While the Maine Coon cat breed is known for being healthy, Maine Coon epilepsy can still occur in some cats.
This condition can vary greatly in symptoms and severity, but a diagnosis is not a death sentence for your cat. Many Maine Coons with epilepsy go on to live happy, fulfilling lives.
Epilepsy is a chronic, incurable condition that causes a cat to experience seizures. Seizures do not necessarily mean that your cat has epilepsy, though. Cats can get seizures due to poisons, underlying illness, head trauma, and many other factors. While epilepsy cannot be cured, it can be managed and treated through medications.
Even though many cats with epilepsy can live long, fulfilling lives, it is still a serious condition requiring immediate vet treatment.
If you suspect your Maine Coon might have epilepsy, read on to find out how to keep your cat safe and healthy.
Maine Coon Epilepsy
The Maine Coon is an enormous, sturdy breed that originated in the frigid state of Maine.
While they were once popular amongst farmers and sailors for catching mice and other pests, today they are beloved for their loving and gentle nature.
Maine Coons form strong bonds with their families and are exceptionally loyal.
Cat epilepsy is a neurological condition where the structure of the brain causes recurrent seizures.
Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
Seizures can lead to unconsciousness, uncontrollable movements, and behavioral changes, but symptoms vary depending on severity and type.
Seizures are much rarer in cats than they are in dogs, but they can still occur. It is estimated that about 2% of cats have epilepsy.
Just because a cat experiences seizures does not mean it has cat epilepsy, though.
If you take your cat to the vet for a seizure, your vet will first try to rule out any other underlying causes, such as exposure to toxins, diabetes, or a head injury.
Your vet may need to do a variety of tests including bloodwork and X-rays to determine the underlying cause of your cat’s seizures.
If your cat is diagnosed with epilepsy, then you will need to provide your cat with daily medication.
Epilepsy Cat Symptoms
Epilepsy in cats can have a wide range of symptoms, which also vary in severity.
Seizures that affect the entire brain are typically more severe than focal seizures, which only target one part of the brain.
1. Focal Seizures
Mild cat seizure symptoms are typically found in focal and psychomotor seizures.
Focal seizures are so named because they occur in one part of the brain.
These seizures may be harder to detect because they typically have milder symptoms.
Psychomotor seizures are the rarest kind of seizures in cats. They usually result in bizarre changes in behavior.
Psychomotor seizures are a kind of focal seizure, but they tend to include more rapid, repetitive movements.
Here are some mild cat seizure symptoms to look out for.
A cat experiencing a focal seizure may seem suddenly dazed and dreamlike, staring off into space without reacting to anything around them.
Focal seizures usually result in twitching, bobbing, flicking, and other repetitive movements. Sometimes these movements affect only one side of the face or body.
Change In Behavior
People and animals experiencing focal seizures often experience strong changes in emotion.
Your cat may suddenly feel:
Your cat may become suddenly aggressive or attention-seeking.
During a focal seizure, cats may growl or make loud, unusual vocalizations.
Cats affected by psychomotor seizures may suddenly race around the house.
Many cats suddenly race around the house, but if this behavior is accompanied by other stereotyped (repetitive) movements, your cat may be suffering from a seizure.
This kind of seizure can cause a cat to aggressively chew or bite its own body.
Biting At The Air
A particular behavior that has been observed in multiple cats with psychomotor seizures is known as “fly biting,” where the affected cat begins biting randomly in the air as if trying to catch a bug.
2. Generalized Seizures
Generalized seizures, also known as Grand Mal seizures, affect the entire brain.
These kinds of seizures usually result in much more severe and apparent symptoms.
Generalized seizures also have three distinct phases.
While dogs are more likely to experience generalized seizures, cats are more likely to experience focal seizures.
The pre-ictal phase is the period before your cat experiences a generalized seizure.
Also known as an “aura,” this phase usually includes changes in behavior and emotion.
- Lethargy: During the pre-ictal phase, your cat may feel foggy, sleepy, or confused. Some cats hide during the pre-ictal phase.
- Hyperactivity: Inversely, some cats get a burst of energy before a generalized seizure occurs.
- Behavior Changes: A cat experiencing the pre-ictal phase of a generalized seizure may become anxious or suddenly start seeking attention and reassurance.
The ictal phase is the actual seizure.
Most cat seizures last between 30 and 60 seconds, but they can be longer or shorter.
If your cat’s seizure lasts 5 minutes or longer, though, it is a medical emergency.
Here are some symptoms that may appear during the ictal phase:
- Uncontrollable Movements: Grand Mal seizures usually result in uncontrollable movements from twitching and jerking to full-body convulsions. Some cats paddle their legs or move as though they are running.
- Incontinence: Some cats experience a loss of control over their bladder and bowels, which can lead to accidents.
- Drooling Or Foaming: Your cat may begin salivating, drooling, or foaming at the mouth.
- Chewing: Some cats begin uncontrollably chewing and biting during a seizure. Contrary to popular belief, you should not put anything in your cat’s mouth for them to bite down on; it can cause jaw and tooth pain and can even cause damage.
- Bent Neck: Many cats that experience generalized seizures bend their neck backward along the spine.
- Unconsciousness: Generalized seizures result in loss of consciousness. Your cat will not be aware of what is happening during the seizure.
The post-ictal phase occurs after the seizure has ended.
Your cat will regain consciousness and stop moving uncontrollably, but will still experience changes in behavior and emotions.
This phase usually lasts one or two days.
- Confusion: Since your cat will have lost consciousness during the seizure, it will experience distress and confusion upon waking up. It may not know where it is or what has happened.
- Sleepiness: Cats often experience lethargy after a seizure, and they can also show symptoms of depression.
- Hyperactivity: Some cats become restless or excited during the post-ictal phase and may pace or run around.
- Excessive Thirst And Hunger: Your cat may drink and eat a lot more following a seizure.
- Vomiting: Some cats experience nausea and vomiting after a generalized seizure. It is important to provide lots of food and fluids during this stage.
- Attention Seeking: Experiencing a seizure can be incredibly scary and disorienting. Your cat will likely want attention and reassurance after the seizure has occurred.
What Causes Cat Epilepsy?
While there is a lot we still do not understand about epilepsy and the brain, we do have a general idea of some of the causes of epilepsy.
So, what causes epileptic seizures in cats?
Here is a list of what we know can cause epilepsy:
In some cases, a cat’s epilepsy could be due to genetics. However, this is very rare in cats.
2. Brain Development
While epilepsy may not be present when a cat is born, if the brain develops abnormally during a cat’s younger years, it can lead to epilepsy.
Certain infections, diseases, and cancers can damage the brain enough to trigger epilepsy.
A head injury can be severe enough to cause epilepsy in cats, as well.
Cat Epilepsy Treatment
If your cat experiences seizures, but not epilepsy, then your vet will treat the underlying condition.
The only way to medically treat epilepsy is through medication.
Vets prescribe anticonvulsant medications, such as phenobarbital, which must be taken very regularly.
Even though there are no other medical steps that can be taken to manage seizures, you can still change your behavior to help your cat with this condition.
Here are some things you can do before, during, and after seizures to make sure your cat is as comfortable as possible (source 1):
Monitor And Record Your Cat’s Symptoms
Keep track of the frequency and duration of your cat’s seizures.
Write down everything you can, so your vet has a comprehensive journal to look at when providing treatment.
Do Not Touch During A Seizure
While you may be tempted to hold your cat close during a seizure, it is important to avoid touching your cat unless absolutely necessary.
If your cat begins convulsing against furniture or hard objects, try to clear the space around your cat rather than moving your cat to a new location.
Time Every Seizure
Try to time every seizure you can, and record it, as well. This will help your vet learn more about your cat’s condition.
Most cats experience seizures for 30 to 60 seconds.
If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, however, then it’s time to seek emergency treatment.
Clear Away Furniture
While you may not always be around when your cat is having a seizure, you can take precautions to make your environment safer for your cat.
You may want to put soft padding on the hard edges of chairs or other pieces of furniture.
During a seizure, make sure you clear away everything around your cat so it cannot injure itself.
After a seizure, your cat will likely be confused, afraid, and uncomfortable.
Talk gently and quietly to your cat, and pet or snuggle them if that is what they want.
Provide lots of food and water, as well.
Can Epilepsy In Cats Be Cured?
Sadly, epilepsy is chronic and incurable.
There is no way to make epilepsy go away, and very few cases exist where treatment has been able to stop seizures altogether.
The only way to treat epilepsy is to manage it through medication.
This can reduce the frequency and severity of your cat’s seizures, but it must be taken diligently, or it can make your cat’s seizures worse.
How Long Do Cats With Epilepsy Live?
There is no way for sure to estimate the lifespan of a cat with epilepsy.
It is estimated that about 70% of epileptic cats can live long, relatively normal lives, but about 30% of cats do not receive relief from medication.
Epilepsy is associated with reduced lifespan in both cats and humans. Humans with epilepsy live, on average, 11 to 12 years fewer than the average person.
However, this does not mean that they always die from epilepsy.
While it is not yet known why, it could be because epilepsy results in increased stress, decreasing the body’s ability to defend itself from illness.
Death during a seizure is very rare in cats, but it can still occur.
It is important to keep your cat in a safe space during seizures, so it cannot injure itself on any furniture or other objects (source 1).
If the worst happens, and you lose your beloved Maine Coon cat, one of these cat memorials might bring you a small token of comfort, helping you to remember your treasured feline friend.
Can Cats Develop Epilepsy Later In Life?
Cats usually develop epilepsy during young adulthood, between the ages of 1 and 3.
If your cat’s epilepsy is caused by abnormal brain development or genetics, then it will likely present earlier in life.
However, cats can also develop epilepsy from cancer, brain trauma, and certain diseases.
Epilepsy that is caused by disease or trauma can develop at any stage in a cat’s life (source 1).
Do Cats Feel Pain During Seizures?
Seizures themselves are not usually painful, but they can result in injury and soreness.
If your cat experiences symptoms like rigid limbs, uncontrollable biting, or full-body convulsions, then it may injure itself or feel sore after the seizure is over.
While your cat’s seizures likely are not painful, they can be very uncomfortable and scary.
These uncontrollable episodes often cause a loss of consciousness, which can make your cat very confused and distressed afterward.
Having a seizure is an intense experience that will leave your cat drained, tired, and in need of lots of attention and cuddling.
While there is no way to know for sure what your cat’s seizures feel like, paying attention to your cat’s body language.
This can help you decide what your cat wants and needs after a seizure has ended (source 1).
Home Remedies For Cat Seizures
There are no home remedies for cats with epilepsy.
This neurological disorder can only be managed through anticonvulsant medications, which must be prescribed by a vet.
It is also very important to ask your vet before using any natural remedies or supplements, as they could interact with your cat’s medication or preexisting conditions.
Even essential oils can be dangerous or deadly if used irresponsibly.
If your cat’s seizures are caused by an underlying condition instead of epilepsy, you will still need to rely on your vet’s care and prescriptions rather than home remedies.
Your vet will attempt to treat the underlying condition, which will hopefully alleviate your cat’s seizures.
When To Euthanize A Cat With Seizures
Euthanizing a cat is one of the most painful, difficult decisions a person can make, but in some cases, it is the most humane option.
While many cats who experience seizures go on to live long, happy lives, more severe cases are not always so promising.
Our cats cannot communicate how they feel, or just how uncomfortable their seizures make them.
There is also no way for us to explain to them why they are experiencing such confusing and distressing symptoms.
As a result, life for a cat with seizures can be even scarier than it is for humans.
If your cat is experiencing seizures due to a brain tumor or another serious underlying condition, then it may be time to say goodbye.
Cancer treatment is an exhausting, painful process, and this invasive process will be miserable, terrifying, and confusing for your cat.
While the decision to euthanize a cat is very personal, consider seeking the opinion of multiple vets, as well as close friends and family members.
Thankfully, most cats with epilepsy do not need to be euthanized.
While this condition can be scary and uncomfortable, seizures are not usually severe or frequent enough to warrant euthanasia.
Unless your cat is experiencing violent seizures so constantly that it is unable to play, snuggle, or otherwise enjoy its life, then euthanasia is not recommended.
Maine Coon epilepsy can seem terrifying at first, but while this condition is incurable, many cats with epilepsy can still live long happy lives.
Epilepsy results in seizures of varying severity and frequency, but medications can reduce these seizures.
It is important to monitor your cat’s symptoms and provide gentle support before, during, and after a seizure.
Do Cats Have Seizures Before Death?
Some cats may have seizures before they die. This could be due to an underlying condition, such as a brain tumor or infection.