Types And Causes Of Seizures In Cats

 types and cause of seizures in cats


A seizure can be described as an unexpected surge of electrical activity within the brain, which may result in altered behavior and varying levels of consciousness. Observing any creature, particularly our beloved cats, undergoing a seizure can be deeply unsettling. Generally, seizures aren't typically fatal unless they become excessively aggressive or long-lasting.

Various factors can trigger seizures in cats. These factors might be rooted within the brain, termed intracranial, or originate from outside the brain, known as extracranial.

The majority of seizures signify the presence of an underlying issue, be it inside or outside the brain. Consider epilepsy, a brain disorder that prompts frequent seizures without a discernible cause or evident brain damage.

While epilepsy is relatively common in humans and dogs, it's less frequent in cats. Therefore, it's crucial to thoroughly explore all potential reasons for seizures in cats and provide them with the proper treatment rather than hastily labeling it as epilepsy.

Cat Seizure Types

For those unfamiliar with seizures, the immediate image might be intense body tremors, drooling, and a loss of awareness. While these symptoms can manifest in cats, it's essential to note that seizures can present in various ways, with some being subtle and non-aggressive. Ranging from the most prevalent to the rarer ones, here are the different categories of seizures cats may experience:

Localized Seizures/Specific Motor Seizures: 

Often observed as the most frequent type in cats, these seizures target a particular brain region. As a result, only certain parts of the body show symptoms based on the affected brain area. While the cat typically remains conscious during these episodes, it might appear somewhat disoriented. Given their subdued nature, these seizures can go unnoticed by cat owners, with minor indications like ear movement, whisker quivering, or twitches around the mouth and eyes.

Broad-spectrum Seizures/Major Mal Seizures: 

Characterized by a complete loss of consciousness and comprehensive bodily disruption, these seizures trigger tonic-clonic actions or intense spasms. The entire body responds because they impact a more extensive part of the brain. There's involuntary, sometimes extreme, muscle movement. It's not uncommon for cats to exhibit signs like mouth clenching, salivating, or even accidental urination or defecation as they lose regular bodily control during such episodes.

Behavioral Seizures/Complicated Partial Seizures: 

These seizures manifest as involuntary peculiar actions, including behaviors like aggressive tail or skin biting, pronounced vocal sounds, or unexpected dashing movements. They bear similarities to localized/specific motor seizures and are often categorized under them since they don't lead to a loss of consciousness. An illustrative instance of a behavioral seizure is the "air-biting" phenomenon where a cat suddenly appears to snap at the air, mimicking the motion of catching invisible flies.

Recognizing the onset age, nature, and recurrence rate of seizures is critical to identify patterns. Identifying these seizure patterns is pivotal in formulating diagnoses and determining the appropriate therapeutic interventions.

Seizures In Cats: Causes

Seizures in cats have various triggers.

Grand mal seizures are the most frequent and may arise due to toxins, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), or intense sensory stimuli like loud sounds or bright lights.


  • Seizures can be prompted by antifreeze (ethylene glycol), certain rat poisons, or overdoses from specific medications.
  • Permethrin poisoning leads to intense muscle spasms resulting from misapplied flea/tick products. Cats usually need muscle relaxants for relief, not anti-seizure drugs.


  • Common in malnourished kittens or cats with excessive insulin. If your cat is newly diagnosed with diabetes, consult your vet about treatment.

Sensory Triggers

  • Certain loud noises and lights can cause seizures, though the exact reasons aren't clear.


  • Epilepsy or metabolic illnesses like liver or kidney problems can cause seizures. Epilepsy is inherited (rare in cats) or arises from brain issues or infections. If testing doesn't identify a cause, it's termed idiopathic epilepsy, a rare occurrence.


  • High body temperatures from heatstroke or infections can lead to seizures.

Brain Conditions

  • Diseases within or near the brain can be a trigger. Infections like Cryptococcus or Toxoplasmosis causing inflammation around the brain can lead to seizures.

Vascular Events

  • Strokes are rarer in cats than dogs but can arise from hyperthyroidism or heart problems.

Brain Tumors

  • Common in cats over ten years old. As these often benign tumors grow, they cause inflammation and seizures. Surgery can sometimes remove them.

Is Your Cat's Behavior Different After A Seizure? 

A cat might display brief aggressive tendencies during a seizure because they're disoriented. While many cats typically recover without enduring behavioral changes post-seizure, instances of status epilepticus might lead to prolonged effects due to insufficient brain oxygenation. Moreover, if a brain tumor is the root cause of the seizure, the associated pressure or inflammation could influence your cat's behavior.

Is A Seizure Fatal For Cats? 

While it's rare for cats to die directly from seizures, specific underlying issues can be lethal. Unmanaged status epilepticus, exposure to toxins leading to metabolic disruptions, or persistently low blood sugar, causing the body to use fat instead of sugar for energy, are potential culprits. Some infections like feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), known for its high fatality rate, can induce seizures. However, the seizure typically isn't the direct cause of death.


Understanding the diverse triggers for cat seizures is vital for any cat owner. From external factors like toxins and sensory stimuli to internal issues such as metabolic diseases, brain conditions, and tumors, seizures can manifest from various causes. Cat owners can take proactive steps to ensure their feline friends receive the best care and treatment possible by being aware of these potential triggers and consulting with a veterinarian when symptoms arise. Awareness and timely intervention can significantly enhance the quality of life for our beloved pets.

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