For some cats, ordinary household sounds can trigger seizures.
Sounds such as typing, the crumpling of tinfoil or the clinking of glasses or dishware are all just part of the background noise of domestic life, at least for humans. But such sounds can apparently trigger seizures among elderly cats.
This newly identified type of epilepsy is called feline audiogenic reflex seizures, or FARS. It’s described in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. [Mark Lowrie et al, Audiogenic reflex seizures in cats]
The syndrome was discovered when a few such cases were reported to an organization called International Cat Care, which then sought more info from veterinarians. The vets then found enough additional feline subjects to perform a proper study.
They found that cats that experience the sound-induced seizures start having them when they’re on average 15 years old. Cats can hear frequencies above what we can, so the suspicion is that some of them may be extra-sensitive to such stimuli. On the other hand—or possibly paw—half of the 96 cats in the study were either deaf or had partial hearing loss, at least according to their owners. So cat hearing may have subtleties we’re still unaware of.
The seizures occurred across various cat varieties but members of the Birman breed seem particularly vulnerable. The antiseizure drug levetiracetam appears to help some afflicted kitties. That’s good news because you and your cat should be able to enjoy a life, to paraphrase Macbeth, that’s full of sound—and furry.
—Eliene Augenbraun and Dina Fine Maron
Producers: Benjamin Meyers, Eliene Augenbraun
Narrator: Dina Fine Maron
Audio Editor: Steve Mirsky
Videographers: Angela Cesaro, Steve Mirsky, Kate Wong
Stock Footage: VideoBlocks, Wikimedia Commons/Ccroberts
Special thanks to:
- Sarie Gilbertson
- Davies Veterinary Specialists, U.K.