Tremors or Seizures in Cats

A cat about to have a seizure or tremor experience sometimes appear afraid.

A cat about to have a seizure or tremor experience sometimes appear afraid.

What is up with that cat? It's a question you might ponder when Kitty is acting odd -- running around without direction or obsessively hiding from you. If she's also slightly shaking, don't chalk it up to the notion she's just a scaredy-cat. A neurological disorder could be the trigger.

Not Always Recognized

The VetInfo website tells us that cat owners often mistake a feline's neurological symptoms for behavioral issues. It's because much of how a cat reacts during neurological challenges rubs humans the wrong way. The petMD website explains that a feline may urinate, defecate or drool -- often in secret, as cats are excellent at hiding illness. You won't necessarily see Kitty shaking while she has an accident but you will find it later, and its discovery will mean an annoying cleanup experience.


While it occurs less frequently than in canines, cats can suffer from epilepsy. VetInfo states that most feline epilepsy is genetically linked but it is also caused less frequently by poisoning, head trauma, brain tumors, stroke, other chemical imbalances in the body and hypoglycemia. Powerful noises such as fire alarms, fireworks, thunderstorms or excessively loud television or music can trigger a feline epileptic event. It is important to monitor your cat and place her in a safe environment with no sharp objects, as the cat has no control over her limb movements. Medication is available via prescription for felines regularly experiencing seizure.

Linked to Diabetes

In veterinary terms, it is called feline diabetic neuropathy. Vetinfo explains that prolonged high blood glucose levels in felines leads to nerve damage and chronic nerve degeneration. The physical symptoms include weakness in the hind limbs and trouble walking that often appears as if the cat is having a tremor or seizure. Medications can help control symptoms, but they can't cure this disorder once it is developed.

Phases of Seizures

The petMD website states the first phase of a seizure may not appear to be a seizure at all. The cat may seem nervous, may be hiding or may be searching for its owner. This is called the aural stage; it may last for only a few seconds or up to several hours. The second phase -- in which involuntary shaking occurs -- lasts anywhere from just a few short seconds to what can seem like a never-ending five-minute ordeal. Your feline friend is not in pain during the seizure, petMD assures; she's just unable to control her movements. The third phase is the recovery period during which the cat remains confused, disoriented and in some cases temporarily blinded, until the seizure's effects have passed.

Diagnostics tells us that in all cases when feline tremors or seizures occur, veterinarians order a complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis to rule out metabolic disorders such as hypoglycemia or kidney disease as the cause of the tremor or seizure. This can easily set a human companion back a couple hundred dollars at the minimum. The How Much Is It? website indicates complete blood work for a feline ranges from $60 to $150 and urinalysis costs anywhere from $40 to $75. Those tests are just the beginning of what may be necessary to make an accurate diagnosis. Other procedures potentially recommended by a veterinarian include chest and abdominal X-rays, a myelogram or dye-guided spine study, a CT scan, an MRI, a cerebrospinal fluid tap and an electromyelography, which is a test using probes inserted directly into muscles to measure the level of electrical activity present.

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About the Author

Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.

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