What's life like with an epileptic cat?
December 31, 2013 2:38 PM   Subscribe

The cat the we are fostering to adopt just had a very scary seizure. She may have epilepsy. What's life with an epileptic cat like? I'm interested in treatment costs, medication, frequency of blood work, incontinence issues, cat quality of life, or anything that might be useful.

Since this was kitty's first seizure, they aren't diagnosing her with epilepsy yet or putting her on any medications right away. Luckily, we were able to have her seen by a cat neurologist and some awesome vets, so I'm trusting their "wait and see" approach for now.

obligatory adorable Christmas cat photo
posted by fermezporte to Pets & Animals (4 answers total)
My friend's cat has epilepsy. It takes one pill a day and is on a special diet she gets from the vet. It is a healthy 18 year old cat still. She gets blood work done once a year. I am unsure of the cost but after the initial scare and a few seizures in the beginning the cat and her have a nice life together.
posted by kanata at 2:57 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

We had an epileptic Dalmatian when I was growing up. He got a phenobarbital with his food every day. I never saw him seize myself, but towards then end he was apparently taking a very high dose to keep it under control. Epilepsy didn't kill him, either.

I imagine with a kitty it's quite the same -- no big deal considering the treatments out there.

PS. Pretty kitty!
posted by mibo at 3:15 PM on December 31, 2013

Hi there! I have a cat with epilepsy. He developed it out of the blue one day. His first seizure was very small - we thought it was sort of a complicated sneeze. Within a few days, he was having recurrent grand mal seizures. This was terrifying at first.

He went right on phenobarbital. He takes a dose of phenobarbital morning and evening daily now. Initially we were told that if he went a couple of months without a seizure, we could wean him off the pill, but we have not been that lucky. Every 6 weeks or so he has a seizure ranging from mild to grand mal. But the rest of the time, the pills control his seizures perfectly. He does have blood work to check for any liver damage, which can be a complication from using phenobarb for a long time. So far he is fine! He's about 8-10 (shelter cat, we aren't sure) and has had epilepsy for 4+ years now.

Other than the occasional seizure and the daily pills, he's a totally normal cat and we love him. He eats regular cat food - dry kibble we get from the pet store, it's called MaxCat. Here are the things I can think of that are different from owning a non-epilectic cat:

1. The pills. Phenobarb is not that expensive. it costs us about $50, I think, for a 6-month prescription.
2. Really regular vet visits. You can't let this slide because they need an annual recheck in order to issue the prescription. You also want to get that bloodwork I mentioned.
3. Rabies shots: your doctor may or may not want to give the cat a rabies shot because it can interact weirdly with epilepsy. Ours does not but our older vet was on the fence about it.
4. Cat sitting is the biggest complication. We have to use a bonded cat sitter who charges an arm and a leg, because that's the only sitter we can find who will give meds. So taking vacations has become a LOT more expensive (2 visits a day are required). I wish we had a friend who didn't mind giving meds, but we really don't. It is a bit of a risk to try to dose someone else's cat, and the risk of getting bitten/scratched is there. Another option would be medical boarding, but we have never done that.
5. Learning to be hands-off during seizures. It's awful to see a seizure, but as much as you want to pick up and comfort the cat, you shouldn't. If I'm around when one happens, I stand guard to make sure he doesn't get hurt on something, and sometimes move him out of harm's way, but it's possible to injure him by trying to help, so it's best to just let it happen. After a seizure, the cat is essentially blind for a short time. He's panting, scared, and can't see, so he's on edge. Sometimes he'll howl a little. This phase passes but during it, he really doesn't want to be prodded at or handled. Once he snaps back to normal (remarkably swiftly!), he's usually ravenously hungry for whatever reason. So we go refill his kibble after witnessing a seizure.
6. Because seizures can come at any odd time, he sometimes has one while sitting on a bed or couch and he falls off. This means he gets odd bumps, scrapes and bruises that just show up - it's a little weird, but sometimes we'll get home and notice he is roughed up from a seizure he had while we were out. Just give him a good visual check every so often and treat as you would any other cut/scrape.
7. We time and track the seizures just so we're up on things in case there's a change. Our vet has said that anything under a minute is not cause for extra concern. We do have a syringe of Valium to use in case of a seizure that will not stop, but thankfully have never had to use it. I mark any seizures on the calendar so I can report how many we've seen and whether they're increasing or decreasing
8. Watch the cat for other things. At this late date we no longer think my cat might have a neoroligical issue or tumor - it would have become acute after a couple of years. He seems to just plain have epilepsy. But if the seizures change in nature, or you notice other neurological-type symptions, definitely mention those to your vet.
9. Non-obvious: keep his toenails really well clipped. When they seize up they tend to clench their toenails. Sometimes this means they get clawed into sheets and blankets, cushions, and rugs and can get twisted up into a terrible and potentially dangerous snarl. Keeping nails short helps prevent that.
10. I am sure you were already raising her as an indoor cat, but if not, this is definitely a condition that isn't adaptive for free-roaming cats.

Hope that helps. I hope you find this was just a juvenile seizure and they don't recur; but even if they do, seizures are definitely something it's not that hard to live with. I like knowing that the cat is getting a better life with us than he would have if he were out roaming in the world, where this condition would probably have been a death sentence. And in all other respects, he's completely normal. I hope you and the cat continue to do well!
posted by Miko at 6:20 PM on December 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

We had a cat who was provisionally diagnosed with epilepsy. In our case it made pretty much no difference to cat care as the seizures were infrequent enough that the vet felt there was no need to medicate. In fact we only ever saw two seizures, although the vet thought it was likely that she had had others when we weren't around to see. She lived quite happily to 15 and died of unrelated causes.
posted by gnimmel at 3:17 AM on January 1, 2014

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