10 signs your cat has had a stroke

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

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, get emergency care immediately.

While chances are it’s less severe than in humans, they still need medical care.

Strokes in cats tend to be localized. While both male and female felines can have a stroke, they are not all that common. Keep in mind, a cat having a stroke will not always result in the cat’s death, nor permanent damage, you need to know why the cat had the stroke.

Most occur in  outdoor cats that are subject to:

  • Trauma
  • Parasites
  • Toxins like rodenticides, pest control chemicals designed to kill rodents (DCon and other forms of mouse or rodent poison is a very common accidental poison for dogs and cats. … Dogs and cats that eat the poisoned mouse also become poisoned and won’t show symptoms until they are in a critical veterinary emergency.)

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. The part of the brain affected will determine the symptoms and ensuring therapies needed for recovery.

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Causes of cat’s strokes vary

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.

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.

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Read more about cat having strokes.

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
  • 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.

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

If cat has had a stroke, go to emergency clinic ASAP

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

Most cats will return to normal within two to three-weeks, 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 zero to 100 percent of the abilities they had prior to the stroke. It’s distressing to learn that cats can have strokes, as well.

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40 responses to “If you think your cat has had a stroke, get emergency care immediately”

  1. Chano Avatar

    My 17 year old cat seems to have had a stroke last night. Found her laying on her side, couldn’t get up, very wobbly. No vets are available and the soonest I can get in is Monday (two days after). She seems to be a little better. She is drinking, and eats a little bit. Gave her some low fat organic chicken broth, which she loved. She manages to get to the litter box on her own (she went last night sometime). Any advice of what I can do until I can see a vet? Is it going to be too late?

    1. BJ Bangs Avatar
      BJ Bangs

      No, you should be fine. Unlike humans, cats should be ok. You can also check for emergency vet clinics.

  2. PMB Avatar

    My 17 yr old kitty had a stroke last night. Jumped up on the couch then acted like something spooked him. He fell over & couldn’t move. He started hissing. I laid him on floor & he started to swat then threw his arms up totally stiff. Started doing the
    Weird meowing like in the crate. Tried to crawl. Meowed very scared. Other cat was checking him out, I was petting him lightly cuz he seemed blind. Took about 4-5 minutes. Then he was walking, could see & hear. Was starving- so I gave him a can of food & he ate it all. Then he would walk just a few steps & collapse. He hid under bed all night. Morning got up & used his litter box, drank water, walked to me for light rub. He’s still being cautious & hiding under bed but seems better. About 18 hrs post event. I didn’t want to put him through the vet event. I know he has kidney disease. Praying he makes it…. ❤️

    1. BJ Bangs Avatar
      BJ Bangs

      Prayers for your kitty. Pay close attention, and if he gets worse, I’d suggest taking him to the vet. Some vets actually make house calls, which would be less stressful for kitty.

  3. Marcelle Avatar

    I suspect our feral cat has had a stroke although I am not certain and really cannot be since she has a horrible fear of hands and you cannot touch her. She is quite affectionate, rubbing against your legs or back if you sit next to her. She would play with me with da’bird toy in the warmer weather and came when you called. She has been living in a heated shelter outside out front door for years. I tried very hard to get her used to being petted but no good, and I cannot risk bringing her inside since I have 3 of my own (and a cockatiel). Several days ago she began to exhibit very disturbing symptoms – primarily weakness and stumbling and falling over. She is still eating and drinking and going to the bathroom, but she comes out of her box much less and when she does and she staggers and stumbles she looks up and me and cries and it breaks my heart. She is about 10 years old and I just don’t know what to do. My husband and I have spoken to the wonderful women who runs our local animal shelter and she said all we can really do is wait and see. I am also not certain it is not vestibular disease because she would have bouts where it appeared her hearing was not so great, and there were also times when she appeared to have some type of infection (fungal?) on the outside of her ears because the hair had all but vanished. But it always grew back. Since she cannot be handled I am at a complete loss as to what to do. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. BJ Bangs Avatar
      BJ Bangs


      My heart goes out to you. As you have other cats, I would suggest you ask your vet about what might be wrong. While the symptoms could be from a stroke, they well could be from something else. Is there a possibility she could have eaten a bad mouse, gotten into something in someone garbage, or ingested something that could be toxic? Even if you can’t take her in (You might be able to take some video or photos of her if you have a smart phone for them to quickly observe) Has she appeared to have lost alot of weight? If she has kidney disease, she would exhibit weakness? Feline leukemia is also common in outside cats. There are a whole host of possibilities that could be at hand, other than a stroke. IF there’s a feral cat organization in your area, you might ask them to consult with a veterinarian, as well. You are making the right choice by not bringing her inside, as you don’t want to put your cats at risk. But be sure to keep her warm, give her lots of water, and try to keep her eating. Keep me posted on how she’s doing.

  4. Susan Warr Avatar
    Susan Warr

    I’m pretty sure my 18 year old kitty had a stroke this morning. He can’t stand or walk without falling over. I have to hold him up in the litter box and bring his water to him. He had an appetite until about an hour ago when he vomited. I took him to the vet early this morning, about 4 hours after I started to see symptoms. (I’m disabled and have to wait on a ride to get around.)
    I am so scared. This cat is my child. He has been with me half of my life. I hope and pray he recovers. The vet drew some blood, and they’re going to call me in the morning with the results. I should mention that my cat is an insulin-dependent diabetic and is also on thyroid medication. The vet called a blood pressure med today. I’m staying up with him tonight, giving him water periodically and taking him to the litter box. He is so lethargic and depressed. It is heartbreaking!

    1. BJ Bangs Avatar
      BJ Bangs

      I’m so sorry to hear about your kitty. I hope he has recovered and doing ok. It’s heartbreaking to see our loved ones get sick, and that includes our cats. You’re doing the right thing by standing by your cat and doing the best you can.

  5. Rachel Avatar

    I had a cat and I suspect he may have had a stroke. He was missing most of the day and when I finally found him he had passed. So I’m thinking he was missing because he had a stroke. Would a stroke paralyze a cat on all four legs and then would the cat pass 15 hours later? I was wondering because he was missing all day. Sorry about the details.

    1. BJ Avatar

      Cats are masters are hiding they are sick. It could be the stroke was so devastating, it could have resulted in him not being able to move, and passing on that same day.

  6. Megadren Avatar

    Great article! We will be linking to this particularly great
    post on our site. Keep up the good writing.

    1. BJ Avatar

      Cats definitely have strokes, and it is something all of us cat people need to remember.

  7. Danni Hurley Avatar
    Danni Hurley

    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!

    1. BJ Avatar

      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.

  8. KFP Avatar

    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.

    1. BJ Bangs Avatar
      BJ Bangs

      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.

      1. Maureen Avatar

        My 11 yr old calico named jem last week showed signs of not interested in any type of foods wet or dry that I offered and was sleeping more than usual and just not interested generally in anything.1st day she woke up from sleeping in afternoon walked over to me and let a strange very loud meow. She usually has faint meows. She proceeded to go behind couch when I followed to see what was wrong she urinated alot not her again always uses cat box. So off to vet right away they kept her for 2 days .chemistries cbc all normal.found bacteria in urine after catheter started i.v. for possible dehydration.ultra sound done on all abdomen/ organs but did hear a slight heart murmer that was not heard 1 yr ago upon physical.so they administered antibiotic as well as appetite stimulant which helped while there. Brought her home 3rd day she ate and drank cat boxed ok.now 3 days home slept all day pm except when I brought her to her food dish. After was awake for a while but slept all afternoon yesterday till p.m. carried her into bed with me as I placed her down she immediately started circling neck and head tilted wasn’t able to stand without circling.she didn’t cry but tail twitching and slight head twitching.brought her emergency to same vet .they said upon arrival her 02 level was good but would examine and watch her more which being an emerg. Dr was with another but came back knowing it was a stroke. We had to make the decision to put her down since given the heart murmer most likely caused the stroke.I’m so upset and asking since reading other cases would prednisone possibly worked and maybe get her home with that? I just want to know what caused this but stroke is so difficult to pin pint causes? Am I right on this? Didn’t want her to suffer.she was so confused and not responding to my voice when I called her name. Thank you

        1. BJ Avatar

          It’s really hard to make the decision on when it’s time to say good-bye t a beloved pet. You have to remember what quality of life would your kitty have had. You should consult with your vet; however, the predicsone would most likely have not prevented the stroke. It may have made your special kitty feel better for a few days. It probably would not have made a much difference in the long run. Strokes are caused by a blood clot which can be caused by a whole host of reasons. I’m not sure about the heart murmur as I haven’t done much research on them.
          My heart goes out to you, and you should know you did all you could do for your kitty.

  9. Nicki Avatar

    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.

    1. BJ Bangs Avatar
      BJ Bangs

      So sorry to hear about your cat, but glad he’s doing better. Hopefully, he will continue to improve. Any idea of how he got the parasite??

  10. George Avatar

    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!

    1. BJ Avatar

      Thank you so much for sharing. Strokes are very serious for cats and humans.

  11. Evelyn Avatar

    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

    1. BJ Bangs Avatar
      BJ Bangs

      Kitty prayers are with you and her. Please let me know how she is doing.

  12. Elyse Avatar

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

    1. BJ Avatar

      Thanks for checking Paws out. Come back and visit again.

  13. Toni Gandel Avatar
    Toni Gandel

    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.

    1. Toni Gandel Avatar
      Toni Gandel

      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.

      1. BJ Avatar

        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.

    2. BJ Avatar

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

    3. Sonja Snyder Avatar
      Sonja Snyder

      my 9 month young kitten had a stroke over night.. must be a stroke eventho my vet did not even consider it to be one because of his age and his bloodwork came back perfectly normal.. He has ALL the symptoms, tilt, circling “walk” stumble. Blind, one side hearing loss it looks like. This happened a few days ago, he is on prednison and ZydaClin. He has not pooped yet, pee I catch on a training pad for puppies. He will eat and drink, not much but he does seem to have an appetite. He still loves me petting his lil face and I know he is still in there somewhere, your story convinced me to fight for him and hope for the best. He deserves it. It has been 4 days now.. here’s to hope and a good enough recovery 🙂

      1. BJ Bangs Avatar
        BJ Bangs

        You may want to consider having a consult with another vet, as it does sound like it could be a stroke. However, cats like humans do not need rehab, and he may be ok. I certainly hope he has a good recovery, as I am sure he is a very special kitty. Prednison is a good match as kitties tend to feel better on it, for a limited amount of time. Keep watch cause if he doesn’t poop in a few days, would visit your vet again, or go to another vet, perhaps one that specializes in cats.

  14. Mary Avatar

    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.

    1. BJ Avatar

      How is he doing. This does share some stroke symptoms, but only the vet will know for sure.

  15. Tlo Avatar

    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.

    1. BJ Avatar

      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

  16. veterinary hospital eugene Avatar
    veterinary hospital eugene

    Great article, totally what I needed.

    My website; veterinary hospital eugene

    1. BJ Avatar

      Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be visiting you soon.

  17. Louise Behiel Avatar
    Louise Behiel

    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.

    1. bjbangs Avatar

      I do believe you are correct, and I think, but not sure, it’s a bit more common in dogs.


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