Stroke in Cats
Stroke in Cats

Despite being more prevalent in humans than their feline companions, strokes in cats are common and need to be diagnosed and treated immediately. The severity of the condition can be distressing, but it’s best to recognize the symptoms before jumping to conclusions and addressing any abnormal behavior with your cat’s veterinarian in a timely fashion.

Is My Cat Having a Stroke?

A stroke is a condition caused by an obstruction of the blood supply to the brain, resulting in a cerebrovascular accident, often referred to as CVA. Cats suffering from a stroke often present behaviors that resemble intoxication, characterized by disorientation, head pressing, lethargy, and a lack of coordination.

Another potential side effect of stroke in cats is seizures, which may produce uncharacteristic crying, aggression, and loss of consciousness. Though a seizure and the other aforementioned symptoms don’t necessarily indicate that a stroke has occurred, all are worthy of concern and need to be addressed. The development of stroke symptoms in cats is based on the severity of the damage, so it is better to be safe than sorry when considering a visit to the emergency room.

It is also worth noting that cats can suffer from blood clots and eventual blocked vessels in areas besides the brain. The most common location is their hind limbs, which is known as feline aortic thromboembolism or a “saddle thrombus.” This can be an extremely painful condition and should be treated immediately by a veterinarian to manage pain and commence treatment.

Here are some additional signs of a stroke in cats:

  • Abnormal vocalizations
  • Eye spasms
  • Repetitive circling
  • Frequent falling
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Drop in body temperature
  • Impaired use of limbs

If your cat is exhibiting any of these signs or symptoms, take them to the veterinary ER immediately.

Types of Strokes in Cats and Potential Causes

Similar to humans, cat strokes are broken into two distinct categories: hemorrhagic stroke and ischemic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain, which is often indicative of high blood pressure, brain tumors, inflammatory disease, and, in some rare cases, poisoning.

Ischemic stroke pertains to an inadequate flow of blood to the brain, secondary to a blood clot, that has caused a blockage. Cats affected by ischemia often suffer from heart disease, kidney disease, thyroid dysfunction, or cancer.

In both cases, stroke symptoms in cats can be temporary or permanent, and can present themselves abruptly. It is always best to consult your veterinarian before disregarding or attempting to treat any unusual behavior displayed by your cat. Time is of the essence; ignoring a warning sign could mean the difference between a treatable condition and life-long impairment.

To continue reading about the diagnosis & treatment of a stroke in cats, click here.