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The reason for seizures can be hard to find out whether in people or cats. Blood tests can help pinpoint the cause but not always. It takes good detective work and even Sherlock Holmes would be hard-pressed to find the culprit in some cases.
What is a seizure?
A seizure is a misfiring or multiple firing of nerves in the brain. It’s a symptom, not a disease by itself. It can be mild or severe, last a few seconds and be barely noticeable or last several minutes and be very scary to see.
What does a seizure look like?
During the mildest seizure, your cat will just stare into space. You might not even notice as it happens. If you do, he won’t seem to hear you when you speak to him, won’t flinch when you wave your hand in front of his face. These mild seizures usually last less than a minute.
A more severe seizure is harder on you than on your cat. Keep in mind; he is not in pain.
The nerves in his brain are misfiring or overloading which will cause involuntary body movements, convulsions, which will make your cat’s legs twitch, paw at the air or cause his whole body to flip from side to side. Sometimes cats become rigid instead.
What should I do?
If there’s furniture close by and you think your cat might hurt himself, move it out of the way. If he’s on the floor, sit by him, talk softly and pet him. He won’t bite his tongue so no need to put a finger in his mouth -- he might bite you!
If he’s on the bed or couch, make sure he can’t fall off. Also keep in mind, wherever he is, he might urinate while in the midst of the convulsion. You and your things are apt to get wet. He will also drool, quite a bit.
To give the veterinarian as much information to work with as possible, keep track of everything that happens before, during and after your cat has a seizure. They are scary to see but the more you can tell the vet, the better the odds of finding the cause and the fix.
- How often does he have a seizure? Is it once a month, three times a year, twice a week?
- How long do the seizures last? While you pet your cat and prevent him from hurting himself, count off the seconds. It will seem like the seizure lasts forever but it’s usually less than a minute. Observing will also help keep you calm. Your cat needs that.
- Also, count off the seconds it takes him to recover once the seizure has passed.
- Was it a mild seizure or a severe one?
- Was he asleep, awake, or had he just eaten? Did you clean the house or change the fabric softener for the sheets and towels? Cats can have seizures in reaction to new chemicals.
- Did he go rigid or did he flip-flop around, twist side to side?
- Had he been playing or fighting with other pets before the seizure occurred?
- Did he fall or hit his head? Head injuries can cause seizures - go to the vet at once.
What should I do after it’s over?
Reassure your pet. Don’t try to confine him but don’t let him wander off before he’s fully recovered. Once he’s well enough to argue the point, he’s well enough to go off on his own for some quiet time. If he’s wet himself, use a warm damp washcloth to begin the cleanup of his fur. A wipe down of his chin and chest will be in order too if he drooled a lot.
Don’t make too big a fuss. Be calm and talk in a soft voice. You’ll see when the awareness comes back into his eyes. Check with your vet and keep him posted on what happened with your cat.
When is seizure an emergency?
If you count off the seconds during a severe seizure and you’ve passed the two-minute mark, get his crate and grab a towel. At three minutes, it’s time to call the vet or emergency veterinary hospital.
If they tell you to bring him in, put the towel under the kitty and slide him into his crate. Any seizure over five minutes can be life-threatening so now is the time to act.
What can be done?
Blood tests are the first thing but could be inconclusive. Your vet may prescribe drugs like phenobarbital or diazepam. There are side effects to consider. Herbal remedies are also available. Make sure your veterinarian is in agreement with your desire to use them. It takes a while for herbs to build up in the system so don’t expect immediate results.
Some cats react to the dyes in their food. A change to a better grade food, no added colors, might be all you need.
Keep lavender essential oil on hand. Its scent will calm both you and your cat if you rub a drop on your hands before petting him during his seizure. Make sure your herbalist knows the oil is for your cat so you get the right kind.
What else should I do?
Teach other family members what to do. Make a log to keep track of how many, how strong, how often and how long the seizures lasted.
You think you’ll remember, but you won’t. Feed the best food you can. Stay calm.