. Affected cats often fall over with jerky, spasming movements throughout their entire body; over time, these movements may gradually turn to rhythmic paddling. Excessive salivation and loss of bladder or bowel control are also common features of generalized seizures. Most generalized seizures last for less than two minutes, though they can be very scary to watch. Fortunately, generalized seizures are relatively rare in cats. 

Focal Seizures

Focal seizures, in contrast, affect only a small portion of the brain. This is the most common type of seizure in cats. Focal seizures in cats do not cause a loss of consciousness. Instead, you may notice spasming of one particular limb or body part. In their most subtle forms, focal seizures may involve only a twitch of a single eyelid or ear. In more severe forms, cats with focal seizures may chew their tongue, run into walls or objects, and show other signs of distress. In some cases, a focal seizure can progress to a generalized seizure.

Cluster Seizures

Cluster seizures in cats may also occur. A cluster seizure is defined as two or more seizures occurring within a 24-hour period. These seizures may be focal or generalized. Cluster seizures warrant immediate veterinary attention. 

Cat Seizure Causes

Cat seizures can have a variety of potential causes. In general, causes of seizures may be divided into two categories: intracranial disease (occurring within the brain) and extracranial disease (occurring outside of the brain). 

The majority of seizures in cats are caused by intracranial disease. Intracranial infections that may be associated with seizures in cats include: 

  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
  • Cryptococcus (a fungal infection)
  • Toxoplasma (a protozoal disease)
  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Rabies (in unvaccinated cats)

Seizures can also be caused by inflammation with the brain, the presence of a brain tumor, or scar tissue within the brain (caused by previous infection or trauma). Young cats with seizures may have inherited epilepsy, which predisposes them to recurrent seizures despite the lack of an identifiable underlying disease. 

Extracranial diseases that may cause seizures in cats include:

  • Polycythemia (a red blood cell abnormality)
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disease

Rarely, toxins and medications may contribute to seizures.

What Can Trigger a Seizure in a Cat?

Low blood sugar, a high fever, or exposure to a toxin could trigger a one-time seizure in a cat. 

In many cases, however, seizures in cats are repeated. These seizures can often be directly attributed to an underlying intracranial or extracranial condition. 

Cat Seizure Symptoms

Orange cat drooling

The symptoms of seizures will vary, depending on whether your cat is having a focal or generalized seizure. During a focal seizure, abnormal electrical activity is confined to one region of the brain. These cats remain conscious, responding to sight and sound. In most cases, the clinical signs associated with a focal seizure will be confined to one area of the body. 

The signs of a generalized seizure are more dramatic. These cats lose consciousness and may show signs similar to what you would expect of a human having a seizure. Generalized muscle spasms, loss of bladder and bowel control, and a period of post-seizure disorientation are common in cats with generalized seizures.

Symptoms of seizures in cats include: 

  • Isolated twitching of one limb (focal)
  • Isolated twitching of one or both eyelids (focal)
  • Isolated twitching of one or both ears (focal)
  • Sudden, abnormal behavior (focal)  
  • Loss of consciousness (generalized)
  • Fall over on their side (generalized)
  • Generalized twitching or paddling (generalized)
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control (generalized)
  • Increased salivation (focal or generalized)
  • Clenched, chattering jaw (focal or generalized)
  • Head bobbing (focal or generalized)

What to Do if Your Cat is Having a Seizure

If your pet is having a seizure, remain calm. Most seizures will stop within a few minutes, even without veterinary treatment. 

Minimize your cat’s chance of injury. A cat that is having a generalized seizure at the top of a flight of stairs, for example, is at risk of falling down the stairs and becoming injured. If possible, move your cat to a safe, confined area. Take care not to get bit or scratched during this process, because pets that are having a seizure may be prone to bite. Use a thick towel or blanket when picking up your cat, to reduce the risk of receiving a bite. 

Do not reach into your cat’s mouth during a seizure. Cats will not swallow their tongues, and you increase your risk of being bitten by your cat by reaching into their mouth. 

Time your pet’s seizure. This information can be valuable to your veterinarian. A seizure that lasts 5 minutes or longer warrants emergency veterinary care; take your cat to your regular veterinarian or a veterinary emergency hospital. 

Once the seizure is over, reassure your cat. Your cat may be tired or antisocial after a seizure, which is normal. Offer your cat a quiet place to rest. 

Finally, contact your veterinarian. Isolated, one-time seizures may or may not require treatment, but your veterinarian will likely want to perform a physical exam to look for other signs of underlying disease.

Diagnosing Cat Seizures

CT of a cat's head

Any cat with seizures should receive a thorough physical exam and screening blood tests. Your veterinarian will look for signs of neurologic disease, while also searching for extracranial disease that may cause seizures. 

If your cat has a history of repeated seizures, a more thorough workup is needed. Your veterinarian may recommend blood tests to screen for common infectious diseases. Additionally, your veterinarian may recommend X-rays of your cat’s chest to look for tumors.

In some cases, your veterinarian may refer your cat to a veterinary neurologist for a more extensive workup. A veterinary neurologist may recommend further testing, such as a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tap and advanced imaging (CT or MRI). 

Cat Seizure Treatment and Management

The treatment of feline seizures depends on their underlying cause. 

There are multiple anti-seizure medications available for use in cats, but these drugs offer their greatest benefits in cats with inherited epilepsy. If your veterinarian is able to rule out other intracranial and extracranial causes of seizures, you can expect a good response to anti-seizure medications. 

If your cat’s seizures are caused by another intracranial or extracranial disease, however, managing your cat’s seizures will require addressing the underlying cause of the condition. Fortunately, many causes of seizures in cats can be successfully treated or managed. 

There are no known, effective home remedies for cat seizures.

Cat Seizure Medications

Anti-seizure medications used in cats include phenobarbital, levetiracetam, and zonisamide. Gabapentin may also be used, especially in the case of focal seizures. These medications decrease the excitability of the cells within the brain. Therefore, side effects may include sedation, especially in the early stages of treatment. 

Depending on the underlying cause of your cat’s seizures, other medications that may be recommended include clindamycin (an anti-protozoal drug), prednisone (a steroid), or antifungal medications. 

Cost of Treatment for Cat Seizures

The cost to treat epilepsy will depend largely on the underlying cause. In general, the cost of anti-seizure medications will be $30/month or less. However, antifungal medications and treatments for brain cancer may be significantly more expensive. 

How to Prevent Seizures in Cats

Given the diverse causes of seizures in cats, there’s no single way to prevent these seizures from occurring. Keeping your cat indoors and up-to-date on recommended vaccinations, however, can protect them from some of the infectious causes of feline seizures.


  1. Moore SA. Seizures and epilepsy in cats. Vet Med (Auckl). 2014;5:41-47. Published 2014 Jul 30. doi:10.2147/VMRR.S62077