Pet First Aid: fits and seizures in cats
If your cat has idiopathic or primary epilepsy, then you’ll know what to expect when they’re about to have a seizure. However, if your cat has a fit due to an external factor, like brain trauma, high or low blood pressure or from consuming a toxic substance, you may be caught off guard. Do you know how to prevent or manage fitting in cats? Get clued up for any seizure emergency scenarios…
External reasons for fitting in cats
Slug or snail pellets contain the chemical metaldehyde is poisonous to cats and can cause symptoms like tremors and convulsions. Cleaning products, antifreeze and firelighters are also highly toxic and can have a similar effect. These are typical products found in the garden, garage or shed that is easily accessible and should be kept out of sight in secure containers to prevent poisoning in cats.
Other reasons for fitting could be a result of eating plants or weeds found in the garden. Common flowers found at home or in the garden like the sago palm or Brunfelsia plant, sometimes called ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’ plant which is highly poisonous to animals. During the warmer months, toads are likely to be in your garden. The venom that is secreted from their back is highly poisonous to cats and can cause seizures. Be wary of what your cat is investigating in the garden while your back is turned!
Signs of seizures in cats
The aloof creatures they are, it is sometimes difficult to tell when cats are fitting. Cats will commonly have a partial seizure rather than a general seizure, like most dogs. Some of the symptoms of partial seizures are:
- Excessive vocalisation
- Limb or head jerking
- Facial twitching
How to manage cat seizures
If you find your cat having a seizure, keep calm and make sure music, lights or the TV are off or at a minimum to reduce further stimulation. Cigarette smoke and scented candles can also trigger seizures so removal of these is essential to minimize the intensity of fits. While it may be distressing to watch, it’s important to give them some space until they are out of the episode. To keep them and yourself safe, follow the steps below:
- Monitor how long the seizure lasted for.
- Use a fan to keep them cool.
- Cats cannot swallow their tongue whilst having a seizure. Do not try to grab their tongue as they may bite unintentionally.
- To stop them from harming themselves, keep them away from furniture, stairs and try to keep a pillow under their head.
- Call your vet if your cat has had a seizure, even if they seem to be acting normal afterwards.
- If your cat is experiencing cluster seizures, immediate veterinary attention is required.
How to prevent fitting in cats
If your cat has been diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy, it may or may not need medication (depending on the frequency and severity of the fits). Regular vet checks and reducing stress are advised.
To minimise the chances of your cat being affected by structural epilepsy, you can ensure cleaning products, antifreeze or slug pellets are out of reach. Of course, there is a chance that you may encounter slug or snail pellets in your local park or neighbours garden. To prevent accidental consumption of nasty chemicals, be mindful to give their paws a good wash when they have returned home.
It’s also good advice to become aware of common flower and weeds that are poisonous to cats as well as being aware of the symptoms of poisoning. Ensuring any poisonous plants are removed from the garden and making sure to use pet-safe lawn and gardening products are good preventative measures. In such a case as cat poisoning, every minute is vital to their wellbeing and recovery.
This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!