Why was my kitty spazzing out in her sleep?
July 14, 2006 1:49 PM   Subscribe

What the hell was happening to my cat last night?

I was having a sleepless night on the couch when Isabella, the cat, curled up on my chest and went to sleep. About a half hour later, she started having facial twitches and was kicking vigorously. This is normally not something that I worry about and chalk up to a type of cat sleepwalking. The kicking and twitching got unusually vigorous so I tried to wake her up. Normally she is very easy to wake up. However, she not only didn't wake up but she was as limp as a rag doll for several minutes. Eventually she came around and immediately went back to sleep. So, was she just in a particularly heavy sleep state or should I be worried that she has some sort of seizure disorder?
posted by echolalia67 to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My cat (and dog) do it all the time. Oh - and you probably do too (maybe with less kicking)! It's called deep REM sleep, i.e. dreaming.
posted by matty at 1:53 PM on July 14, 2006

She was off chasing dream mice. Or dogs. Whatever it is that cats chase in their sleep.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 1:58 PM on July 14, 2006

My vet said cats don't get epilepsy as a rule. My cat had seizures (which were a bit more violent than what you are describing), they did x-rays and found tumors on his heart and liver. When he came out of it, he did go limp and go straight to sleep. If you're really worried, at least call your vet and describe what happened. The vet will either tell you it's nothing or ask you to bring your cat in.
posted by clarkstonian at 1:59 PM on July 14, 2006

The limp as a ragdoll part is a little weird to me. If we disturb one of our cats when they're dreaming they usually snap to full awareness.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:11 PM on July 14, 2006

Cats do have dream chases, but you would be able to wake them up.

If the cat had her back arched, feet really extended, and then went limp afterwards, that's a good description of a seizure. Idiopathic (meaning "we don't know what causes it") seizures are not uncommon in cats - google it. If the cat was more awake, she probably would have been acting strangely just prior and just after the seizure, but perhaps those symptoms were masked by sleep.

My cat did this once: started whining and walking funny, then just fell over on her side (scary!), arched her back totally in a grand mal seizure and kicked for about 20 seconds, then slowly recovered. She was very disoriented for a while and slept most of the day. It never happened again, and as far as I know, didn't indicate any problem.

If the seizures continue, you should see a vet, there may be something they can do about it (it may have a cause). If they don't, don't worry about it, the seizure itself doesn't do harm. It's just an indication that something in their brain went haywire for a bit, which might or might not be an indicator of a real ongoing problem.
posted by jellicle at 2:20 PM on July 14, 2006

That happens to my cat. She'll twitch and twitch in her sleep. I always try to wake her up and she is always totally limp, her neck is like spaghetti. Eventually she'll snap awake and everything is fine. This has been the norm for as long as I can remember with her, so I am pretty sure nothing is wrong. I am pretty sure nothing is wrong with your cat, either.
posted by necessitas at 2:27 PM on July 14, 2006

Half of me says it's normal, and the other half says kittie seizures. I think both you AND necessitas should take your cats to the vet.

(It is never difficult for me to rouse my cat).
posted by muddgirl at 2:35 PM on July 14, 2006

I had an epilectic cat, but her seizures went like this:

- wake up from deep sleep, immediately begin chasing tail
- spin around in circles on floor and fight with invisible enemy
- void from all orifices while spinning
- slowly calm down, while still spaced out (unresponsive to voice or touch)
- fall asleep again

Vet said there wasn't a lot they could do. They said it was grand mal, though she didn't do the back arching or other stiff poses.

You should probably check, just to be sure - it can't hurt.
posted by Liosliath at 3:00 PM on July 14, 2006

My cat does this "limp as a rag doll" thing too. I have no idea and it kind of freak me out.
posted by 31d1 at 5:43 PM on July 14, 2006

Also, when he does "snap to" sometimes he's irritated, and hisses.
posted by 31d1 at 5:44 PM on July 14, 2006

My parent's previous cat and dog both did this all the time. It seemed pretty normal at the time, and we just said it was 'dreaming'. The dog you could wake from it, the cat you could not (besides, waking a sleep animal for no reason is unfair anyway).
posted by wackybrit at 12:52 AM on July 15, 2006

Yeah, dreaming. Probably dancing the fandango with Carmen Miranda.
posted by bifter at 4:44 AM on July 15, 2006

The 'limp as a ragdoll' part sounds to me a lot like sleep paralysis, which in humans happens right after waking up from REM sleep,where dreaming occurs.
posted by Raven13 at 10:06 AM on July 15, 2006

My felines are split on this one. They both have night terrors (or at least *very* violent happy kitty killing dreams). The oldest wakes up like a plank - every muscle tensed. The little guy is more like how you describe however, you can roll him around during his initial wakeup. He's been to the vet and got a clean bill of health, so I wouldn't worry too much. If it happens consistently, you can reduce your anxiety and head to the vet for a checkup.
posted by Vantech at 12:25 PM on July 15, 2006

I had a cat with severe seizures, i adopted her and a few days later she woke my husky and myself, we were scared to death cause of the noise she was making. She had them when she was sleeping. All the vets said they could do nothing, then i found one who said he could try phenobarital for it, it worked and she lived to be 21 years old. And an incredible wonderful cat she turned out to be.
posted by cellar at 9:22 PM on July 15, 2006

I've read all these answers and found them informative, but it's just deep sleep. IANA(Vet) but I'm 99% confident there isn't anything wrong with your cat unless this starts happening regularly. My cat did it once and I thought he was dead, so I brought out Ye Olde Spray Bottle and that woke him up.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 4:57 AM on July 16, 2006

*edit "was dead" => "was dying"
posted by Señor Pantalones at 4:58 AM on July 16, 2006

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