Cat Tips

Strokes in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

What should you know about strokes in cats?

Strokes can be ischemic (the blood supply is cut off) or hemorrhagic (blood leaks into the brain). Blood vessel blockages frequently develop as a result of materials breaking off elsewhere in the body and becoming lodged in the veins or arteries that lead to the brain. Blood coagulation issues can also cause blood flow blockages to the brain. Trauma from injury can cause blood vessels to rupture, causing them to hemorrhage into the cerebral region.

A cat's brain requires steady blood flow to function correctly. When a rupture or blockage reduces the quantity of blood circulation to the brain, the brain's oxygen levels drop, resulting in brain injury. This condition is known as Feline Ischemic Encephalopathy (FIE) also known as a stroke.

Cats were once assumed to be immune to strokes; nevertheless, developments in medicine have shown that feline do experience strokes even if they are relatively rare.1 Strokes can, however, be over diagnosed by owners, thus it is critical that a cat be evaluated by a veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis.

What can cause a cat to have a stroke?

Strokes are more common in outdoor cats especially during the summer, for a variety of reasons.1 A cat's risk of stroke is increased by a variety of underlying conditions, which can include:

  • Trauma to the head

  • Trauma to the body that dislodges fat or cartilage parts

  • Genetic defects

  • Heart disease

  • Liver disease

  • Kidney failure

  • Diabetes

  • Parasitic infection

  • Ingestion of toxins

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Hypertension

  • Hyperadrenocorticism

How are strokes diagnosed in cats?

A veterinarian will begin by obtaining a detailed health history of your pet and asking questions about the signs and symptoms your cat experienced at home, how quickly they started, and if they have experienced any behavioral changes. Following a physical and neurological assessment, your vet will likely take samples and run lab work (blood tests, urinalysis, fecal exam, blood pressure testing, etc.) to either rule out or confirm your pet's diagnosis and identify any underlying conditions.2

The veterinarian may have a reasonably good suspicion that your cat has had a stroke at this stage, but more sophisticated testing is usually required before you can get a definite answer. Brain imaging (MRIs or CT scans), cerebrospinal fluid analysis, or a D-dimer blood test, which checks for the breakdown of aberrant blood clots within the body, might also be beneficial.2

What are the signs and symptoms that a cat is having a stroke?

The symptoms of your cat's stroke will vary depending on where the stroke occurs in the brain, how much brain tissue is impacted, and how severe the consequences are. You should be on the watch for the following symptoms and side effects:

  • Circling

  • Pressing their head against objects

  • Unusual gait (sometimes affecting just one side of the body)

  • Weakness or unsteadiness

  • Head tilting

  • Abnormal eye movements

  • Unequal pupil sizes

  • Coma

  • Seizures

  • Death - in extreme cases

Many of the symptoms of a stroke can be indicative of other disorders, therefore it is critical that you get your pet evaluated by a vet to identify whether your cat had a stroke or is experiencing a different condition. Vestibular illness, in particular, can induce some of these symptoms, including a head tilt and loss of balance to one side, as well as fast eye movements.1 Your veterinarian will examine your cat and advise you on the best way to treat your pet.

What does the treatment look like after a cat has a stroke?

Keeping the cat's health steady during a stroke and in the hours that follow can have a significant impact on the outcome. Treatment can include giving the cat intravenous fluids and anti-inflammatory drugs.2 The idea is to keep the cat as comfortable as possible so that they can recover.

Your veterinarian will also need to address the underlying cause of your cat's stroke in order to help prevent it from happening again. In certain situations (especially in the case of heart disease, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes), life-long therapies or drugs may be required.

In addition, physiotherapy may be required. If this is required, your veterinarian will advise you and recommend activities to help improve your cat's mobility.

The good news is that if your cat receives prompt treatment (usually within the first 24 hours), they have a better chance at making a full recovery.1 They may, however, be at danger of another stroke in the future, depending on the underlying condition that caused their stroke.

Facing a cat's recovery after a stroke can be daunting, but remember: improvement is possible! While their condition might seem bleak in the initial 24 hours, cats often show dramatic progress over time. While no definitive guidelines exist for predicting their prognosis, don't despair – seeking therapy can make a world of difference for your feline friend.

Following a stroke, careful monitoring is crucial to help catch any signs of a recurrence. This might involve keeping your cat at the vet's overnight or closely observing them at home. Additionally, if a specific cause for the stroke was found, further treatment will be needed to address that underlying issue. Throughout this recovery period, your cat may require intravenous fluids and other supportive care to promote healing.

How long does it take for cats to recover from a stroke?

Like in humans, predicting a cat's recovery after a stroke is challenging. Some cats can bounce back fully, especially if their symptoms were mild, their pre-stroke health was in good standing, and they were treated quickly.

However, cats with more severe symptoms or underlying conditions may have a harder time recovering. They may experience lasting neurological issues like head tilts or balance problems due to brain damage from the stroke.1 In these cases, ongoing physical therapy and other treatments might be necessary.

Remember, recovery isn't linear. Patience and extra care are essential for supporting your feline friend as they heal.

How to prevent strokes in cats?

While some cat strokes stem from unavoidable health issues, you can take steps to help protect your feline friend from strokes triggered by external factors. Ensure hazardous substances are completely out of reach: Think medications, cleaning products, plants, and even small objects they could choke on. Giving your cat regular anti-parasitic treatments can also significantly help reduce the risk of stroke-causing infections. By taking these proactive measures, you can help give your cat the best chance of avoiding strokes and living a healthy, happy life.


Strokes in cats are uncommon yet dangerous. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you see any indications of stroke in your cat, such as stumbling, seizures, or abrupt collapse. Although there is no way to predict your cat's prognosis, quick diagnosis and treatment, together with ongoing home care, will offer your cat the best chance of recovery.


Follow us on Instagram

Follow us everywhere else: