Thursday 28 August 2008

Feline Stroke

cat lying down
Healthy Gaia by fofurasfelinas (see below)


The technical term for feline stroke is Feline Cerebrovascular Disease. Let's break that term down. "feline" as we know means that the animal is part of the felidae family of animals, which includes all cats both wild, domestic large and small. "Vascular" means related to blood vessels and "cerebro" means brain in Spanish and Portuguese as a matter of passing interest. The Latin for brain is "cerebrum". The word "disease" is often interpreted in different ways and infers illness. Technically the word describes a pathological condition which in turn means an abnormal structure of an organ or part of an organ of the body as a result of various causes.

So feline stroke is abnormal blood vessels in the brain, which as a result bleed because they rupture (break open). There is another cause as well (see below). Veterinarians call strokes "a cerebrovascular accident". It seems that the concept of cats (and dogs) having strokes is only recently being taken more seriously or at least there is a greater awareness of the possibility.

Types of Feline Stroke

There are, though, two types, both reduce the supply of blood to the brain.

1. One of which is caused by a broken blood vessel(s) and this is called a "haemorrhagic stroke".

2. When there is a reduced blood supply to the brain under other circumstances the stroke is called a "ischaemic stroke". In medicine the term " ischemia" means a restriction in blood supply so "ischaemic" means relating to a restriction in blood supply.

In the former haemorrhagic stroke, the leakage of blood from the ruptured blood vessel can be (a) inside the brain or (b) on the surface in between the brain and the inside of the skull. When the leakage is inside the brain it is called "intraparenchymal haemorrhage". The term "intraparenchymal" means situated within the functional parts of an organ of the body, in this case the brain. Organs are made up of functional and structural parts. The term "haemorrhage means bleeding.

The second type of bleeding ( (b) above) is called a "subdural or subarachnoid haemorrhage". The term "subarachnoid" means under ("sub") the "arachnoid", which is the middle of three membranes covering central nervous system. This membrane is relation to the brain is between the outside of the brain and the inside of the skull. This area is filled with fluid so the space is a potential space.

Symptoms of Feline Stroke

The lack of supply of blood to a particular site of the brain can cause that area of the brain to be destroyed. The symptoms of feline stroke are somewhat different to those of human stroke. In humans we commonly see one side of the face and body paralyzed. Minor strokes can cause other symptoms in humans such as memory loss and slurred speech.

For cats (and dogs) the symptoms are sudden loss of coordination, circling, falling, loss of balance, blindness, spasms of the face and limbs, paralysis. However, as for humans one side of the body is usually affected. Other brain diseases exhibit these signs too.


At present the causes of feline stroke are not that well researched it seems but there may have been, prior to the stroke, an infection (Upper Respiratory Infection or URI) that caused a fever.

Causes of a restricted blood supply - ischaemic strokes (i.e. no ruptured blood vessels) could be:

--kidney disease
--thyroid disease
--heart disease
--high blood pressure
--Cushings disease
--clogging of a blood vessel by fat, tumor fragment, parasites or spinal cartilage

Causes of haemorrhagic strokes could be:

--abnormal development of the blood vessels
--trauma (injury)
--bleeding brain tumor
--diseases that affect blood clotting such as rodent poisons, diseases causing high blood pressure, inflammation of the arteries.

Feline Stroke - Prognosis

In short, the damaged parts of the brain cannot be repaired. The welfare of the cat depends on the extent of the brain damage. The underlying cause needs to be isolated to reduce the possibility of further strokes. Care and help should lead to a decent life provided the damage is not to a part of the brain that results in severe disability.

From Feline Stroke to cat health problems

Feline Stroke - Sources:
  1. Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlson and Giffin (recommended - quite technical)
  2. (for definition of pathological condition)
  3. (very useful)
  4. (definitions)
  5. (definitions)
Photo heading post:

This cat has not had a stroke she is just dressing up the post. Great picture by fofurasfelinas (a quality cat photographer well known amongst Flickr members). It is published under a creative commons license (thanks). The license is: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License.


  1. Thank you for your comments on Feline Stroke. I am concerned that my old boy, "Toby," who is almost 18, may have suffered a stroke in the last 48 hours.
    He was healthy until a little over a year ago, when I noticed that he is profoundly deaf. His personality has changed completely and instead of being anti-social, he is now craving attention and sits on my lap every time I sit down. In the last 4-5 months, he is a sneezer, with a very snotty nose--and seems to sneeze in my face Waaay too often...because he wants to be near me.
    I did not add up the symptoms until I noticed yesterday he is having trouble walking and even sitting....he seems to fall along and crashes into walls, doorways, and my legs. I think he may be a stroke victim and am sorry to see there does not seem to be much hope of recovery. I will keep an eye on him and get him looked at, but perhaps the deafness, sneezing and right side impairment are all one and the same-- brain bleeds!?
    I was hoping you had more hopeful news, but he has been well loved all these years, and I do not want him suffering if such indignities will lead to pain and wasting.

  2. Lily - our beloved 16 yr old burmese has just had a stroke and been in hospital for one week - she was given steroids to reduce the swelling in the brain and IV treatment for dehydration. She still purred in hospital but lost a lot of weight and still has the wobbles. Its still a day by day situation now that she is home. I hate to see her this way and we all agree that if she looses more condition, we will have a sorry decision to make. Its so hard when a beloved pet of many years cannot tell you the problems. I hope that she makes the decision herself and gently falls asleep. Our Vets and staff have been marvelous and obviously dont want to give up on her given she was very healthy before the stroke. Time will tell, I will post what happens. - Gayle

  3. If your beloved cat experiences a stroke, please be patient with their recovery. Our 16+ year old 'Tude' suffered a stroke two months ago that affected her left side. She was paralyzed for about 15 minutes, lost control of her bladder and was very frightened. The doctor did blood tests that confirmed the stroke, gave her an IV to replenish fluids and prescribed medication. Initially she lost about one-third of her body weight, but has now regained that plus a few ounces. Other than being a bit clumsy from time to time, she and her atti'Tude' have made a complete recovery and we look forward to having her with us for several more years!

  4. Three weeks ago, my 10 yr old siamese suffered what appears to be a cva during a dental surgery. She suffered nystagmus (pupils moving from side to side), head tilt, could barely stand on her legs and of course kept falling on her side when walking. The vets also discovered a heart murmur that didn't exist before She was hospitalized for a week and was given fluids, cortisone therapy and antibiotics for both her mouth and a possible internal ear infection. I didn't want to do any scan on her since she would have to be re-anesthetized and I was not sure (and still am not) about what happened in the first clinic that gave her back to me in this condition-knowingly or not...-. She is improving slowly, she walks but looses her balance every time she shakes her head, she eats a lot and put weight back on, she jumps ok, sleeps a lot and sticks to us a little less than at the beginning which is a good sign. She is still under very light ( a quarter of regular dose/for her total weight) cortico-therapy. The heart murmur has totally disappeared.
    We are to stop the steroids in five weeks. Of course, if the symptoms resume at this point, we'll have to investigate further... But for the moment, she seems to be recovering.

  5. Sadly our dear Harriet, who was 12 years old had to be euthenased yesterday after suffering her third stroke. She had her first stroke about 8 months ago and displayed all the classic symptoms. She was unable to use her limbs but regained her co-ordination and motor skills, although rather limited within a week. She was also on steroid therapy and anti-biotics. After a couple of weeks, she was walking better but still curved a little to one side. Last week she appeared to have had a minor episode and her co-ordination was out of whack again. I also noticed that after the first stroke she was extremely affectionate towards us and would follow me around from room to room. Sadly yesterday morning she had yet another stroke. She had no use of her limbs, appeared to be extremely confused and I think her vision may have been impaired. She also kept trying to drag/roll outside. I thought she may need to relieve herself, as it was early morning and took her out - even dug a hole for her - but she just wanted to hide away under the plants. She seemed to know instinctively that she was dying. Terribly traumatic. I rused her to the vet and we had to say goodbye to our special pet.

  6. Rocky My 14 yr old showshoe and best friend, seems to have had a stroke as he became paralysed on his right side, the vet has put him on steriods. It only been 24 hrs he has improved verry little and after reading all the other posts if he dosen't get alot better by this time tomorrow I will have him put down as I can't see my friend suffer. Why is it we are more humain to or pets than to our own kind ?.

  7. Our cat "M" born a day before our oldest son and named for a dark M on her forehead, was discovered this morning outside with a sluggishness to her normal routine. I had hooked to my trailer and discovered her asleep on the tongue.

    Normally she would give me a slight attitude and move on when the trailer started moving. Today was different. I stopped and moved her off the trailer. Figured she was just being difficult. She does that sometimes.

    After moving her, she just laid down in the driveway. I went back to the truck and started moving the trailer again, she looked at the wheels and decided to move. Got up and almost immediately fell down. I say that she had dragged her right arm. I stopped and picked her up to find her right arm was completely limp. No tension, no claw movement and completely floppy. M did not complain at all and that in itself is completely unusual.

    I called for my wife and together we gave her a complete inspection. Her entire right side is either week or limp. Her right leg is unable to hold her weight although she can move it. The right side of her face seems immobile. Her right ear is not as twitchy as her left ear.

    M was born bobtail and her movements have always been odd for a cat. But, today is radically different for even M. We couldn't get her to drink or eat most of the day. Finally I decided to fix her favorite dish. Pecan smoked grilled chicken with Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory and Brown Sugar BBQ sauce. She desperately tried to eat the chicken but couldn't seem to swallow or really even chew the chicken. I went to the store and found some 9 lives chunk chicken in gravy. She tore into that like she hasn't eaten in a week. That particular food is very soft an almost doesn't require chewing. She ate a third of the can before resting. She has not moved from her spot in one of my wife's hand crocheted quilts but does try to eat frequently now.

    Her right front leg is completely immobile at this time. Her right rear leg is very weak. Unable to even hold up her own weight tho she can move it. She is having a lot of difficulty chewing. Her right ear seams sluggish

    I will try to post her status as she improves.

  8. I have noticed that no one has mentioned their vet checking their cat's blood pressure. High blood pressure could be the issue and it is critical to start on meds that will lower it.

  9. Unfortunatley i lost my 8 year old cat,yesterday,had to have him put down. The shocking thing is the speed in which it happened.He was fine on Sunday morning i came home later on that evening and it was not until about 2 hrs later i found him behind television ,picked him up he cried in pain so i put him on the floor he fell to one side and had a very wobbly head and his eyes were darting eveywhere.took him to the vets that night test showed he had a severe stroke and might not regain sight so had to make the very painful decision to have him put down

  10. Unfortunately vet is not an option for our "M". We are not a wealthy family and cannot afford a Doctor for myself, much less for M.

    Anonymous: I am sorry to read about your cat. I posted the story about M in the hope that someone else would give there cat the 2-3 weeks he/she needs to recover.

    Now for the update. M is doing much better. Right hind leg is gaining strength. She can move that leg easily now and stretch it out to try to climb. Front right arm has tension in the muscles again. She can move the arm and hold it up when she hobbles around. There is still not much strength in that arm and her wrist is still limp.

    She is eating good now and trying to climb some. She managed to get onto a box 15 inches high. Took her some time, but she made it without help. She is now grooming herself again. We were touch and go for a day or two while she decided whether or not to live. I think she has decided to live. Bowel movements are sparse, loose and uncontrolled. But, all in all she is in good spirits and improving.

    She actually jumped out of my lap when my wife opened a fresh can of 9 lives. Landed lopsided and fell over to her weak side, but still. The day I discovered her she couldn't move 6 inches. Now she looks fit to take on our dog again.

    We can see steady improvement day to day. Mostly as she gets the nerve or energy to try to do something. Cats are remarkable. Everyday they do something that completely astonishes me.

  11. M is doing some climbing now. Her hind leg is strong enough to jump now. While she still can not walk on her right arm, she is standing on it now. That arm is just not strong enough yet for walking. Her right wrist has some tension in the muscles now but M doesn't seem to have any control over it yet.

    Bowel movements still seem uncontrolled. Not loose any more, tho. She is eating solid cat food now. I'm mixing it with canned 9 lives to make the canned stuff go further.

    Her attitude is completely back to normal. Including that look she always has in her eye that she's looking for something to kill. She boxed the dog's ear last night with her good arm. Stood up or rather sat up on her hind legs holding her right arm close to her body and popped "The Yapper's" ear with her good arm. Yapper thought she was about to get some revenge on M and but instead had to turn tail and run.

    M is keeping to our bedroom but she is venturing to ever higher places to sleep. I expect in a few days she will be roaming the entire house again. My hope and all indications are that she will be killing mice and hunting moles out in the yard in another week or two.

    I'll keep posting as her recovery continues.

  12. Final post regarding M's recovery. She is now 97%. Her hind legs are back to normal. She is walking and running on all four paws again. Only a mild limp on her right arm. Goes away when she runs. She is jumping and climbing at her previous capability. My son saw her in the yard yesterday hunting moles. Her favorite pastime. Yapper is once again giving her a very wide berth.

    I highly recommend to anyone whose cat suffers a stroke: give her enough time to recover. Cats are truly amazing and given at least a week to show improvement I'm sure you will be happy you waited. M was discovered about three weeks ago and has fully recovered in that span of time.

    You will need to keep her in a low and protected place and be prepared to change her bedding often. We used canned cat food in small portions at first and increased her portions as she was able to chew and swallow.

    I hope our play by play story will help someone decide to give their cat a chance to recover irregardless of what their vet says is best.

  13. PS: We did do some physical therapy on M's right side similar to human stroke victims receive. Moving her useless arm and leg back and forth in a walking motion for a few minutes several times a day. After a few days we could feel tension in the muscles again but continued the therapy until she started to complain.

    I don't know if this helped in her recovery or not but it seemed like a good idea.

  14. Thanks for the useful comments. They add to the page.

  15. Dear Brokn Dodge,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to post everything about M. My husband and I have been so torn about taking our kitty to the vet. With our last cat, after the trip to the vet, she died a week later :( I am hopeful that our other kitty will recover from what we think was a stroke from trauma (when paramedics were in the house for ME). Thanks again and best of luck to your family and M :)

  16. Went camping one weekend and found my elderly (14 yr old) kitty laying on the front porch and I noticed she had one pupil totally dilated and the other was fine. Took her to the vet on Monday and she did some blood tests. Turns out she had a parasite. I think it could've caused a stroke. I didn't notice at first, but she also had no use of the whiskers and ear on the same side as the pupil. She also has a hard time with the right side of her body. And she's been exceptionally affectionate. The sidedness doesn't seem to really bother her much. She's really picked up in appetite since the antibiotics the vet recommended and she's gaining weight. Hope she'll do better in the coming weeks...

  17. I appreciate your stories - our Lilly was 16 and had a stroke - her eyes had been going the last few months and we just thought of aging - well we found out that it was probably something to do with her blood pressure and that just breaks my heart that our vet did not see that in her - I feel robbed. Please have your cats blood pressure checked as they get older and their thyroid as well. She was not able to walk at all and was like this for four days - we felt with her sight not being able to come back we could not leave her in this condition - my heart is breaking and I could use some comfort from others! She was such a sweet cat and was my kid! I miss her terribly and wish my vet would have been more helpful in helping her in her senior years! Good to educate yourself about your pets health!

  18. my cat monty had a stoke last saturday, took him to the vets who confirmed that he had, he is 14yrs old and the vet didnt prescribe anything just said his vision wasnt very good. i thought he was improving but 3 days later his head is tilting, does this mean he had had another stroke, he is eating well and goes out to the toilet albeit very wobbly, what is his prognosis?

  19. My cat Sandy had a stroke..she lives with my parents, she would have been 19 years old on Feb 22. Sandy liked to sleep up high due to the young grand kids always visiting she liked some privacy. I had taken her to the vet in October (2 months ago) and the vet said she was very healthy. On Sunday my mom called me and said Sandy had fallin off of her most recent favorite spot to sleep and thought maybe she had broken her hip because she wasnt moving alot and couldnt get up.. I took her to the vet on Monday (yesterday)and when i picked her up at my moms and she seemed totally limp and had urinated in her bed where she had been lying since the night before. When I got to the vet, the vet picked her up and immediately said she had a stroke, she didnt do any tests (against my wishes) she picked her up and Sandy immediately rolled to her left side, she laid her on her right side and she rolled onto her left side again. she checked her eye sight and said she had lost her sight (she had already lost her hearing due to old age)She vet point blank came out and said my little best friend was a vegetable, she checked her temp and it was 32 (should be 38) my baby girl was dying right in front of me :( my only option was to take her back to my parents house and wait for her to die on her own or bring her back in a few hours when they could fit her in to be put down. I took her back to my parents but I couldnt bare to see her like that so I went home. my husband was leaving the house a couple of hours later to take her in but my sister had called and said she had passed away :( I wish I could have done something for her, I would have given or paid any amount to have her better again. She had a great and long life but my little best friend is gone now and i miss her terribly


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