Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects people, cats, dogs and a range of other animals. During a seizure, an animal's brain misfires and sends too many "move" signals to the muscles. This results in the physical occurrence of the seizure, which may be mild or serious, but always consists of set phases. Seizures are the only true sign of epilepsy.
The prodromal phase of an epileptic seizure is often easy to miss in pets. It consists of a cat's behaviour changing slightly as its brain becomes aware of an impending seizure. This stage begins hours before the seizure occurs, and is not necessarily a useful symptom as people can easily skip or miss it.
During the aura phase, the odd behaviour increases. The aura occurs right before a seizure is about to start, and includes somewhat more obvious symptoms like stumbling, wandering, pacing, licking, trembling and vomiting. A can may appear to be nervous or uncomfortable during this phase. According to Pet Place, cats may skip these first two stages and progress directly to the ictus.
The ictus stage is when the actual seizure occurs. PetPlace.com reports that cats may become stiff or loose, may fall over or lose consciousness, and may begin paddling, yowling, gnashing their teeth, urinating, defecating or salivating. This stage demonstrates the culmination of the brain's misfiring, though seizures differ depending on the type of epilepsy. The ictus phase may last several minutes, but does not cause the cat any damage or pain.
The postictal stage starts when the ictus ends, and indicates the time when a cat regains consciousness and recovers from the seizure. Cats may be disoriented, weak, unresponsive, unable to see, deaf or anxious during this time. Some cats are exhausted and fall into a deep sleep. This phase may last from minutes to days.