Neurological Problems With Cats (Symptoms And Treatments)

Neurological problems with cats are not uncommon, especially as they get older. In this post we’ll take a look at some of the more common neurological disorders your cat may develop. Plus, signs to look out for and when to take your cat to the vet.

We’ll cover seizures in older cats, epilepsy, brain tumors and strokes. Many of you may be surprised to learn your fur baby can develop similar neurological problems to us humans. You’ll also discover possible treatments your vet may suggest. In many cases modern vetinary medicine can provide effective ways to manage your cat’s condition.

Your cat’s amazing brain and why it’s similar to ours!

Your cat has a truly amazing brain inside her small fuzzy head. It’s capable of storing 1,000 times more data than an ipad, and operates a million times faster!! It’s been found that cats and humans have a very similar brain structure with each region connected in identical ways. In fact your cat’s brain structure is 90% similar to yours!

It’s no wonder that cats are at risk of develop similar brain disorders. Your cat’s brain is composed of white and grey matter just the same as a human, as well as short and long term memory function.

How to know if your elderly cat has dementia

cats neurological problems

Humans aren’t the only species to suffer dementia in old age. Just as people are living longer so are cats. Modern medicine and better health care means your kitty could live into her twenties. Bearing in mind 20 is nearly 100 in human years you can understand the risk of dementia.

Dementia in cats is known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome and is very similar to that seen in old people. There’s very little you can do, apart from giving lots of cuddles. However, there are supplements available for pets that support brain function. You’d need to start giving these to your cat well before her senior years though.

Behavioral changes associated with dementia in cats can also result from other diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure and hyperthyroidism. It’s therefore vital you take your cat to the vet if you start to notice odd or eccentric behavior.

Changes in your cat’s behavior can be very gradual. They’re also masters at hiding discomfort making it even harder to spot problems. If you notice any of the following signs you need to get your kitty checked out as soon as possible.

Spatial disorientation.

This can include forgetting where the litter tray and food bowls are, or getting stuck in corners of the house. My previous cat reached a very ripe old age of 20, but suffered confusion in her final days. I’d often find her sitting in corners just staring blankly at the wall.

If you find your cat acting in this strange manor take it as a warning sign. You may think she’s just resting in an odd place at first, but if this becomes a regular thing you can be certain it’s more serious.

Becoming very vocal

Some cats are naturally vocal, but an increase in vocalisation may indicate a neurological problem such as dementia. Crying at night could mean your kitty wants reassurance and feels disorientated.

Soiling in inappropriate places such as the bed or outside the litter tray could mean your cat feels confused. As I previously mentioned forgetfulness can be a sign of cognitive dysfunction.

Notable changes in your cat’s behavior

If your kitty shows a change in behavior it may be something’s upset her, or it could be a more worrying issue. The best idea is to keep an eye on her and see if it continues. Aggressiveness towards other pets or family members is upsetting to see. Your cat doesn’t realise what’s going on, in exactly the same way as a human suffering from dementia.

Strange changes in activity

If you notice your cat is sleeping a lot less, and wandering aimlessly, this may be a sign of cognitive dysfunction or dementia. Reduced activity and avoiding social interaction are also signs to be noted. Sleeping a lot more than usual may also be cause for concern.

Can dementia be cured?

Sadly, there’s no cure for either humans or cats yet. However, there are drugs available that may help manage the condition. Keeping your cat comfortable and safe is about all you can do. Supplements as I mentioned may help your kitty, but once dementia becomes advanced there is little hope.

Seizures in older cats-why you shouldn’t panic

Watching your cat suffer a seizure is very distressing. You feel helpless and a feeling of panic washes over you. However, as scary as it looks, your cat will probably recover very fast. A seizure is simply a result of abnormal activity in the brain.

How do I know if my cat is having a seizure?

Typically, a cat will collapse on the floor and go very stiff. It will make jerky, uncontrolled muscle movements which could last up to 5 minutes. Seizures are typically seen more in older cats, just as in elderly humans.

What can I do to help my cat?

Your cat will be unconscious while having a seizure so be very careful handling her. Move her to a safe place away from obstacles such as furniture. If you have any other pets in your household, keep them out of the way. It may upset them and you want your cat to recover in a calm, private space.

What causes seizures in cats?

The most common cause of seizures is brain damage. This is most often the result of a stroke. It’s exactly the same in people, and in some cases may trigger further episodes. While seizures are quite rare in cats, they can be controlled with medication.

As long as your cat’s seizure lasts under 5 minutes and is a one off event, she may not need any further treatment. Your vet will want to determine the cause though, so expect a few tests including blood and ct scan.

Signs your cat may have had a stroke

While strokes are fairly uncommon in cats, better diagnostic tools are able to determine them. You’d soon notice a person having a stroke as you’d typically see their mouth droop to one side. In cats however,it’s slightly different. Some of the following signs may indicate a stroke, and if you notice any you should see your vet as soon as possible.

  • Unsteadiness when walking due to one side of the body being affected
  • Falling over
  • Head tilt
  • Circling, though this can also be the result of anxiety
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal eye movement
  • Unequal pupil size
  • Seizures

What causes a stroke in cats?

Causes of strokes in cats are very similar to strokes found in people. High blood pressure, and heart disease being the most common. Brain cancer and liver disease are other possible causes. There are two types of stroke. Ischemic and hemorrhagic. The first is caused by a blood clot, and the second or hemorrhagic is the result of a burst blood vessel.

One thing worth noting is cats often make far better recoveries from a stroke than people. Your cat may look in bad shape but give it a few weeks and your kitty will likely have made a full recovery. In some cases permanent brain damage can result in seizures. Don’t panic as they can be managed. A small number of cats don’t get better, and if your cat is very elderly and frail, recovery may not be as good.

How common are brain tumors in cats and can they be treated?

Fortunately, brain tumors are fairly rare in cats, but they do occur. Treatments can and do work in many cases, so it’s vital to get your cat checked by a vet if you notice any of the following signs;

  • circling
  • Bumping into walls
  • Loss of vision
  • Vocalising
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity in the neck and head area
  • Pacing
  • Head tilting

Your vet will do a series of tests to determine the problem including x rays, blood, and mri. Depending on the age of your cat and her general health, surgery may be the ideal option. Chemotherapy may also be included in treatment.

You never know when your cat will get sick as illness can occur at any age. It’s always good to have peace of mind by insuring your pet. Vet bills can be astronomical, especially with conditions such as brain tumors and cancer.

Can supplements protect your cat’s brain?

As you’ve discovered, your cat’s brain is very similar to yours in many ways. Ensuring your kitty gets a diet high in antioxidants may help prevent many illnesses and support brain function. This is why you should avoid cheap bargain brand cat foods. Some may lack essential nutrients your kitty needs, including taurine.

Mauna koa naturals multivitamin supplement contains a broad range of vitamins and minerals, and is advertised as supporting total health. Vitamin supplements aren’t a miracle cure, and can take up to 3 months for any effects to show. Always ask your vets advice if you’re unsure about supplementing your pet’s diet.

Mauna koa nuturals can be mixed in with your kitty’s food making it easy to give. We all know how hard it is to give your cat pills! Though it has a 4.5 star rating, all the reviewers are dog owners. However, it is advertised as being suitable for both cats and dogs.

Are neurological problems with cats treatable?

As you’ve discovered, there are quite a few neurological problems cats can suffer from. If your cat is in her senior years she is at greater risk of developing health problems. It’s exactly the same with elderly people. All the problems we’ve covered in this post can be managed in most cases. Brain tumors may be curable with surgery, but this all depends on the size, and if your cat is strong enough to endure treatment.

If you’ve experienced neurological problems with cats I’d love to hear about them. I know how heartbreaking it is to lose a cat as a result of them. In a very old cat it’s often a combination of several health problems with brain disorder being just one of them.

Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)

22 thoughts on “Neurological Problems With Cats (Symptoms And Treatments)”

  1. My 12-year-old female kitty is unable to use her hind legs. She’s apparently lost control of her bladder. Has had blood work (no diabetes or discernible disease), x-rays with no real abnormality. She drags herself with her front legs, tries to use the litter box (which is now a large cookie sheet), she purrs, rolls over for loving and does not appear to be in pain. She’s been on an antibiotic, Prednisone and a med to help with mobility for the past 3 weeks. She was fairly recently switched to a metabolic dry food, which she routinely throws up. Other dry foods seem to be okay. I hate to give up on her, but she’s not getting better. Any thoughts?

    • Thank you Mary:) It sounds like you need to get your cat urgently checked again by your vet. Cats are very good at hiding pain so it’s very hard to tell unless you get her examined. Purring is a good sign, but could mean she’s self soothing. The vibration of a cat’s purr has healing qualities, and sick cats have been known to purr in order to help themselves get better. You mentioned a change in diet which could also be part of the problem. Again, you’d need advice on this. I sincerely hope your poorly kitty gets well soon:)

  2. We have been adopted by an elderly neglected little lady. Don’t think she has been ‘abused’ just neglected for at least a couple of years. Vet reckons she’s about 15. She was scrawny and scruffy when she moved in. Bad, long term dental problems probably added to this (she had to lose the remains of nine teeth!) Anyway when she sits beside me I occasionally notice her head gives a little shudder for a couple of seconds and the whiskers twitch. Vet couldn’t spot anything physical but having had to take her to the vet several times in short succession trying to get the obvious sorted wh have been reluctant to pursue this till she is well settled . Any suggestions?

    • Hi John, thank you for comment:) I’m really not sure what could be making her head shudder, but if it gets worse, or she develops other symptoms you should consider getting further tests done. It definitely sounds like a neurological problem, but hopefully, nothing serious.

  3. Hello, I’m very concerned about my cat’s aggressive behavior. It started years ago after we flew from California to Hawaii and she had to be in the cargo area during the flight. She soon began showing signs of very aggressive behavior towards me. She would lung at me and bite and claw me drawing blood and scratches. This has continued all through her life at various times. She is a feral cat that I adopted at 3 weeks old. She is now 13 years and the behavior continues with no warning. She doesn’t like other cat’s at all, as she hasn’t had much contact with them her entire life. She is now an indoor cat. She get’s very upset when she sees other cat’s outside and if I walk by her she will attack me. She seems to loose her mind and turns into a crazy cat. She will also come after me until I distract her or put a blanket over her. I’m very concerned and not sure what to do. Your help would be appreciated. Thank you

    • Hi Deborah, it sounds like it could be neurological issue given her age. Sadly my previous 18 year old cat suffered a similar problem though not as bad as yours. My advice would be to get her examined by a vet. It could possibly be that she’s in pain as well and that’s why she attacks you. Try getting a Feliway plugin diffuser as they’ve been shown to help calm cats. You can also buy it in spray form. Not all cats are sensitive to it though. Take care

  4. We rescued a six-week old kitten, who is now 10 years old. He spends the days outside and comes home for meals and to bed down at night. He started having trouble climbing the backyard fence, and now can barely walk without falling over. He gets stiff, with legs and claws extended, hissing, with a blank stare. We have never owned a cat before. We took him to a vet, who said he had some sort of inflammation, blood values were normal. He gets all natural foods, but had also been known to catch a bird or small mammal. Any help you can offer would be appreciated.

    • Hi Cathy, it certainly sounds like there’s something neurological going on with your cat. I’d get another vet to look at him and maybe run some tests. It may be a good idea to keep him inside if he has mobility problems as he could fall and hurt himself. Well done on feeding your cat natural foods, but maybe check he’s getting enough taurine in his food. I don’t think catching the odd rodent or bird will harm him as it’s a cat’s natural instinct. Mine brings home the occasional gift as well:) Thanks for reaching out, and hope your poor kitty gets better

  5. My 12 year old Manx cat had a spasm in her back legs this morning! She kicks her hind legs for a couple of seconds and then seems fine. She’s a little wobbly for less than 10 seconds afterward. This has happened once before about 2 weeks ago.

    • Hi Sadie, I would keep a close eye on her and see if it continues. My previous cat wasn’t Manx, but suffered neurological problems when she reached 16 years old. It could be nothing to worry about, but definitely see your vet if it continues. Best wishes and thanks for stopping by:)

    • Hi Arley, sometimes cats do howl for no reason, and often just because they’re vocal. It’s a bit like living with a chatty person! However, if you’re concerned it may be a good idea to get her checked over by a vet just in case. My previous cat was very vocal and used to howl at one of her stuffed toys. I think she thought it was her baby and also carried it around in her mouth! Thanks for stopping by:)

  6. Had my 14 year old feline (whose been in great health and very agile / active) develop excessive thirst issues. Had vet check him (no diabetes, adrenal, nor thyroid issues), noticed eye issues with lack of response to light. (His eyes seem large / dialated). Vet thought perhaps a neurological issue (brain tumor?) Thought was to let him live his life without extensive neurological eval. Would appreciate your insight.


    • Hi Jenny, I had the same issue with my previous cat. She was 17 years old and showing neurological problems such as staring blankly at walls, or walking into objects as if she didn’t see them. The vet pointed a torch at her eyes, but like you, found no response. Crystal, lived for a while longer, but sadly, kidney disease and other health problems took their toll. I would just look after him and be mindful of his condition. As long as he has some quality of life he could live for a few more years. I know how worrying it is, but as long as he remains agile and in otherwise good health I’d leave it. Neurological tests can be very expensive, and unless you’re covered by insurance you could be looking at hundreds of pounds or more. Thank you for your input, an wishing you and your cat the very best:)

  7. Our baby is really sick. 10 year old spayed maine coon mix the picture of health a month ago. She got a respiratory infection, I think from drinking standing water. She is an indoor-backyard only cat and does not touch other cats with a 10 foot pole. She was making a slower recovery than we wanted, so we went to the vet. They gave us the antibiotic Doxycycline. No probiotics, no warnings about the side effects. Within about 10 days, she just stopped eating and drinking completely. Then she developed serious neurological issues within a week of not eating enough. She is off balance, can barely walk, vision problems, spacial problems. Blood work, urinalysis, and x-rays do not show us the problem. The MRI is $3,000 (USD) and she will have to wait for about 8 hours at the emergency vet to get it done. I will do anything for this cat, but I want to do the right thing. Have you ever heard of such a thing happening from antibiotics? Is there a chance she will pull through?

    • Oh, Apple, I’m so sorry to hear about your beautiful Maine Coon. I must admit, I’ve never heard of such a severe reaction to antibiotics. I know people can suffer bad reactions as these drugs are very strong. Unfortunately, vets bills can be high, and without insurance can eat into your savings. I sincerely hope she pulls through and I’m sure your vet will do everything possible. I know how upsetting it is when a pet gets sick as they are family. Sending you best wishes:) Kathy

  8. Hello, my cat Gucci is 11 y.o. now. She has been urinating in her sleep for about a month now. As of today she had 3 appointments at the vet office. First they found that she has a UTI infection and was given clavamox (drops for 10 days). At her follow up appt (two weeks later) they found she still has a UTI infection and gave her a shot of another antibiotic (don’t remember the name) and did a blood test which was absolutely normal. She still urinates at night. Today was her 3rd appt (two week later again) and they said that they will send her urine to the lab for culture. But the doctor also said she might have a neurological problem as she walks funny. Few months ago I’ve noticed that she stopped jumping on chairs or couches and doesn’t run anymore and even can’t keep her balance sometimes. At that time I took her to the vet, but they didn’t see anything wrong with her. So now the vet suggested to see a neurologist if I want to continue figuring out what could be the problem. As I understand this could be very expensive and hard to determine what is wrong with my cat. Do you have any suggestions/recommendations/advise? Thank you

    • Hi Elena, thank you for sharing your story about Gucci. It’s very difficult to know what to suggest. My previous cat suffered neurological problems as well as urinary infections. She was 17 years old and the vet couldn’t do much to save her. In my cat’s case I have a feeling it was a brain tumour causing her loss of balance , but Gucci’s symptoms could be related to something else. I think all you can do is give her lots of love and follow your vet’s advice. As long as she’s eating and not sitting with her head down all the time you should be ok. Yes, a neurologist will be expensive but if you can afford it at least you’d know what’s wrong. Veterinary medicine is constantly advancing just like human medicine. Many diseases that couldn’t be treated can now. I wish you luck and hope Gucci will be ok:)

  9. I have a 1 year old cat who contracted Distemper when he was about 5 weeks old. Since the initial illness he has been ill twice when the distemper seemed to come out of remission. He walks with the help of a wheelchair and eats like a horse, and is gettingstronger every day. My main concerns are that his shakes uncontrollably when he gets excited and he has some sort strange reflexive biting. Any advice?

    • Hi, thank you for sharing this story about your cat. How sad he caught distemper as I thought the disease had been eradicated. Also, how wonderful he can use a walking aid. It’s always inspiring to hear of such stories. With regard to your questions you need to see your vet for advice. It could be he’ll recover over time, and the fact he has a hearty appetite must be a good sign. Wishing you all the best and hope your cat makes a full recovery:)

  10. I have a 11 year old main coon. He has been indoors the last couple years since we moved. He has developed an odd habit of chewing on his leg and/or his side. Just chewing the fur, but very quickly and intently. It is near impossible to get him to stop. It seems like a nervous thing? He is also extremely sensitive on his back towards his tail, and if this area is touched he will immediately start chewing his leg. It is very odd, but so far he hasn’t penetrated the skin.

    • Hi Lauri, it’s possible your Main Coon has dermitis or other skin infection. If the skin looks sore you should get your vet to take a look. He or she would probably prescribe ointment or antibiotics. Hope this has helped:)


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