If you think your cat has had a stroke, go to the emergency clinic ASAP

If you think your cat has had a stroke, it’s usually less severe than in humans

If you think your cat has had a stroke, chances are it’s less severe than  in humans, and they tend to be localized. While both male and female felines can have a stroke, they are not all that common and most occur in  outdoor cats that are subject to trauma, parasites, and toxins like rodenticides, pest control chemicals intended to kill rodents..

When a cat has had a stroke, the biological causes are the same as for humans. The blood supply to the brain is interrupted. An ischemic stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted, often caused by a clot or other disruption to a major artery leading to the brain. The oxygen level is momentarily cut off, causing the stroke, and ensuring brain damage.

The hemorrhagic stroke is triggered by a vein bursting in the cat’s head. Depending upon the part of the brain affected will determine the symptoms and ensuring therapies needed for recovery.

Causes vary if a cat has had a stroke

The causes of cat stroke vary from brain injury to an accident or poisoning. A stroke may be a side-effect of an existing medical condition such as diabetes, hypertension, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, chronic renal failure, hyperadrenocorticism, liver disease and internal parasitic infections that result in the migration of larvae into the middle cerebral artery.

However, their symptoms are different from humans, so much so that for years it was assumed that cats did not suffer from strokes. . According to petinfo.com, if the cat tilts its head to one side, and has difficulties moving his head to the other side, it’s symptomatic of a stroke.  But unlike in humans, the symptoms do not intensify after 24 hours.

A stroke can also cause one of the pupils of the eyes to be more dilated than the other.

Other signs  can include one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of Balance. The cat quickly loses balance quickly, falls or walks in circles
  • Ataxia. The cat looses the ability to coordinate his muscles, stumbling from side to side and unable to perform ordinary tasks like eating, walking, jumping, running.
  • Confusion. The cat is not totally aware of his surroundings which is not characteristic of a healthy cat. The cat may get confused and be unable to find his way around familiar surroundings.
  • Behavior Changes. The cat may seek more or less affection, be apathetic and lethargic, sleeping more.
  • Lack of Energy. Activities that normally attracted the cat’s attention are now ignored.
  • Loss of appetite. The cat is not interested in food. This can be caused by the ensuring confusion or nausea and could persist up to a few days.
  • Weight loss. Lack of appetite, nausea or even vomiting can cause the cat not to eat and thus lose weight.

PetWave.com has some relatively extensive information about strokes and cats. Their site says to also look for depression, disorientation, uncontrollable circling, seizures, blindness, aggression, vocalization and/or other signs of altered state of mind.

Indoor cats are much less likely to suffer a stroke than outdoor cats, mostly because they are not so likely to encounter trauma, rodenticides, or botflies (Cuterebra) a cause of the aberrant larval migration.

PetWave.com states most feline strokes are diagnosed during the summer in the northeastern United States or in southeastern Canada.

It wasn’t so long ago that it was thought that cats did not experience strokes. As modern veterinary medicine develops more advanced technology, strokes are increasingly being diagnosed in cats

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If you think your cat has had a stroke, go to the vet or emergency clinic immediately. The veterinarian most likely will take a blood sample for a complete blood count, serum biochemistry profile, urinalysis, or x-rays to reveal what caused the stroke.  The best way to accurately diagnose a stroke in cats is through a computed tomography (CT) scan and/or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which may only be available at larger emergency veterinarian clinics or teaching hospitals. That may require you to transport the cat to another facility for the best prognosis. These imaging tests will determine what area of the brain was affected allowing the veterinarian to prescribe the best physical therapy to help the cat get back to himself as soon as possible.

The goals of therapy include minimizing brain swelling and associated tissue damage, treating the underlying cause of the stroke , and  rehabilitating the cat’s cognitive and physical abilities. PetWave.com states most cats will return to normal within two to three-week, but it may take longer. While a recurrence is rare, it can happen. And while most cats make a full recovery, permanent disability is a possibility.

I for one know a number of people who have had strokes, and the road to recovery can be brutal, gaining from 100 percent to none of the abilities they had prior to the stroke. It’s distressing to learn that cats can have strokes, as well. If you have a story about a cat that’s had a stroke, please share by posting here.


Category: Cats, Pet health

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BJ Bangs is an established journalist, photographer, and an aspiring author. She loves everything about cats, including writing about them.

25 Responses to If you think your cat has had a stroke, get emergency care immediately

  1. Danni Hurley says:

    My 18 year old cat had a stroke, but we didn’t know for at least 15 hours–our housesitter had left early and our flight home was delayed. Upon returning home from the airport, we saw her lying completely limp in her bed, and basically unresponsive, but alive. We immediately took her to the vet where they gave her pain medication, took blood (all levels were the same as previous; she always has elevated kidney levels) and gave her fluids overnight (she was dehydrated due to paralysis; she wasn’t able to get to her water, which she desperately needs because of her kidney problems). In the morning she was purring and responsive, could move her limbs but still very subdued. We’ve had her home now for 4 days and she is eating, drinking, and peeing, (not yet pooping) but she now can’t stand on her own, though she can stretch her legs. We are basically carrying her from bed to litter box and are giving her 24-hour attention to help her to the toilet and feed her (it’s a bit of a guessing game determining what she wants). My question is: given her age and the length of time she lacked treatment for the stroke, (she’s not in pain, only on prednisone), is it even possible she will ever walk again? How long should we give it to find out? We are considering what to do long-term if she doesn’t recover. Thanks so much!

    • BJ says:

      Thanks for your questions. I would consult with your vet to see what her prognosis is to walk again, and how long it can take.
      Cats don’t react the same to stroke as humans and they tend to bounce back quickly. With the prednisone it will help her feel better.
      It’s a really hard decision to know what to do when your cat is ill. Consulting your vet should give you some of the answers you need; however, sometimes, it is up to us and the cat. One of my cats has severe arthritis. I decided to to try acupuncture cause I can’t stand to see her in so much pain. She’s doing relatively well, but I think she knows it helps her.
      Cats have a way of letting you know when it’s time to let go. Listen to your cat. Tune into her expressions, purring and meows.

  2. KFP says:

    My 14.5 year old cat woke me up at 2am a few weeks ago with his pupils so large that his eyes looked entirely black, drooling, panting, and yowling while holding is nose to the floor. I immediately knew something was not ok and it was beyond me to figure it out. I immediately took him to the ER vet and they determined it was probably a vascular event/blood clot (stroke). He was given calming meds and anti-nausea meds along with oxygen for a few hours to stabilize him — and blood thinners. They said he was blind. They didn’t know if he would make it through the night. In the morning, he was stable, but still blind. He wouldn’t poo or pee at all for 3 days after he came home from the vet. He also seemed confused and not his usual self. He wasn’t interested in being near me anymore. His hind legs were weak and he could only walk about 5-7 steps before sitting down. It has been more than a week now and he is basically back to his normal old self. He is doing everything normally besides seeing. He remains at least partially/mostly blind, but is happy and doing great in all other ways.
    You never know with cats, there’s always hope, even when it seems by all logic that there shouldn’t be. I can’t believe he’s doing so well after such a crazy event. We will be following up with a cardiologist next week to ensure we didn’t miss a heart problem or need to treat anything else.

    • BJ Bangs says:

      I hope your kitty gets better. Even if he’s blind, he can still smell and hear which means he can have some real good quality of life. My Tuxedo has some kidney issues and he is starting to yowl. It’s so sad to listen to. Keep me posted on how your cat is doing.

  3. Nicki says:

    My 3 yr old cat had a neurological event 2 weeks ago. His right front/hind legs were suddenly very weak and he seemed to be turning constantly to the left. I think he also lost vision in his right eye. We took him to the vet within 12 hours and after blood panel, mri and csf test he was diagnosed as having a stroke due to cuterebra (parasite) that migrated through his sinus cavity into his brain (gross).
    After 3 days on anti-parasite drug, 2 weeks on antibiotics, and 2 weeks (so far) on prednisone he is about 90% back physically but his personality is a little subdued. Nowhere near as feisty as he used to be. Hopefully he’ll continue to recover and be fully back to his old self soon.

  4. George says:

    My 11 year old cat lost her appetite and was eating very little. I took her to the vet were she had ultrasound Vet recommended I take her to a specialist for further evaluation. The specialist recommended non-surgical biopsy. Minutes after the procedure she had a stroke and died less than an hour later. Strokes can be fatal!

  5. Evelyn says:

    My chocolate point rescue girl had a stroke this morning at 6am. She had went to the litter box to use the loo while I was making my cereal. I closed the cupboard door slightly where the litter box is as it was rather stinky! I heard a kind of bang then I found her outside the cupboard, her head was wobbling and her back legs had given way. I put her in the cat bed and there she stayed until she got to the vet at 3pm today. She has been kept in and we will find out after 6pm if she’s made it or not. She was such a lovely girl, so I hope she will be fine. It sounds so serious…a stroke. I will never forget how she looked when I found her, I was so scared as I’ve never seen anything like this before. Her sight seems to have gone too. Bless her…I will keep you posted

  6. Elyse says:

    Awesome! Its really amazing piece of writing, I have got much clear idea on the topic of from this piece
    of writing.

  7. Toni Gandel says:

    My 15 year old indoor/outdoor cat had a stroke 3 weeks ago. I brought him to the vet immediately and it was confirmed. My vet administered some routine tests and gave my cat intravenous saline and put him on an antibiotic just in case of infection. Some of my cats symptoms were a loss of vision in one eye and the other eye seems that it is diminished. He tilts his head to one side and his balance is not perfect, he can’t jump and his balance is improving but not perfect. He also was also incontinent for the first 2 1/2 weeks, only pooing in the litter box, but thankfully, that is fully resolved and he’s using the litter box as he should. The vet recommended that he not be given any dry cat food, so he is eating a high quality canned food which he continues to enjoy. At this time, he seems less confused and scared than he was initially and is still very affectionate to me. I continue to hope he will improve over time and have a few more happy years before he goes peacefully in his sleep at a ripe old age. Isn’t that just the dream of every pet owner though. It’s been difficult but we’ve taken it day by day and I’m so glad I didn’t give up on him.

    • Toni Gandel says:

      I would like to add that I brought my cat back to the vet to try to determine the cause for the incontinence and the vet took an x-ray to check for kidney stones, there were none, and did a urinalysis by a lab which came back negative for any UTI. Without any clear understanding of what caused it, we can only conclude that it was cognitive or neurological impairment.

      • BJ says:

        Sometimes the vets don’t have all the answers. You may be right hat it was a neurological impairment. Just like with people,
        sometimes, strokes can be hard to diagnose.

    • BJ says:

      We’re glad you didn’t give up on him, either. Hopefully, your kitty will continue to make improvements.

  8. Mary says:

    My 17 year old kitty had what I think was a TIA tonight. Started hearing weird thumping sounds behind where I was sitting and my other cats started to act weird and stare at him. When I jumped up and went to him he was trying to walk and kept falling over, staggering like he was drunk. By the time I separated him from the others and called the emergency vet he could walk normal again. If he stays ok tonight I’ll take him to my vet first thing in the morning, if not we’ll go tonight. I had him in the hospital for a few days about 6 months ago to run all sorts of tests due to frequent vomiting. They said they found nothing, but that he wouldn’t eat, drink, or use the litter box there. He immediately did all three once back home.

    I’m afraid to go to sleep now. I’ve been dreading this day as I know he’s getting older. He was 13 when I rescued him, but I still can’t imagine life without my “old man ” Furface around.

  9. Tlo says:

    My cat little kitty fell down two stairs and was wobbeling back and forth. When I went to console her I noticed her eyes bugging out. This lasted for about two minutes. Now she seems back to her normal self. She is 8 years old.

    • BJ says:

      Hope your kitty is still doing ok. Kitties have a remarkable ability to bounce back. Maybe that’s why they say they have 9 lives

  10. Great article, totally what I needed.

    My website; veterinary hospital eugene

  11. […] It's a darn shame she didn't let you take her to the vet. I just did a google and discovered that cat strokes aren't usually as serious and permanent as people strokes. Here's an article written by a vet that has two videos, one of a cat shortly after stroke and another of a cat 5 weeks after stroke. Feline Stroke: It DOES Exist and Can Have a Good Prognosis This article says most cats return to normal in 2 to 3 weeks but some cats take longer. If you think your cat has had a stroke, get emergency care immediately | BJ Bangs: Paws For Reflecti… […]

  12. Great info, BJ. I’m sure if this is true for cats it must be for dogs also. I’m off to find out the signs.

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Catpersonable BJ Bangs

At Paws for Reflection, we're serious about cats, writing about cat health, cat rescue and cat news. We delve into why cats are the absolute best soul mates. We spring in a little humor with lots of travel tips, photos and a few feline tales, making Paws for Reflection a must stop for cat information on the cat crazed Internet. BJ is an award-winning blogger/journalist, communications professional and photographer.

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