Stroke in Cats

A “stroke” is a term commonly applied to people who have suffered a cerebrovascular accident, commonly abbreviated as CVA, caused by cerebrovascular disease.  It was once thought to be very uncommon in cats and dogs but is now known to occur.

A stroke is caused by the disruption of blood supply to the brain that results in failure of nerve impulses to be transmitted from the brain to the rest of the body.

Neurologic symptoms develop that can be temporary or permanent.  If the symptoms persist for over 24 hours, the condition is categorized as a stroke. If the symptoms persist for fewer 24 hours, the event is categorized as a transient ischemic attack or “TIA”.

There are two types of strokes. They include:

  1. Hemorrhagic stroke – This type of stroke results from hemorrhage (bleeding) into or around the brain. This can be caused by bleeding from toxins such as rat poison, vascular abnormalities, and secondary to brain tumors, high blood pressure (hypertension), inflammatory disease of the blood vessels (vasculitis).
  2. Ischemic stroke – Ischemia is a term that means there is an inadequate blood supply to a part of the body or organ. Therefore an ischemic stroke results from a blockage of blood flow to the brain. This can be caused by parasite migration (Cuterebra), migration of cancer cells to the brain, high blood pressure (hypertension) secondary to hyperthyroidism, heart disease, or chronic kidney disease.

Signs of a Stroke in Cats

Whatever type of stroke a cat has, the symptoms that develop are determined by how much brain tissue is affected, how severely it is affected, and where in the brain it is located. Possible signs of a stroke in cats include:

  • Altered mental status e.g. disorientation
  • Circling in one direction
  • Falling over to one side
  • Head pressing
  • Head tilt to one side or another
  • Stumbling or drunken walking
  • Weakness
  • Incoordination
  • Not using the legs normally (sometimes on one side of the body)
  • Rolling
  • Unequal pupil sizes and/or abnormal eye reflexes
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Diagnosis of Stroke in Cats

Stroke in cats can affect an animal very suddenly. A very important point is that many owners may mistake a stroke for a different condition called Vestibular Disease. Learn more about Vestibular Disease in Cats.

Other disorders that result in signs similar to strokes include inner ear infections, thiamine deficiency, head trauma, middle ear polyps, middle ear cancer, brain tumors, and/or metronidazole (antibiotic) toxicity.

Diagnostic tests are needed to determine the presence of an underlying disease or cause for the stroke and to differentiate between other disorders that may be affecting the balance system of the body.

Tests may include:

  • Your veterinarian will take a complete medical history and perform a thorough physical examination including a complete neurologic examination and complete examination of the ear canal.
  • Laboratory tests may be recommended to determine your pet’s general health and the presence of an underlying disease that may be causing the vestibular disease. Recommended tests may include:
  • Blood tests may include a complete blood count (CBC or hemogram), serum biochemistry tests to evaluate blood glucose, liver and kidney function and electrolytes, and thyroid test to evaluate for hyperthyroidism.
  • Urinalysis to help evaluate kidney function.
  • Blood clotting times (PT and PTT) may be recommended if there is suspicion of toxin exposure such as to rat poison. Read more at Anti-coagulant rodenticide.
  • Blood pressure to evaluate for hypertension.
  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest and abdomen may be recommended to evaluate for major diseases affecting the heart, lungs or abdominal organs.
  • Cardiac evaluation:  In cases where the heart is suspected to be the problem on the basis of the physical examination and initial evaluations, a cardiac evaluation including an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and an electrocardiogram (ECG) may be recommended.
  • Other diagnostic tests may be recommended based on the results of the history, physical examination and initial laboratory tests such as spinal tap, CT, MRI or skull x-rays.

Treatment of Stroke in Cats

The treatment for strokes in cats is largely supportive. The first 24 hours is most difficult as the symptoms are worst, providing there is not progression.

  • Management will be recommended to treat any underlying conditions. For example:
  • Blood pressure medications to treat hypertension
  • Heart medications to treat the underlying heart disease
  • Thyroid medications to treat hyperthyroidism
  • Maintaining hydration with fluid therapy
  • Encourage adequate nutrition
  • Oxygen therapy to improve oxygen delivery
  • Nursing care as needed to keep the eyes lubricated, rotating pets that are not moving from side to side, constant cleaning urine and feces, and/or warm environment to provide optimal comfort

Some cats can recover completely from stokes and others will have permanent neurological abnormalities. Little research has been done to determine the overall prognosis for strokes in cats.  The prognosis is largely dependent on the underlying cause and the ability to adequately treat those causes.

Home Care and Prevention

Call your veterinarian promptly if your pet is showing signs of a stroke. This is a frightening experience for your cat so speak calmly and soothingly. Make sure he does not injure himself and please make sure you do not get bit. Cats that are frightened or in pain may bite.

Heartworm Symptoms in Cats

Heartworm disease is an infectious disease caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis that can occur in dogs and cats but is less common in cats. An infected mosquito that bites your cat can transmit Dirofilaria immitis. Below we will give you information about heartworm symptoms as well as information about the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heartworm disease.  We will also cover other diseases that can cause similar symptoms and be confused with feline heartworm disease.

There are key differences in heartworm disease and in heartworm symptoms in cats vs. dogs. The cat is not the typical host for heartworms. It is believed that dogs get heartworm disease 10 times more commonly than cats. Many cats with heartworm disease go undiagnosed.

Heartworm disease in cats can occur in any breed and at any age. Male cats are more commonly infected and outdoor cats are at increased risk.  It is estimated that approximately one-third of cats with heartworm disease are indoors only.

The numbers of worms that develop in cats are generally much less than dogs. In fact, some cats infected with heartworms may have only one to three worms. These worms will live in pulmonary vessels and cause the symptoms we will identify below.

Heartworm Symptoms in Cats

The symptoms of heartworm disease in cats can be vague to critical. Some cats will appear normal on physical examination while others will have a history of vomiting, a cough, trouble breathing, or even sudden death.

Symptoms of heartworm disease in cats may include:

  • Coughing (dry)
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty or trouble breathing – Learn more about How to Recognize Fluid in a Cat’s Lungs
  • Increased respiratory effort
  • Occasional vomiting
  • Sudden death
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Collapse or fainting
  • Decreased activity or playfulness
  • Sleeping more
  • Abnormal neurologic symptoms such as seizures, circling, blindness, trouble walking or incoordination
  • Sudden death – Learn more about Sudden Cat Death: Understanding Why it Happens

Why and How Cats Get Heartworms

The following are the steps of how a cat can get heartworm disease:

  1. Transmission of heartworms to a cat occurs when a mosquito bites an infected dog or cat and ingests heartworm larvae (baby heartworms) that live in the bloodstream. The parasite is known by the scientific name of Dirofilaria immitis.
  2. The infected mosquito then bites a normal healthy cat and when this happens some of the larvae are injected under the skin.
  3. Over the following 3 to 4 months, the larvae grow in the cat and eventually make their way into the heart where they develop into adult worms.  As little as 2 or 3 worms can be fatal to an adult cat.
  4. The process is then ready to repeat itself.

Figure 1. Graphic of a heart with heartworms in the heart and pulmonary blood vessels. The heartworms appear as light colored thin spaghetti type structures. This heart shows many heartworms. Cats with heartworms may only have one to three worms.

 

 

 

 

 

Other Diseases that Can Look Like Heartworm Disease in Cats

Many cat owners are concerned that their cat has heartworm disease when they see signs of difficulty breathing or labored breathing. Trouble breathing in cats can be caused by heartworm disease but it is more common for the cause to be from heart disease or feline asthma.

Causes of heart disease in cats include Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats, Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Cats and Chronic Valvular Heart Disease. The increased respiratory effort associated with heart disease is often caused by pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) or pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs) that is secondary to congestive heart failure.

There are several causes of an enlarged heart in cats. Learn more about What Does an Enlarged Heart Mean for Cats?

Asthma in cats, also known as “Feline Allergic Asthma” or “Feline Allergic Bronchitis”, and is a lung condition associated with airway obstruction caused by sudden narrowing of the bronchial tubes. These symptoms are caused by the spasmodic constriction of the bronchial tubes and increased production of secretions from the bronchial tree. Some cats may have an acute onset of signs while other cats may have signs that come and go. Common symptoms in cats include coughing, difficulty breathing, increased respiratory effort, fast respiratory rates, wheezing breathing, lethargy, weight loss, weakness, withdrawing from social activities around the house, and/or an abnormal posture. As some cats struggle to breathe, they may sit with their head extended and elbows back.

Diagnosis of Heartworm Disease in Cats

Tests that can diagnose heartworm disease in cats include serum heartworm antibody test, serum heartworm antigen test, and or Microfilaria test (looking for larva in the blood).

What Does an Enlarged Heart Mean for Cats?

An enlarged heart in cats is a common sign of heart disease.  There are several types of heart disease that can occur in cats and the different diseases can cause special structural changes in the heart. Below we will review the signs of an enlarged heart in cats, causes of an enlarged heart, tips for diagnosis of the underlying heart disease, and what you can do at home.

Signs of an Enlarged Heart in Cats

Signs of heart disease can vary depending on the severity of the disease. In early stages of heart disease, cats can appear normal. Some cats will have very subtle symptoms that may progress over time. Signs of heart disease in cats may include:

  • Noisy, difficult, open-mouthed breathing
  • Increased respiratory rate and/or increased respiratory effort (using abdominal muscles to breath)
  • Posture of help breathing such as squatting or lying with chest down, head extended and elbows pointed outward and back
  • Anorexia or lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeping more
  • Decreased social interactions with the family or other cats
  • Sudden inability to use one or more limbs and crying
  • Coughing (rare in cats, common in dogs)
  • Fainting
  • Your vet may auscultate a murmur- learn more about Murmurs in Cats. This is a very good article written by a veterinary cardiologist.

Some pet owners may attribute the subtle changes associated with heart disease in cats to changes to age in older cat or maturity in younger cats. As the heart disease progresses, there may be progressive weight loss, trouble breathing which can cause an increased breathing (respiratory) rate or increased effort. If you believe your cat has an enlarged heart or is having any difficulty breathing or is in pain, please see your veterinarian immediately.

Heart disease can be a cause of sudden and unexpected death.   Learn more about Sudden Cat Death: Understanding Why it Happens.

Causes of Enlarged Hearts in Cats

There are several causes of an enlarged heart in cats. They may include:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is common heart condition in cats characterized by a thickening of the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle) and not attributed to other medical conditions (such as high blood pressure). It can, in severe cases, cause heart failure when fluid accumulates in the lungs. Blood clots can form in the heart and travel to distant blood vessels obstructing blood flow to one or more limbs (especially the back legs). This is called a thromboembolism and can cause severe pain while having the inability or difficulty using one or more legs. HCM can be mild to life-threatening. Learn more about Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in Cats.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in cats is a heart disease characterized by dilation or enlargement of the heart chambers and markedly reduced contraction. The heart muscle is often very thin and the ability of the heart to pump is diminished. An analogy of a normal functioning ventricle would be opening and closing your fist/hand completely. Using this analogy, the ventricle of a cat with dilated cardiomyopathy will only have a fraction of that full movement such as only the fingers moving slightly toward your palm but no full squeeze.  Some cats will have only one part of the heart involved or advanced case can cause all four heart chambers to be abnormally affected. Learn more about Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Cats.
  • Another heart disease that may affect cats is Chronic Valvular Heart Disease.  Valvular heart disease (VHD) is a condition characterized by degeneration and thickening of the heart valves. Valvular heart disease is more common in dogs but can also occur in cats. The abnormal values can cause an enlarged cat heart and can eventually lead to heart failure. Accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) or the abdomen (ascites) may occur.
  • Feline heartworm disease is caused by a parasite, Dirofilaria immitis, that is transmitted by mosquitoes.  Heartworm disease is less common in cats than dogs but can occur. Heartworm disease can cause an enlarged heart in cats. It can be diagnosed by blood tests and advanced testing such as an echocardiogram (Echo). Learn more about Heartworm Symptoms in Cats. This article has information about feline heartworm disease.
  • Congenital heart disease is a term used to describe abnormalities in the heart that develops before birth. There are many different types of defects that can affect different parts of the heart. These diseases can cause an enlarged heart in cats. The best way to diagnose congenital heart disease in cats is with an Echocardiogram performed by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist.

How Enlarged Hearts in Cats are Diagnosed

An enlarged heart in cats can be diagnosed by the following methods:

  • Chest X-rays – Also known as thoracic radiographs or X-rays of the chest, a chest X-ray can identify heart enlargement and fluid accumulations in or around the lungs. Chest X-rays can also be useful in excluding a number of other diseases.
  • Echocardiogram – Also known as an ultrasound examination of the heart or an “echo”, is the most sensitive diagnostic test that can determine not only if the heart is enlarged but also which part of the heart is abnormal and the severity of the disease. The echocardiogram can also determine if the underlying cause of the enlargement is from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, alveolar heart disease, dilated cardiomyopathy and heart deformities (congenital heart disease).  In summary, the echocardiogram can establish the diagnosis of the enlarged heart and provide useful information about and heart muscle function. This test often requires referral to a specialist such as a veterinary cardiologist. The experience of a specialist can be vital to determining the underlying cause for the enlargement to provide the best information to guide treatment and understand the prognosis.

Homecare: What You Need to Do at Home

Please see your veterinarian for all routine physical examinations and follow-up testing.  If your cat is diagnosed with an enlarged heart, it is critical to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for additional testing such as the ones listed above. Chest x-rays and an echocardiogram can be important to determine the underlying cause for the enlarged heart which will help determine the best treatment options and help you understand the prognosis.  Referral to a board-certified veterinary cardiologist is often the best option to optimize your cats care.

High Blood Sugar in Cats

There are three common ways that pet owners can identify high blood sugar in cats. Methods may include recognizing clinical signs of hyperglycemia (which we will describe below), measuring the blood glucose, and/or evaluating the urine glucose level.

  1. Clinical signs of high blood sugar. Cats with hyperglycemia secondary to diabetes generally have a history of obesity, lack of appetite (anorexia), vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, increased thirst and increased urination.  The classic signs are drinking more and urinating more. Some cat owners don’t notice the “urinating more” but will notice that there are more piles of urine in the box or that the litter box is heavier when changing it out. They may also notice their cat at the water bowl more often or that they are filling up the water bowl more frequently. Some pet owners don’t notice these changes, especially if there are multiple caregivers in the house doing similar tasks such as filling water bowls or cleaning the litter boxes.
  2. Blood glucose test. The best way to identify a high blood glucose is to have your veterinarian perform blood work. A routine biochemical profile (also called blood chemistry panel) will provide a blood glucose measurement as well as kidney values, protein levels, liver values, and electrolytes. It may be ideal to determine the kidney function because kidney disease can cause symptoms that are similar to diabetes in cats. You can also obtain a single blood glucose level with a glucometer at the vet clinic or at home.  Although not easy to do at home in most cats, some pet owners are able to check their cat’s blood glucose at home. Here are some tips of how to do this at home – go to Home Monitoring of the Diabetic Cat with a Glucometer.
  3. Urine test. When the blood glucose concentration exceeds the kidney’s ability to handle it, glucose can be present in the urine. In cats, the blood glucose concentration that allows for urine glucose is 260 to 310 mg/dL. It can be difficult to catch a urine sample at home but some cat owners empty the litter box except for shredded paper and are able to catch the liquid and perform a urine glucose dipstick. There are some litters or confetti-type flakes that go on the litter that can help detect urine glucose.  Learn more about Urine Glucose Testing.

Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is the most common cause of persistent high blood sugar in cats. It is a chronic condition in which a deficiency of the hormone insulin. This impairs the body’s ability to metabolize sugar.

There are two types of diabetes mellitus.

  • Type I DM occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin. This can be the result of destruction of the cells in the pancreas that normally produce insulin. This form is identified in approximately 50 to 70 % of cats diagnosed with diabetes mellitus. This form does not produce enough insulin and requires insulin injections to control the disease.
  • Type II DM occurs when enough insulin is produced but something interferes with its ability to be utilized by the body. This form is identified in approximately 30% of cats with diabetes mellitus. This type of diabetes is treated with dietary management, weight control, and oral drugs.

 

Learn more about Diabetes in Cats and insulin injection in cats.   Diabetes can get out of control causing a severe syndrome of life-threatening symptoms called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).  Dietary therapy is very important. Learn more about Diets for Diabetic Cats.

If you believe your cat has a high blood glucose, is not eating, vomiting, lethargic, or you have any other concerns, please see your veterinarian. We hope this article helps you know more about high blood sugars in cats.

Additional Articles of Interest Relating to Sick Cats and Diabetes in Cats:

How to Recognize Fluid in a Cat’s Lungs

Cats can have various medical problems that can cause difficulty breathing. Cat owners commonly want to know how to recognize if there is fluid in a cat’s lung. The medical term for the accumulation of fluid in the lungs is pulmonary edema. Fluid in a cat’s lung can be caused by congestive heart failure, trauma, or potentially by an infection such as pneumonia. In this article, we will review signs of trouble breathing in cats and possible causes for fluid in cats lungs and other signs of trouble breathing.

Difficulty breathing, or “shortness of breath”, is commonly referred to by the medical term “dyspnea”. This can manifest in cats as an increased respiratory rate, increased respiratory effort (working harder to take breaths), open mouth breathing, and/or an abnormal posture to breath. Cats that have fluid in their lungs or have difficulty breathing may sit with their head and neck extended with the elbows back (see figure 1).

Cat dyspneaFigure 1. Cat with slight trouble breathing from fluid in lungs. This cats elbows are back and neck slightly extended. Some cats may have their next extended more as the difficulty progresses. 

Difficulty breathing can occur at any time during a cat’s breathing process, during inspiration (breathing in) or expiration (breathing out).

Figure 2. This cat is having severe trouble breathing due to fluid in lungs. This cat’s neck is slightly extended and he is very weak. He is also open mouth breathing. This cat has congestive heart failure from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

 

 

 

There are many different reasons a cat can have difficulty breathing. When a cat has trouble breathing, he may not be able to get an adequate supply of oxygen to tissues. For example, there can be airway problems from asthma, a foreign body in the airway causing an obstruction, an infection, or accumulation of fluid (edema) in the lungs, bruising of the lungs (pulmonary contusions), or an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity (Pleural Effusion in Cats).

Why Cat’s Lungs Fill With Fluid

Fluid in a cat’s lung can be caused by several different diseases. The problems are often categorized by those caused by underlying heart problems (cardiogenic) and those not caused by a heart problem (non-cardiogenic).

Cardiogenic Causes

  • Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition resulting from the heart’s inability to sufficiently pump blood to adequately to meet the body’s needs. This failure leads to an increased respiratory effort caused by fluid in or around cat’s lungs. Two common heart diseases that cause congestive heart failure are Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats and the other is Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats. These diseases can cause lethargy, weakness, lack of appetite, and decreased exercise capacity. Most cats won’t eat when they can’t breathe well.

Non-Cardiogenic Causes

  • Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that usually results from a bacterial infection. The most common way a cat acquires pneumonia is by inhalation. Cats with pneumonia may suffer from a compromised immune system. Pneumonia can occur at any age but is more common in kittens or senior pets.  Learn more about Pneumonia in Cats.
  • Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells on or within the body. Cancer is common in cats and the risk of cancer increases with age. In fact, cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Cancer may be localized, or it may invade adjacent tissue and spread throughout the body. Cancer can develop in the lungs, spread to the lungs, or occur in tissues near the lungs that lead to fluid in the lungs or around the lungs. Intact (non-spayed) female cats are predisposed to breast cancer (metastatic mammary carcinoma).
  • Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) are amongst the most common conditions that occur in cats and kittens.  Signs can range from sneezing, running eyes, inflamed conjunctiva, ulcers in the mouth, and/or trouble breathing. Learn more with this article –  Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Infections.
  • Head trauma can occur in cats from being hit by a car, crushed in a recliner, bites from other animals, or other kinds of trauma. Some cats with head trauma can develop lung inflammation that causes fluid in the lungs.  Learn more about Head Trauma in Cats.
  • Electrocution or electric shock results in injury to nerve cells from the intense heat generated as the electricity passes through the body tissues. The most common source of electrical injury to cats is when they bite electrical cords carrying low voltage household currents. This is most common in young playful cats and kittens. Exposure to high voltage electrical current is uncommon and is usually fatal due to massive internal damage. Learn more about electric shock in cats.
  • Seizures, also known as fits or convulsions, are a sudden excessive firing of nerves in the brain. It results in a series of involuntary contractions of the voluntary muscles, abnormal sensations, abnormal behaviors, or some combination of these events. A seizure can last from seconds to minutes in cats. Seizures are symptoms of a neurological disorder but are not a disease in themselves. Some underlying causes of seizures in cats include inflammatory brain diseases, brain tumors, symptoms from toxins, or epilepsy. Learn more about Seizures in Cats.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and acute lung injury (ALI) are severe respiratory diseases that can occur in cats. These diseases are well characterized in human medicine but less well understood in cats.  Complex changes occur that leads to cellular inflammatory changes that cause progressive trouble breathing and sometimes fluid accumulation in the lungs. This most often occurs in cats with infections or pneumonia.

Disease Commonly Confused with Fluid in Cat’s Lungs

There are other diseases that can be confused with those that cause fluid in cat lungs.  One problem that comes is Feline Asthma.

Sudden Cat Death: Understanding Why it Happens

One of the most awful things that a cat lover can experience is the sudden loss of a beloved cat. Trying to understand sudden cat death is excruciatingly painful. You want to make sense of what happens, consider what you could have done differently, and/or determine if there were signs of problems that you didn’t observe.  It is most difficult to understand sudden cat death when it is unexpected or happens to a young cat. In this article, we will discuss some of the possible causes of sudden cat death.

The life expectancy of cats can be anywhere from 16 to 22 years of age. Indoor-only cats live the longest followed by cats that are both indoors and outdoors. Cats that live only outdoors have the shortest lifespan due to exposures to toxins, trauma, animal attacks, and infectious diseases.

Possible Causes of Sudden Death in Cats

There are many causes of unexpected or sudden cat death.

As we consider illness and death in cats, one thing that is important to consider is that cats are very good at hiding their illness by their nature of survival. This fact sometimes will allow cats to be sick for a long time before we are aware. This can be especially true when we see the cat every day and don’t notice subtle changes such as weight loss, shedding, or a dull hair coat.  As our cats get older, we may believe that symptoms such as weight loss or lethargy are from them just slowing with age rather than from an illness.

Causes of sudden cat death may include:

  • Trauma. One common cause of sudden cat death is trauma.  This is more frequent in outdoor cats but can occur to any cat.  Examples of trauma include being hit by vehicles such as cars, bites from dogs and other animals, gunshot wounds, falls, or being crushed in a recliner. To learn more – go to Trauma and Injuries in Cats.
  • Toxin. Another cause of sudden cat death is ingestion and/or exposure to toxins and medications. This is another problem that is more common in outdoor cats but can occur in indoor cats as well. Common toxins include Potpourri exposure, medications that contain acetaminophen, plant toxicity such as from Easter lilies, and ingestion of various rat poisons just to name a few. To learn more about possible toxicities, go to Toxins in Cats.
  • Heart Disease. One of the most common causes of unexpected cat death is from heart disease.  There may be little to no warning signs. Cats can appear normal, hiding their symptoms well, and quickly decompensate finally showing signs of illness. Some cats will heart disease will develop difficulty breathing or have difficulty using their back legs while crying out in pain.  Some cat owners will simply find their cat dead. Learn more about What Does an Enlarged Heart Mean for Cats?  and How to Recognize Fluid in a Cat’s Lungs.  The most common cause of heart disease in cats is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).  Feline heartworm disease can also cause sudden death.
  • Heart Attack. It used to be believed that cats didn’t get heart attacks but they do. A “heart attack” is the term commonly applied to people who have suffered a myocardial infarction (MI), most commonly related to coronary artery disease. The myocardium is the muscular tissue of the heart that receives nutrients and oxygen from the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are small blood vessels in the heart muscle that brings blood from the aorta, the main artery of the body. When the muscle doesn’t receive normal blood supply, a heart attack incurs. Learn more about Heart Attacks in Cats.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease. Chronic renal (kidney) failure (CRF) is another very common problem in cats. When the kidneys fail, they are no longer able to remove waste products that lead to the build-up of toxins in the blood. This produces clinical signs of kidney disease that include weight loss, decreased appetite, vomiting, and lethargy as the kidney disease progresses. Some cats will also have increased thirst and increased urination.  This is most common in older cats but can occur at any age. To learn more go to Chronic Kidney Disease in Cats.
  • Feline Urinary Obstruction.  Feline urinary obstruction (UO) is an acute obstruction of the urinary tract, and although this disease can affect any cat, it is most common in males. This is commonly referred to as a “Blocked Cat”. Typical signs are straining to urinate and crying. When untreated, most cats will die within 72 hours.  To learn more, go to Urinary Obstruction in Cats.
  • Stroke in Cats. A “stroke” is a term commonly applied to people who have suffered a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) caused by cerebrovascular disease.  It was once thought to be very uncommon in cats and dogs but is now known to occur. A stroke is caused by the disruption of blood supply to the brain that results in failure of nerve impulses to be transmitted from the brain to the rest of the body. The symptoms can come on quickly and cause sudden cat death. Signs of a stroke can include difficulty walking, falling to one side and/or seizures. Click here to learn more about Strokes in Cats.
  • Infections.  Severe infections, commonly known as sepsis, can cause a progressive group of symptoms including lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, dehydration, fever, and death.
  • Shock.  Shock is defined as a profound life-threatening syndrome that results in low blood pressure and can quickly lead to death. Shock can be caused by an allergic reaction, heart damage, severe infections (sepsis), blood, trauma, blood loss, toxins, and fluid loss or from spinal cord trauma. Cats with shock can quickly die.
  • High Blood Sugar in Cats. Severe symptoms caused by uncontrolled diabetes can lead to weakness, lethargy, vomiting, lethargy, coma, and death. Learn more about Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) in Cats.

These are some reasons for sudden cat death. Loss of a cat can be devastating and hard to understand. I personally lost a beloved seemingly healthy 9-year-old cat. I spent years trying to understand how this happened, what I could have done differently, and what symptoms I might have missed …to still not have the answer. The only comfort I (and you) can take from this situation is knowing that you did the best you could and that you gave your cat a wonderful life.

Additional Articles of Interest Relating to Sudden Cat Death:

Is a Cat Marking in the House the Same as Spraying?

When you have a cat marking in the house, it is a frustrating problem. In fact, this is the number one reason that cats are surrendered to shelters and pounds. Cat marking in the house is similar to spraying. The difference is that spraying is done on vertical surfaces. This is when a cat backs up to a vertical surface with their tail erect and squirts urine. Oftentimes, the tail will quiver while they are spraying. Regular urine marking is done on horizontal surfaces. This is when your cat squats to pee on a horizontal surface, like the floor or the furniture. Both male and female cats can spray and squat while urine marking.

Urine marking is not a litter box issue.

Some cats will eliminate outside the litter box at some point in their lives. Some of these cats have issues with some characteristic of their litter box. To learn more about this problem, go to How Do You Deal with a Cat Urinating Outside of the Litter Box?  The rest of these cats who are urinating outside the litter box don’t have any problems with their litter box. It’s a communication problem.

Urine marking is a form of indirect communication used by cats.

Whenever possible, cats in the wild will go off on their own and claim certain territories for themselves. Through urine marking, a cat is alerting other cats to his presence. He is showing what property belongs to him. Urine marking also tells other cats that they are looking for a mate.

A house cat may not have the same challenges as an outdoor cat, but they still look at the world in the same way and use the communication skills that nature gave them. If your cat’s world is predictable and conflict-free, or if they are spayed or neutered and don’t need a mate, cats have little reason to mark their territory. But if they are looking for a mate or if they are distressed because of something they will mark their territory by urine marking. A cat knows that urine marking will help to keep unwanted individuals away. It also makes them feel more secure.

There are several possible reasons that your cat is urine marking:

  • Mating behavior – Neutering solves most of these marking issues.
  • Stress – Cats are creatures of habit. They don’t like change. Even small changes to their environment or routine may cause a cat to urine mark. Maybe there’s a new pet or a new baby in the house. Maybe there’s a strange cat in the backyard. Even environmental factors that we don’t fully understand can cause your cat to urine mark. This is your cat’s way of dealing with stress. Your cat feels anxious and is trying to deal with his stress by staking out his territories.
  • Multiple cats in the house – The more cats that live in the home the more likely it is that at least one of them will urine mark.
  • Medical issues – A urinary tract infection or a blockage may be the reason for your cat’s urine marking. That’s why it’s always a good idea to see your veterinarian to make sure that there are no medical issues that are responsible for your cat’s urine marking.

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Urine Marking

You will need to do some investigating to determine whether your cat has a litter box problem or if he is urine marking. The cat uses less urine to mark its territory than he would when eliminating inside the litter box, so urine marking deposits are usually smaller than inappropriate eliminations outside the litter box.

Marking on vertical surfaces is caused by spraying. This type of urine marking is easy to detect.

Also, the urine in urine marking has a stronger, more pungent odor. That’s because the urine mark contains more than just urine. It also contains pheromones, which are communication chemicals.

How to Treat Urine Marking in Cats

If you have multiple cats, it is important to determine which cat is marking. Isolate one cat at a time and see if the urine marking stops while they’re in isolation. Sometimes this will work, but if the urine marking is stress-related, isolating the cat may remove the cause of their stress. In that case, you wouldn’t be able to tell which cat is marking.

Another way to help determine which cat is marking is by using fluorescein, a harmless dye that can be added to your cat’s food. Do this one cat at a time. The dye will glow in the cat’s urine when a black light is held over it.

How to Make Your Female Cat Stop Spraying

Unlike urinating outside the litter box, spraying is when urine is sprayed on vertical surfaces, like walls, doors, and furniture. While most cat lovers know that male cats will spray urine to mark their territory, they may be surprised to learn that female cats (both spayed and unspayed) can also exhibit this behavior, although it is not as common in females. Female cat spraying can also be caused by stress, litter box issues or medical conditions.

The problem is, your cat doesn’t think that her urine smells bad. Spraying urine makes the cat feel more content. It gives her a sense of control and makes her feel more secure.

Intact cats are more than twice as likely to spray compared to spayed females. Spaying your female kitty can reduce the chances of female cat spraying, but it’s not a guarantee. Some spayed cats continue to exhibit this behavior.

Why Female Cats Spray

Regardless of its causes, female cat spraying can be difficult to deal with. If your cat is exhibiting this issue, it is up to you to investigate the problem and find out how to eliminate it.

There are many reasons for female cat spraying, including:

  • Changes in your cat’s environment
  • Increased levels of stress
  • Showing fertility to male cats
  • Too little playtime
  • Dietary changes
  • Changing the litter you use in the litter box
  • Neighborhood cats outside your home
  • Other cats in your home
  • Moving
  • Getting new furniture

Cats have an instinctive need to leave their scents. They can do this by scratching because the paw pads emit pheromones. They can also do this by rubbing their cheeks against an object because their cheeks also have scent glands. Spraying is another way that cats leave their scents behind to mark their territory. The behavior is completely instinctive, but it can also be caused by stress. If your cat has a conflict with another cat (either in your home or outside), or if there is a change in your cat’s routine, she may feel more anxious. Marking her territory helps to calm her.

To learn more about feline pheromones, go to What Are Cat Pheromones?

The more territorial your cat is, the more likely it is that she’ll mark her territory by spraying. Unneutered cats and cats living in multi-cat households are more likely to spray to mark their territory. And if one of your cats in a multi-cat home starts spraying, it is likely that others may do the same.

What You Can Do to Stop Spraying

If you’ve got a female cat that is spraying, there are certain steps you can take to help remedy the situation. To start with, make sure to thoroughly clean the area where the cat has sprayed. Use an enzyme-based cleaner. Regular household cleaners are not effective at removing urine odor and your cat will continue to smell the odor – even when you can’t. Also, don’t use cleaning products that contain ammonia because they can smell like urine to your cat.

Next, try to remove the trigger that is causing your cat’s anxiety. For instance, if you have multiple cats in your home, make sure that you provide multiple bowls, litter boxes, scratching posts and toys. If your cat has sprayed at a window, it could be that she sees another cat outside. Try covering the bottom part of the window to block your cat’s view.

Try to remove any other causes of stress in the home. Make sure to keep your routine the same. Give your cat plenty of things to keep her environment interesting, like cat trees and perches. Add more litter boxes or try to make your cat’s litter box more attractive by cleaning it more often or using different litter. Pheromone sprays can also help. They contain artificial forms of the chemical that is released by a cat’s cheek glands. Spray these pheromone sprays around the home and in the areas where your cat has already marked.

If you’ve tried everything and your cat is still spraying, see your veterinarian. It could be that your cat has a medical condition or that she needs some anti-anxiety medication.

To learn more about cat spraying, go to Cat Spraying: What Is It and How Do You Make It Stop?

Why Is My Neutered Cat Spraying?

Neutered cat spraying is a big problem for cat lovers. You may have neutered your cat with the expectation that it would stop him from spraying only to find that the behavior continues. It may take a month or so for your cat’s hormonal activity to calm down after neutering. But cat spraying is not always sexually related. So if the activity does not eventually stop, your cat may be marking due to other issues. Maybe urine marking has become a habit for your cat. Or your cat may be triggered from the scent of spots where he previously marked. Or, it could be that your cat is spraying because he is stressed.

Neutered cat spraying can be a difficult thing to deal with. While you find the behavior frustrating and offensive, your cat thinks it’s perfectly normal. Neutered cat spraying is often caused by stress. Spraying his scent onto a wall or piece of furniture helps to reassure the cat.

Why a Neutered Cat Sprays

Your neutered cat spraying may be caused by changes in your cat’s environment. Things, like moving to a new home or adding a new pet to the family, can be very disruptive and stressful to a cat – and spraying could be his reaction to this situation.

A neutered cat who sprays may also be marking his territory. This is especially true when there is an unspayed female or another male cat in the home that hasn’t been neutered. Your cat may even spray when he detects the presence of another cat outside your home.

Cat spraying could also be a response to litter box issues. Your cat may be unhappy with the type of litter you are using or he may not like the location of his litter box. Or, he could be reacting to litter box odors that you can’t even smell. So clean your cat’s litter box once or twice a day. Wash out the litter box and replace the litter once a week. Also, make sure that you have enough litter boxes in your home. You need one litter box per cat, plus one. Make sure that the litter box is located in a private, low-traffic area.

If your cat has marked in an area before, the scent of that previous marking may be triggering an urge to remark the territory. That’s why it’s so important to remove all traces of odor from the area. To locate all the areas where your cat has sprayed, use a black light. The urine will become fluorescent under the black light, indicating the areas where you need to clean.  Household soap and cleaners will not be enough to get rid of these powerful urine smells. Visit a pet supply store and purchase a cleaning product that is specially formulated to remove cat urine.

Your neutered cat may be spraying because he is stressed. To learn more about the causes of stress in cats and what you can do to help, go to 14 Things That Stress Cats Out!

Correcting Neutered Cat Spraying

Correcting cat spraying takes time, so be patient. Try to increase playtime with your cat, reduce stress and enrich your cat’s environment. In multi-cat households, provide high perches and cat trees to increase vertical space. Never punish your cat for spraying because that will only cause more stress and it could lead to even more spraying.

See your veterinarian and make sure that your cat’s spraying is not related to a health issue. Neutered male cats are prone to bladder and urinary tract problems. That’s because the male cat has a longer, slimmer urethra than a female cat. Neutering a male cat can narrow the urethra, even more, making blockages more likely. If your veterinarian rules out a medical cause for your cat’s spraying, ask for suggestions on how to better deal with the behavior. Your cat may need to be on an anti-anxiety medication.

To learn more about cat spraying, go to Cat Spraying: What Is It and How Do You Make It Stop?

Cat Spraying: What Is It and How Do You Make It Stop?

Cat spraying is a problem that can be difficult to deal with. All cats can spray, whether they are male or female, young or old, fixed or not fixed; however, it is more common with males than it is with females. Intact kitties are more likely to spray than other cats. The spray has an extremely unpleasant smell because it contains pheromones. Spray from intact males has a stronger odor than spray from a cat who has been fixed. And the probability of urine spraying indoors is directly related to the number of cats in the household.

In this article we are going to tell you why cats spray and what you can do to stop it.

First of all, what is cat spraying? Your cat backs up to a vertical surface with its tail lifted vertically and directs a small amount of urine in a fine spray from beneath its tail. You will notice an intense quivering movement of the tip of the tail, sometimes treading, and a look of intense concentration on your cat’s face. This is called spraying.

Cats use their urine as a means of communicating. Cats can learn a lot about other cats from their urine, including their age, their sex and their sexual availability. Intact male cats may spray to show that they are ready and on the lookout for girlfriends. They are telling other male cats to stay away. When an intact female cat sprays, their urine indicates where they are in their cycle.

Cats are territorial creatures by nature, and spraying is a way for them to show dominance. Both wild and domesticated cats will mark their territory by spraying urine or by leaving their feces uncovered. By doing this, they are sending a sign to other cats that this is their territory, so stay away. Spraying around doors and windows could indicate the presence of another cat outside.

Why Do Cats Spray?

Cat spraying can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • Marking boundaries
  • A desire to mate
  • Indoor cats reacting to an outdoor cat in the neighborhood
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Difficulties adjusting to environmental changes
  • Conflict resolution

To learn more about why cats spray, go to Why Do Cats Spray?

So what can you do to stop cat spraying?

Neutering and spaying will usually resolve spraying behavior, but in some cases it will only reduce it.

If you have too many cats in too small a space there may be struggles for dominance. If it is possible to separate the cats, this may help to resolve the spraying.

Don’t yell or punish your cats for spraying. This will only cause your cat to feel more stressed and the behavior can escalate.

Clean the sprayed area thoroughly with an enzyme cleaner, then try to change your cat’s association with the sprayed area. Try placing toys or scratchers near the sprayed area. Place your cat’s food and water bowls in that area. Also, try using synthetic pheromones around the marked areas.

Reduce the competition in multi-cat households by providing more vertical territory, more scratchers and more hiding spaces. Make sure there are enough litter boxes in your home – one per cat, plus one. Spread the litter boxes in different areas of the house.

If you add a new kitty to your household, keep him separated from your cat and introduce him slowly.

Anxiety issues like overcrowding, dominance, unpleasant noises, loneliness and changes in the home environment can cause a cat to become anxious and result in spraying. Try to give your cat a happy, interesting environment with cat trees, climbing posts, scratchers, window beds and toys. To learn more about creating an interesting environment for your cat, go to Is Your Indoor Cat bored? 12 ways to Prevent Boredom.

Why Is My Neutered Cat Spraying?

Neutered cat spraying is a big problem for cat lovers. You may have neutered your cat with the expectation that it would stop him from spraying only to find that the behavior continues. It may take a month or so for your cat’s hormonal activity to calm down after neutering. But cat spraying is not always sexually related. So if the activity does not eventually stop, your cat may be marking due to other issues. Maybe urine marking has become a habit for your cat. Or your cat may be triggered from the scent of spots where he previously marked. Or, it could be that your cat is spraying because he is stressed.

Neutered cat spraying can be a difficult thing to deal with. While you find the behavior frustrating and offensive, your cat thinks it’s perfectly normal. Neutered cat spraying is often caused by stress. Spraying its scent onto a wall or piece of furniture helps to reassure the cat.