Seeing your ball of fur having a seizure is distressing to say the least. One of the first things that may come to your mind is that she has epilepsy, but other conditions and common household products can cause feline seizures.
Thankfully, epilepsy is pretty rare in cats compared to dogs. On the other hand, as vet Arnold Plotnick at Manhattan Cats points out, fewer medications are available for treating feline seizures for this very reason. There are two types of epilepsy: primary and secondary. The primary form is more difficult to diagnose, as the cat appears healthy in every other way apart from recurring seizures, and your vet can diagnose it only by testing for all the other possible causes first. The underlying cause of the primary type is a brain disorder, whereas secondary epilepsy is not truly epilepsy as such, but seizures brought on by an underlying physical disorder.
Low blood sugar, liver disease, brain tumor, head trauma and poor blood circulation to the brain are all potential causes of seizures, although the age of your feline friend has some bearing on the probable cause of seizures. According to PetPlace, older cats—those over 5 years old—are more likely to suffer seizures from kidney failure, cancer, heart disease, acute head trauma and viral or bacterial infections. Young kittens are also prone to seizures caused by infection, distemper being one example. But babies are more likely to suffer seizures from a metabolic enzyme deficiency, or nutritional problems caused by parasites. Congenital and developmental issues are another potential cause of seizures for baby cats.
In hydrocephalus, excess cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the brain. This is often a congenital disorder. Ordinarily CSF circulates through the brain, protecting it and eventually being absorbed into the circulatory system. When this doesn't happen the fluid builds up, and you can notice it particularly in young kittens because the fluid makes the fontanel—the soft spot on top of a newborn kitten's head—bulge. Eventually the fluid's pressure creates a dome-shaped head. This condition is less obvious in an older cat, because her cranial bones are hard and fused. Regardless of age, a cat with hydrocephalus is likely to experience seizures as one of the many symptoms of the condition.
Kittens are also more likely than older cats to suffer seizures brought on by swallowing something toxic, and sometimes it's difficult to keep track of what your tiny feline friend has gotten into. If you have antifreeze at home, keep it well away from her, as it causes seizures, and a small amount—1 to 2 teaspoons—is fatal. Permethrin, a component of dog flea treatments, also causes seizures in cats, according to the Feline Advisory Bureau. Slug bait and garden insecticides are other potential dangers for your furry friend.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.