Stress Seizures in Cats

Something that is not widely discussed in the pet world is stress induced seizures. While it is not something that is common, it can happen to any cat or dog. Dogs are more typically prone to this especially in purebreds, but that doesn’t mean it never happens with cats. Knowing how to recognize a stress-induced seizure vs a true medical problem will help you keep your cat happy and healthy.

What Causes Stress Seizures?

The short answer is obvious; STRESS! While it can take a lot of stress to make this happen, a cat who previously had a medical condition that caused them is more likely to experience them. The chances of it happening are also increased in cats who suffer from separation anxiety or bipolar syndrome. 


Just like a human experiencing a panic attack under high amounts of stress, a cat can have mild seizures from high amounts of stress or after stressful situations. Things like being yelled at, getting into fights with other cats or animals, or a stressful move can induce them.

Are They Dangerous?

While they won’t hurt them directly, they can be hurt by accidents. When a cat has a stress seizure, they can easily fall off of a high place, bite their tongue, or get stuck somewhere. This can lead to other issues like head injuries and broken bones. It is important to watch over your cat when this is happening so they do not hurt themselves. Make sure they are on the floor and not biting their tongue.

What Does a Stress Seizure Look Like?

Typically, the cat will do a bellow or deep meow because they know something isn’t feeling right. They feel scared and are asking for help. This follows the cat either lying down or clasping over. They will tense their legs pretty stiffly and followed by this they usually become unresponsive. They may roll their eyes back, have their mouth open, and tense their neck as well. This usually only lasts 20 seconds to a minute long. As they come out of it, they will look exhausted and this is because they are. Some may go to walk only to lay back down after a few feet. It is very important to provide your cat the opportunity to rest. Make sure they eat and/or drink shortly after this. They may need to rest several hours before they are feeling better so keep things peaceful around them.

Signs and symptoms to look for with serious medical problems:

  • No appetite, not eating or drinking

  • Wetting themselves before, during, or after the seizure

  • Excessive panting

  • Crying and uneasiness

  • Signs of stomach or abdomen pain

  • Hiding/wanting to be left alone

  • Disorientation after the seizure has stopped

  • Multiple seizures happening in a short amount of time

If your cat appears fine after and you want to make sure, there is no harm in taking them in for a checkup. I do not advise putting them on medication for this. Simply removing the causes of stress will keep this from happening. I have personal experience with one of my cats and it rarely happens but when it does, he is back to normal a few hours later. Medication risks making them worse, causing them to happen more often, or just giving them other general health problems they don’t need.

If you have any questions or concerns, leave a comment!

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Michele
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Michele

My 3.5 year old cat (male) has never shown any signs of illness, and he had what we assume was a seizure at the very end of December. It appears our 7 month old lab was chasing him, and he ran under the bed (where we have suitcases to keep the lab out from under the bed). Within moments, we heard a blood curdling sound, and we realized it was the cat. It was a hideous sound and it went on for a good 10-15 seconds. By the time we got to him, as he was in between a suitcase and the wall, all we could see was that he was shaking, and when he came out from under the bed, he was hunched down, and his tail was puffy. A little while later he was fine. We thought he might have hurt himself under the bed or possibly be… Read more »

Leanne
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Leanne

Hello, i was wondering if you can help me. I think my cat had a seizure from being exposed to flea treatment about 2/3 months ago, he snapped out of if after about 10 minutes but since then he has been really really anxious, he lives with his sister (both spayed) and sometimes when she walks near him it’s like he doesn’t recognise that she lives here, they sniff each other and he relaxes but any sudden noise he’s so on edge and it’s all been hightened since the flea treatment incident. There also has been the odd occasion he has been spooked wee’d a little and puffed up but he’s managed to come around quite quickly. Is there anything I can do to relax him? I have things like feliway friends plug ins, should i try the classics for example ?

Marty
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Marty

I have a 9 year old Maine Coon. He had teeth extraction in June 2018. There were problems with him waking up from the anesthesia. He began to thrash around in his cage after the surgery and he was blind. We brought him home he was, toes could not see could not eat could not move his bowels could not pee could not stand. We have worked very hard with him and he gets around the house very good uses the litter box goes up and down the stairs. Some compulsive behavior began to appear, and the vet suggested putting him on Prozac. Prior to him being put on Prozac he did have an episode where he was sitting, began to growl, turn very very very very fast in circles, and began to run through the house. It was over in 30 to 45 seconds. Afterwards he scratched his head… Read more »

Natasha
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Natasha

Hello, thanks for your post. I have been looking for answers around why my 1.5 yr old female cat Mila is having seizures and this is the first article I’ve found about stress seizures. Mila had her first seizure at 3am in a terrible rain storm with lightening. She yowled and screamed for a minute or two and then violently thrashed her front and back legs for what felt like 2 minutes. The blanket she was on was very damp. For the rest of the day she was very quiet and disoriented. I took her to the vet and her blood results came back normal. Her second seizure happened a month later after a car ride. When she started to get out of the cage she yowled and then her front and back legs thrashed and twitched for 30 seconds. She drooled quite a bit. It was not as bad… Read more »

Azian
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Azian

Hi natasha
Seems like your cat’s prob is the same as mine.coz im stress myself thinking why is my cat having seizures whenever we try to put him in his carrier.he will be kicking all his legs front n back,drooling and wetting himself at the same time. The 2nd time he had his seizures when we tried to put him in a basket trolley as we were scared if hes phobia with carrier.after few mins in the trolley he started his seizures again. Im trying to think of an idea to bring him to the vet to sterilise him but then he will have seizures if put in carrier.

Christy Tushinski
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Christy Tushinski

Im looking for an outside opinion. My wife and I adopted a 4yr old big boy named Sugar from an adoption agency. He had been moved around a couple times recently prior and took some time to acclimate and feel at home. In the first month we noticed he liked to hang his head when sitting in cat trees or the edge of a chair or couch, and he always had a twitchy tail. We’ve had him now for 8 months and he settled in very well and we love him very much. In the last 3-4 weeks he began having ear twitches. I used ear wipes on them but at no time ever saw any sign of ear mites/biuldup, they were always clean and looked healthy. Gradually the next 2 weeks came twitching/muscle type spasms in his belly when falling asleep and occasional head shakes. We saw them more… Read more »

Jay
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