Neurological Issues in Cats

A cat’s genetic makeup is similar to our own. It consists of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. Each part of both systems sends electrical signals to one another. Which allow your cat to function in its environment.

Sometimes, wires can be crossed, and the brain can interpret signals incorrectly. This results in the brain transmitting inappropriate messages through the spinal cord. Many functions your cat carries out day to day are under voluntary and conscious control. If your cat is acting and behaving unusually it is imperative that you seek veterinary care.

We’ll cover each condition more in depth below. But if your cat starts to have seizures or has suffered head trauma, seek a professional opinion ASAP.

Neoplastic Disease

The most common neoplastic disease is called meningioma. Meningioma tumors affect the thin layer of protective tissue covering the brain. These growths will usually affect older cats and are usually benign. Although they are not malignant, their continued expansion can still be dangerous. Tumors will add a significant amount of pressure to the brain.

Cats usually respond to the surgical removal meningioma well. in most cases no follow-up treatment is necessary. Many cats will live on for several years after the surgery. This is due to the accessibility of the tumor on the cat’s brain. Other forms of brain tumor’s such as glioma are much harder to treat due to the deeper location in the brain.


Epilepsy affects the electrical transmission of nerve signals within a cat’s brain. Any misfiring here will affect memory, sensation and voluntary muscle movement. Epilepsy can be brought on by head injuries, tumors or metabolic irregularities. Whilst ‘Idiopathic epilepsy’ may have no discernible cause. Cats with idiopathic epilepsy are usually otherwise happy and healthy. With the administration of the necessary treatment, they can lead normal lives. It is highly recommended that you keep all cats who suffer from any form of seizures as indoor cats. This will significantly reduce the risk of them causing further harm to themselves.

Before your cat starts to have a seizure, you may notice them appearing dazed or frightened. They may attempt to hide or seek attention from you. Yet, there is little you can do to prevent a seizure. During a seizure your cat will fall on it’s side for generally between 30 and 90 seconds. No episode will be the same for two cats. Your cat may become stiff, salivate, urinate, vocalize and start to paddle with all four limbs.

Seizures may be difficult to spot at first as they tend to happen while the cat is resting. If your cat has already been to the vet for treatment, it is not necessary to take your cat to the vet after every episode. Yet, after the seizure, they may become disorientated or confused. There is no telling how long they will experience the after effects. The recovery may be immediate or take up to 24 hours.

Generally, cats start to experience seizures between the ages of one and four years old. Your vet will diagnose your cat with epilepsy through a series of blood tests. In more complex cases, CT scans or MRI’s will be used for the diagnosis.

Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders can also be due to genetic defects. Among the most common disorders is feline distemper virus which affects the cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for muscle coordination. The presence of the disorder will be evident from birth. Kittens who are born infected will immediately show a severe lack of coordination. There is no cure at present, yet, cats with this neurological condition can live long happy lives.

Another prevalent neurological condition is hydrocephalus. A condition effecting the amount of fluid in the skull. This results in the enlargement of the skull, causing it to press again the brain. In some cases, surgery has been proven effective in draining excess fluid.

Neurological disorders tend to be more prevalent in pedigree cats and pure bred cats. Certain breeds are more prone to the disorders than others. Thus, it is important for you to do ample amounts of research before taking on a pet. Your vet will be able to warn you of any issues which certain breeds are suffering from.

Head Trauma in Cats

There are many things that can cause brain injuries in cats.

Some of the most common being:

  • Hypothermia
  • Hyperthermia
  • High blood pressure
  • Prolonged seizures
  • Road traffic accidents
  • Falls
  • Chemical poisoning
  • Insect bites

Brain injuries are often placed into two categories:

Primary brain injuries involve direct trauma which will be a life-long condition.

Secondary injuries which temporarily alter the brain tissue. With ample care secondary injuries can be treated.

Symptoms of Neurological Disorders in Cats

The brain is a vital organ which requires a constant supply of nutrition and oxygen. If your cat has received trauma to the skull, this may lead to an oxygen deficiency. When a cat’s brain becomes oxygen deficient, it can soon result in a fluid build-up followed by bleeding. This, in turn, adds pressure to the brain, leading to further complications. Head traumas can ultimately end up affecting the heart, eyes and other body systems.

The symptoms of head trauma will depend on the severity of the injury. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Bleeding through the ear or nose
  • Bleeding from inside the eye
  • Irregular movements
  • Abnormal posture
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Heavy or rapid breathing
  • Red or purple spots on the body
  • Abnormal heart functions
  • Diagnosis

When referring your cat for treatment, take with you a thorough history of your cats health. You’ll need details of the nature and onset of the problems and any details of possible accidents. Your vet will then perform a physical examination and a biochemistry profile. This will tell your vet everything you need to know about the underlying cause of the brain injury. Biochemistry profiles will show any sign of any abnormalities in blood glucose level. Whilst blood gases will confirm if there is oxygen deficiency in the blood.

If your vet suspects your cat has a fracture, X-rays and CT scans, MRI’s are useful to examine the severity of trauma. These tools will detect cranial bleeding, fractures, foreign bodies and any other anomalies.

Hi! My name is Jamie Fallon. I run, an online cat health and cat behavior resource. If I’m not sat in front of my PC—and I usually am—then I’m either spending time with my cats or my other half… Whoever jumps on me or asks me for food first!