What causes feline epilepsy?

In cats, an epileptic seizure is caused by abnormal, excessive electrical activity in the brain. This can result in external symptoms such as; convulsions (fits), tremors, drooling, urination and defaecation.

The seizures can have three main causes:

Reactive Seizures

These seizures are triggered by:

  • Ingestion of or exposure to  a a toxin that causes seizures
  • Metabolic abnormalities – which may occur secondary to liver failure, low blood sugar etc.

Structural epilepsy

This type of feline epilepsy is caused by structural damage in the brain. The damage could be a tumour, inflammation, infection, a bleed and many more. Sometimes there are other neurological signs in addition to the seizures, but this depends on the size and location of the damage.

Idiopathic epilepsy

In these cases tests can find no obvious cause and it is therefore a diagnosis by exclusion. Diagnostic tests (such as blood tests and MRIs) are needed to rule out reactive seizures and structural epilepsy, before a conclusion of idiopathic epilepsy can reasonably be drawn.

These seizures usually occur in middle-aged cats (3–6 years) and there are usually no other symptoms other than the seizures themselves.

Is there a specific breed of cat that is more likely to suffer from epilepsy?

Recurrent seizure disorders are estimated to affect 0.16% of the feline population, with epilepsy affecting 0.04% of cats. There is no breed or gender predisposition for feline epilepsy. The cat’s weight or whether it is neutered or not doesn’t affect the likelihood of having epilepsy either.