Idiopathic Epilepsy in Cats


Overview of Feline Epilepsy 

Idiopathic epilepsy is a specific term referring to a seizure disorder in cats that has no identifiable cause. It is also referred to as genetic or congenital epilepsy. The terms epilepsy, seizure, fit or convulsion all mean the same thing, the physical manifestation of a sudden, excessive electrical discharge of neurons in the brain that results in a series of involuntary contractions of the voluntary muscles, abnormal sensations, abnormal behaviors, or some combination of these events.

Below is an overview on Idiopathic Epilepsy in Cats followed by detailed information on the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. 

Seizures may also be called a “fit” or “confusion”. In your cat, the physical manifestation of a seizure can vary between a far-away look or twitching in one part of the face to your pet falling on his side, barking, gnashing his teeth, urinating, defecating and paddling his limbs.

Seizures usually appear suddenly and end spontaneously, and can last from seconds to minutes. Idiopathic epilepsy can occur in all pedigree breeds as well as mixed-breed cats.

Because idiopathic epilepsy or a predisposition to epilepsy might be inherited, neither epileptic animals nor their first-degree relative should be used for breeding.

Components of a Seizure in Cats

There are three components of a seizure:

  • Aura. Certain signs of an impending seizure may be evident, such as restlessness, whining, shaking, salivation, affection, wandering or hiding. These signs may persist from seconds to days in duration and may or may not be apparent to you.
  • Ictus. During ictus, the seizure occurs. The attack may last seconds or minutes. Your cat may fall on his side and may look like he is kicking or paddling. He will salivate, lose control of his bladder, and be unaware of his surroundings.
  • Postictial stage. This stage occurs immediately after the seizure. Your cat will appear confused and disoriented and may wander or pace. This period may be short or it may last for days.
  • What to Do If You Cat Has a Seizure

  • Do not panic. If your cat is having a seizure, he is unconscious and he is not suffering. Your pet may seem like he is not breathing, but he is.
  • Time the seizure. Actually look at a clock or watch and note the time; although it may seem like forever, it may only be 30 seconds.
  • Keep your cat from hurting himself by moving furniture away from the immediate area. Also protect him from water, stairs, and other sharp objects. If possible, place a pillow under his head to prevent head trauma.
  • Note what type of muscular activity or abnormal behavior does your pet exhibits during the seizures? Your veterinarian may want you to keep a record of the date and length of time of each seizure.
  • If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, call your veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic immediately.
  • Cats do not swallow their tongues. Do not put your hand in your cat’s mouth – you may get bit. Do not put spoons or any other object into your pet’s mouth.
  • Keep children and other pets away from your seizing animal.
  • Remain by your cat’s side; stroke and comfort your cat so when he comes out of the seizure you are there to calm him.
  • After your Cats the Seizure

  • Observe your cat’s post-seizure behavior. Do not allow your cat access to the stairs until he is fully recovered. Offer water if he wishes to drink.
  • Be prepared for vocalization and stumbling after the seizure ends. You need to be strong and offer support and comfort to your cat. He will be confused and may feel as though he did something wrong. Speak softly and with a soothing voice.
  • If your cat has not fully recovered within 30 minutes, contact your veterinarian or local emergency facility.
  • Seizures That Require Emergency Veterinary Attention

  • Seizures that last longer than 10 minutes
  • Seizures that occur more than 2 times in a 24 hour time period
  • Seizures that begin before your pet has completely recovered from the previous seizure
  • Diagnosis of Idiopathic Epilepsy in Cats

    By definition, idiopathic epilepsy is a seizure disorder with no known cause, however it is important for your veterinarian to determine your pet’s general health and make sure there is no underlying disease that may be causing the seizures. Your veterinarian will take a detailed history and perform a complete physical and neurological examination. Recommended blood tests may include a CBC, serum biochemistry panel, toxin screen, feline infectious disease panel, urinalysis and fecal examination.


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