If your cat appears to be afflicted with a neurological disease, you'll likely notice it early on. He might become disoriented, walk with a strange gait, appear off-balance, exhibit a distinct personality change or experience seizures. Take him to the vet at once for testing, diagnosis and treatment.
One of the most common neurological disorders in felines, epilepsy means your cat experiences seizures, the result of abnormal electrical brain activity. While classic seizure symptoms include rigidity, foaming at the mouth and falling over, your cat can suffer from milder seizures that just make him seem "out of it." Depending on the frequency and duration of seizures, your vet might prescribe medication such as phenobarbital to keep them under control.
If Smokey develops an infection in his brain or inner ear, he might present neurological symptoms. Feline vestibular disease results from either brain or inner ear involvement, with Smokey walking in circles, tilting his head and moving his eyes in bizarre ways. A cat's vestibular system regulates his balance and coordinate head and eye movements, so when it's out of whack, Smokey’s got a problem. Your vet conducts tests to determine the cause of the malady. An infection might be treated with antibiotics, but until your cat recovers his balance, confine him to an area where he can't hurt himself.
Tumors, both benign and malignant, can affect a cat's brain. Meningiomas, usually benign tumors found in the protective tissue around Smokey’s brain, can grow and exert pressure on the organ, causing neurological symptoms. Surgical removal of these tumors is often successful. If your cat is diagnosed instead with a glioma, a malignant tumor, the prognosis isn't so good.
If your cat experiences head trauma, whether hit by a car, attacked by a dog or anything else that damages his skull, take him to the vet even if he appears to be OK. Head trauma is a common cause of feline neurological problems. If his eye or facial muscles begin drooping, suspect Horner's syndrome. While Horner's syndrome is usually caused by trauma, it can also result from brain or nervous system disease. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.
Although you make sure that your own cats are up to date on rabies vaccinations, if your find an unfamiliar feline displaying neurological symptoms, leave it alone and call your local animal control officer. That's because signs of rabies include neurological issues, such as seizures and disorientation. Since rabies is always fatal, it's far better to be safe than sorry. If you come into contact with a rabid animal, you'll have to undergo a series of shots to make sure you don't come down with the disease.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.