Neurological diseases in cats

Written by moira clune
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Neurological disorders in cats can be caused by injury, illness or congenital defects. If your cat is experiencing seizures, behavioural changes or sudden weakness or paralysis, your veterinarian will perform a thorough neurological exam. Reflexes, muscle control and gait will be examined. Blood, urine and cerebrospinal fluids will be lab-tested and, in some cases, MRI and CT scans ordered. Once the cause is determined, a treatment regimen can begin.


Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures. During a seizure, you cat may pace, suffer muscle contractions, involuntarily urinate or defecate, drool or lose consciousness. Epileptic seizures are not painful but your cat should be protected from injury. Do not try to handle or hold your pet during a seizure.

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS) is a neurological disorder of unknown origin. It causes unusual and sometimes obsessive behaviour including skin rippling, excessive grooming, apparent hallucinations, dilated pupils and seizures.


Rabies is a viral infection that acts on the central nervous system. Transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, rabies is usually fatal as soon as symptoms appear. Once transmitted, the rabies virus spreads through the muscles and nerves, ultimately attacking the brain. Symptoms include drooling, seizures, paralysis and lack of coordination. Report contact with any rabid animal to your state or local health department.


Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), a single-celled parasite common to most warm-blooded animals usually exists quietly, causing no harm to its host. In immune-compromised cats--those suffering from feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)--the parasite can cause toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis can affect the central nervous system and the eyes. Your cat may develop light and touch sensitivity, blindness, tremors, seizures and loss of bowel and urinary control.


Cataplexy is a rare neurological condition which results in immediate muscle weakness and paralysis. Similar to the sudden sleeping disorder narcolepsy, the episodes can last up to thirty minutes. There is no warning before it happens, and there are no seizures during the episode.

Feline Ischemic Encephalopathy

Feline ischemic encephalopathy (FIE) is caused by a parasitic infection of the brain. Larvae of the botfly, a common equine pest, cause this disease and it is primarily found in the northeast US and Canada. The infection damages portions of the brain, causing symptoms such as seizures, blindness and unusual behaviour.


Insecticides--including flea and tick preparations that are safe for dogs--can cause seizures in cats, as can exposure to rat poisons, herbicides and anti-freeze.

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