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The fitting cat - an emergency?

If you have witnessed an animal or person having a seizure (convulsion or fit), you will know how frightening it can appear. An animal suffering a generalised seizure (also known as grand mal seizure) will be unconscious and therefore unaware of its environment. It may show violent rhythmic movement of their legs, excessive drooling and twitching of the face and jaws. Some animals cry out and it is not uncommon for them to lose control of their bladder or bowels.

Although time seems to slow down when you are faced with a seizuring animal most seizures only last for 2 minutes or less. Seizures are not common in cats and some cats will have only one seizure in a lifetime. Remember your cat does not know what it is doing during a seizure so it is important to keep you and your pet safe.

Your questions answered

What should I do if my cat is having a seizure?

The most important thing is to STAY CALM. Remember that your cat is not in pain or distressed during the seizure itself. The seizure itself is likely to be more distressing for you than your pet. Ensure your pet is in a safe place, ie not at the top of a flight of stairs and then do not intervene further or you may get hurt.

It is a good idea to have a plan that you can enact every time your pet has a seizure. If everyone in the family knows what to do in advance they will be less alarmed when a seizure starts. Print out the seizure plan and pin it in a prominent place in the house so everyone can access it in an emergency.

During the seizure keep notes as these may be helpful to your vet later on - write down the time the seizure started and finished and what your pet does during the seizure.

If your cat stops seizuring within 5 minutes then allow him time to recover quietly. Immediately following the seizure your pet may show some strange behaviours and may be abnormal for minutes to hours after. If this is the first seizure your cat has had you should contact your vet and let them know. Your vet may ask you to bring your cat into the next routine appointment for a check up and some routine blood tests. It is far better for your cat to recover quietly at home rather than be bundled into the car and carted off to the vet right away.

When should I contact my vet?

If your cat continues to have an active seizure as described above for more than 5 minutes or fails to recover fully before another seizure starts, or has repeated seizures within hours of one another, then you should contact your vet immediately. Your vet will give some advice over the phone. If your cat has a history of seizures your vet may have given you medication to keep at home for emergency use. Some drugs (diazepam or valium) can be given per rectum or nasally (ie up the nose) and this can be given during a prolonged fit and/or after individual seizures if the cat is predisposed to severe clusters. If you have to give medication by mouth wait until your cat is fully recovered and never try to put tablets in your cat's mouth while it is still dazed. Your cat may not be sufficiently aware to swallow properly and you may get bitten.

If your cat has more than 3 seizures in a day you should also contact your vet for further advice.

What if the seizure doesn't stop?

If your cat is still having an active seizure after 5  minutes your vet will probably want to see it straight away. Always call your vet's practice before driving to the hospital to be sure that there is someone at the hospital who can help your pet.

What about after a seizure?

Immediately after a seizure your cat may be very confused and could show strange behaviour such as aimless pacing, wobbliness or a desire to eat and drink excessively. You must be very careful during this time as they can become aggressive.

Can my cat die during a seizure?

Most of the time epileptic cats recover perfectly well after a seizure. A very small number of cats die as the result of an injury that has happened because of a seizure. In some cases, cats do die during a seizure without any obvious explanation. Sudden unexplained death in epilespy (SUDEP) also occurs rarely in people affecting 1 in 1000 epileptics. Non-one knows how rare this is in cats.

Seizure plan

These directions will help you manage your pet in a safe way during and after a seizure.

Before Seizure
1. Write your vets contact number here so you have it hand
             Vets contact details.................................................
             Emergency contact number......................................
2. Know where emergency drugs are stored.
3. Instruct all adult members of household how to administer these drugs correctly.

During Seizure
1. Ensure your pet is in a safe place and if necessary move them away from hazards such as the top of stairs.
2. Ensure that any other household pets are shut up away from the seizuring cat. Other animals can become distressed seeing a companion having seizures and may get hurt if they go to investigate. In some cases cats will attack a seizuring companion.
3. Write down start and finish time of seizure. If seizure lasts more than 5 minutes call your vet for advice.

After Seizure
1. Keep other household pets locked away from seizuring cat until it is fully recovered.
2. Keep human contact to a minimum until pet is recovered.
2. Immediately after seizure cats may be hungry, thirsty or need to go out to toilet.
3. Allow animal to fully recover in a quiet peaceful environment but you should expect that your cat may be restless or agitated and may move around a lot so it is important that you provide a safe environment for this.

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