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  Does your cat have seizures? Recently we learned more about what could be causing them.

An interesting study was done by Davies Veterinary Specialist, Mark Lowrie and Laurent Garosi (veterinary neurologists),  Robert Harvey from UCL School of Pharmacy along with International Cat Care on the effects of common sounds have on cats. This study has been published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and it is entitled “Audiogenic reflex seizures in cats” (FARS).

This study revealed that some cats do indeed suffer from “audiogenic reflex seizures” (FARS) –seizures which are consistently caused by sounds. This condition is recognized in people also.

There are different type of seizures: 1. non-convulsive seizures 2. myoclonic seizures (brief, shock-like jerks of  a muscle or group of muscles) and 3. this last type of seizure is what most people think about when you say seizure and is what happens with FARS (cat losing consciousness, body stiffening and jerking, often for several minutes).

FARS occurs in pedigree and non pedigree cats. Among the pedigrees the Birman breed was over represented. It is also a problem in older cats (the average age of seizure onset is 15 years, with cats ranging in age from 10 to 19 years. 

The common reported triggers for FARS (Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures) are:

  1. the sound of crinkling tin foil 
  2. metal spoon clanging in a ceramic feeding bowl
  3. chinking or tapping of glass
  4. crinkling of paper or plastic bags
  5. tapping on computer keyboard
  6. clicking of a mouse
  7. clinking of coins or keys
  8. hammering of a nail
  9. clicking of an owner’s tongue

Some less common triggers are:

  1. sound of breaking the tin foil from packaging
  2. mobile phone texting and ringing
  3. digital alarms
  4. velcro
  5. stove igniting ticks
  6. running water
  7. dog jangling its collar as it scratched
  8. computer printer
  9. firewood splitting
  10. wooden blocks being knocked together
  11. walking across a wooden floor with bare feet or squeaky shoes

FARS has also been dubbed “Tom and Jerry syndrome”. Many veterinarians are not aware of FARS. 

It is hoped that with the publication of the paper it will raise awareness among the veterinarians in practice. It is my intention with this blog to raise awareness with cat owners so if their cat is experiencing seizures they have more idea of what could be happening. In turn they can tell their veterinarian.   

Avoiding the sounds could reduce the seizures however it is difficult to avoid certain sounds. The loudness of the sound also seemed to increase the severity of the seizures.

Currently work is ongoing to identify the genetic basis of the disorder and also they are working on a paper about treatment of FARS. A second study is soon to be published suggesting that levetiracetam as an excellent choice of medication in managing FARS. 

My thoughts for the cat owner whose cat has been diagnosed with idiopathic seizures is to watch and see if it could be brought on by a sound. I would bring FARS to the attention of your veterinarian and ask them to work with you to see if sound is contributing to your cat’s seizures.