Grand Mal Seizures in Cats

Always report kitty seizures to your vet.
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Watching your cat have a grand mal seizure can be heart wrenching, but it is important to remain calm and make careful observations. Detailed information that you provide will help your vet determine what may have caused the seizure and what treatment, if any, Kitty will need.

Types of Seizures

Seizures are classified into two main categories. Grand mal seizures, also called tonic-clonic seizures, are the most common and more recognizable. Convulsions, loss of consciousness, and loss of control of bodily functions are classic symptoms of grand-mal seizures. Your cat may also exhibit paddling behaviors with his paws, thrashing and excessive slobbering. These types of seizures usually last less than five minutes. If the seizure lasts longer or your cat has more than one seizure in 24 hours, seek immediate help for your cat. Petit mal seizures affect the cat less dramatically. He may seem addled, stare off into space or show strange behaviors, such as chewing imaginary gum or swatting at invisible flies. This type of seizure may be so subtle that you fail to notice.

Grand Mals and Epilepsy

The terms grand mal seizures and epilepsy don’t mean the same thing. Grand mal is the term used for the actual event of your pet’s brain going completely on the fritz. While recurring seizures are a symptom of epilepsy, they are also the symptom of many other health problems your cat may be experiencing, so not all cats who experience seizures are considered epileptic. Most seizures are not caused by epilepsy. Epilepsy-related seizures occur in less than 3 percent of the pet population and are more common in dogs than in cats, according to Compendium Vet. Grand mal, tonic-clonic, seizures are the most frequent form of seizure associated with epilepsy in cats, making up 60 percent of the reported incidents, veterinary journal "Waltham Focus" reports. Cats who suffer recurring petit mal seizures can also be diagnosed with epilepsy even if they never have a grand mal seizure.


There are many causes of seizures including, but not limited to, congenital issues in the brain, tumors, infections, traumatic injury, poisoning, exposure to toxic substances, heat stroke, leukemia, cancer, diabetes, allergic reactions or insect bites. When seizures are recurring and no cause can be pin-pointed, the cat may be diagnosed with feline epilepsy. Your vet may refer you to a feline neurologist or request a full work-up with blood tests and extensive neurological tests to determine what is causing the seizures. There is no test for epilepsy; your vet can only diagnose it by ruling out other causes. Finding the cause of the seizures, if possible, will help your vet decide what treatment options are best. Always consult an experienced veterinarian about the health and treatment of your pet.

What To Do

If you see your cat having a seizure, move heavy or sharp objects away from him. If he is not on the ground already, try to move him there if you can do so safely. Do not put your hands in or near his mouth; he's unlikely to swallow his tongue and you would likely be bitten. Make note of how long the seizure lasts, which parts of his body were primarily affected, what kind of spasms he was having and how he was acting just before and just after the seizure. Also make note of possible environmental triggers, such as cleaning chemicals, flea collars or medications. What he had to eat and whether he was injured or ill recently is also worth noting. Share this information with your vet as soon as possible. This will help him find the cause of the seizures and the best treatment options.

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.

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