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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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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Jay
Sherry
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Sherry

Remove the source of the seizure!? How can I do that when it’s a persian that needs to be groomed and trimmed down every month and shampooed and dried? She started collapsing and falling over at age 10 either during a blow out or during a grooming session.. by the way I am a retired groomer … it started out infrequent back then and now it seems like she collapses either now during a grooming or during the blowout .. and by the way I don’t groom her and shampoo and dry on the same day due to the stress … she is 16 and I’m good health except for thyroid disease diagnosed and being treated for since December … she has fo be groomed and shampooed regularly

Jaucelyn
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Jaucelyn

My 3.5 year old cat was asleep on the back of a tall lounge chair when some visitors came in with a big dog. She tried to jump down but in mid air something happened and she fell to the carpet, went limp, eyes were huge and she was yowling like she was dying. When I went to pick her up she ran off under the bed and continued to yowl and lay on her side for 3 minutes. The yowl was terrible! I was able to get to her and isolate her from all the people and dogs. She was floppy and wide-eyed for 30 minutes. She finally got up and zigzagged her way to the litter box and peed. Then she flopped down and just laid on her side for another hour. It seemed like she couldn’t see or recognize me. When she came out of this she… Read more »

Susan Antoniou
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Susan Antoniou

My 7year old cat had a seizure and has now lost her eye sight is there a possibility that she will have her sight back again?

David Waters
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David Waters

Hi there. I am seeking help but struggling to find exactly what my cat is doing. About 2 weeks ago she started to fall off of things (she insists on sleeping in weird higher up places). She falls onto the floor, urinates and then frantically chews at her fur around her sides or legs. She is perfectly fine once she stops aggressively cleaning herself. She isn’t hiding away from us, still likes attention, is still eating and drinking, doesn’t pant or lay down afterwards, doesn’t shout before during or after, her eyes don’t role back and she doesn’t go stiff. Not sure if it connected but arpund the same time she has started to groom herself so much that her hair is getting patchy arpund her sides and anus?

Kate
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Kate

Really want to thank you for this article. Yesterday, my SO was taking our cat to the vet. The cat really hates the car, and as he was lifting her carrier into the car, she suddenly flopped over and began to have a seizure. He was really panicking and raced to the vet. The episode lasted maybe 30 seconds, and was followed by her normal car behavior – crying, panting and pacing. I usually use a Feliway spray in her carrier when we have to go in the car, but I forgot to tell him about it. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with her after a regular checkup but she will have some tests if it happens again. When she got home, she ate normally and wanted a lot of attention, then fell asleep in her current favourite spot. I’m still really worried but your article gave me some… Read more »

Aarika
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Aarika

So I was just scared beyond belief and am looking for some answers/guidance. My cat who is 5 was just sleeping on the floor. I started vacuuming and he woke up, jumped on the bed to evade the vacuum, left the bedroom and went downstairs. My boyfriend saw him cross the room normally, stumble, and then teeter as he was low to the ground. He called me down and I saw him teetering and looking at me with a frantic look in his eyes. This only lasted for a minute. He then walked low to the ground into the kitchen, hopped up on one of the dining chairs and proceeded to drool heavily for a few minutes. I pet him softly and talked him through it and within moments he seemed fine. He was eating, talking, and mobile. The whole thing lasted maybe 3 minutes. It’s been a half hour… Read more »

Beth Bencel
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Beth Bencel

Hello….I have 2 female cats, siblings, about 4 years old. One of them has stress seizures every couple of months. I was so happy to read the article and find that this is common and non life threatening. If they become more frequent I will take her to the vet for blood work to rule out pancreatitis. She is the passive sister…the other one is much more dominant. Whenever she has a seizure the other cat hisses at her. It happened last night and this morning she was still hissing terribly at the sight of her. This goes on for 4 or 5 days….then slowly they get back to normal, playing and grooming each other. Any idea why the other cat is exhibiting this hissing behavior?

Edenslight7
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Edenslight7

Hello thank you do kindly. My cat had a violent seizure last night around 3am . I heard cats screaming. Cat was in seizure few seconds then went limp and panting. I was getting ready to take her to emergency, i stroked her and she got up and walked. I thought she was stone blind, she was very disorientated. Daylight came she can at least see where she is going is resting on her favorite chair. Has drank water and ate some. One of my sweet cats sometimes attacks other cat usually only her son. But has once attacked other girl if she’s fired up.She can be vicious. She’s been stalking the poor cat,that had seizure is 15-17. I thought the cat Stacey might have had seizure when attacked. It was horrible I thought she was dying.Now she’s purring. You’re post helped calm me. Will still see vet.

Myrahnna Love
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Myrahnna Love

Dear purrfectlove
Last week my cat ran an started going in circles with spit dripping from her mouth, now this week she was purring an rubbing my legs an it was hard for her to swallow, an she started to run off all of a sudden she got confused an fell over trying to get up but kept falling over hitting her head, then she got stiff an was kicking her back legs, it all lasted about a minute or so, then she just laid there, she got up but it was like she couldn’t move she meowed loud 3 times, then she moved but was wobbling an laid down her breathing was fast

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