Can a cat recover from a stroke?

linnea56August 9, 2007

My poor kitty started having seizures a week ago yesterday. She is only 8 years old and there was no warning. I brought her to an emergency clinic and after several days of tests (even an MRI and a spinal tap) it has been narrowed down to (probably) a stroke caused by a parasite. The MRI showed damage on the right side of her brain.

She has been home for several days but is on heavy meds to cover (kill) all possibilities, including steroids (prednisone), an antibiotic, Baytril, and phenobarbitol to stop further seizures. She responds to us but cannot walk much; she is very unsteady and can lose her balance easily and fall over. She spends most of the day laying down. But she always tries to move where she can see me, and tracks me with her eyes constantly. She apparently cannot meow or purr. Also, she does not have bowel or bladder control. She is not leaking or anything, just urinates (etc.) 2 x a day wherever she is. That makes me think she has some control as it is not all the time. I put her in the litter box but she just steps right out again, then may go a minute later on the floor. Could she just have forgotten her litter-box training? We are keeping her in the kitchen so we can clean up more readily; also someone is in there 80% of the time so she's seldom alone except at night. She is eating pretty well, though less in the last few days, as she's really hardly moving around enough to burn many calories.

Since I have only seen her under these drugs since the seizures, I'm not sure how much is due to permanent brain damage or the temporary effect of the drugs. The phenobarbitol does seem to make her very sleepy for the first few hours after a dose. She does not appear to be in any pain and seems to enjoy being petted even though she cannot purr.

If you have had a cat that had a stroke, can you tell me if they regained function in time? The bowel and bladder function are obviously important, as well as her ability to walk around and do usual cat things. I want my little buddy to be well! I work at home and love her company. I am so depressed thinking I may still have to put her to sleep if she cannot get better.

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I'm so sorry!

I think perhaps you will find out in time whether she will recover, just like some people do recover from strokes, and some do not. I sure hope she does. But if she does not, you do not want to prolong her discomfort and poor quality of life.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 7:10PM
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I had a beautiful cat for many years and she took a stroke.
I was crushed she was my baby.......The phenobarbitol will make her tired.........and her balance may be afftected you should of talked with the vet about the side effects of the drugs......You will need to keep taking her to the litter box...and putting her in it.Since she is eating the stroke did not affect her ability to eat or swallow.....correct?
She may not be in pain and I would not jump to putting her to sleep! may take a few months for her to stablize My baby which I cared for lived quite awhile after her stroke a few years...and she wanted to be with her mommie. You need to start observing her and her actions...
also did you check or the vet to see if she is having any sight problems...........I really hope things work out for you and your baby.....

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 10:55PM
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I did discuss her current symptoms with the vet yesterday: he said some of them could be the drugs and some aftereffects of the stroke. Before she came home a few days ago he did say it seemed like she couldn't see out of her left eye; but I think she can now. I notice she tracks objects with both eyes and they seem to focus together.
When he has results from all the tests he will be able to stop most of the drugs except for the phenobarbitol. She has no problem eating.

I noticed that she needs to "go" about half an hour after eating, so I have been putting her in the litterbox then and several other times. So far she just walks out immediately. Every kitten I had before was already litter trained, so I'm not sure how to go about retraining her if that's what she needs. Thanks for the support and advice!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 11:39PM
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I would give her time to recover and see how much she improves when you're able to ease her off the meds. All those meds you listed, plus something to kill a parasite, are sure to have an extreme effect on her. I've had dogs on a couple of those meds and they also had trouble walking until I took them off the med!

I once had a Macaw parrot suffer a seizure. She couldn't walk but would respond to us and was able to eat if food was handed to her. Handfeeding formula made it easier to feed her and for therapy we exercised her legs while she laid on our chest in a hot tub. Containers of warm water would also work!
She regained full use of her body but walked with a slight limp and perched at a slight angle. She lived for several more years and then died from a severe stroke.
All this doesn't really apply to your kitty, but it just shows that pets can often recover. Since your pet is able to walk at least that portion of her brain wasn't damaged.

I think there's always hope. You'll know in time..............

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 11:51PM
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linnea56 how is your baby?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2007 at 5:03PM
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Shes been home from the emergency clinic for 9 days now. IÂm due to take her to her "neurologist" on Monday for a follow-up. When I spoke with him last on Wednesday one last test result had still not come in. It looks like it is not an infectious disease, nor bacterial. Everything points to the parasite. To me it looks like none of the meds she is taking is an anti-parasitic. One is a steroid, prednisone, to reduce her brain inflammation, 2 are antibiotics, and one is the anti-seizure drug Phenobarbital. Maybe she was given something for the parasite while she was still at the vetÂs; I donÂt know how hard they are to kill. The vet implied it would take a while to kill it. So what she has is similar to a stroke in its consequences, but is really brain damage.

She has been confined to the kitchen/laundry room since she seemed to have no bladder/bowel control. I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen! Just in case she had "forgotten" her training I have been putting her in the litter box shortly after she eats and several other times. In the last two days she has started to use it to urinate (thank heavens) but still not to poop. That sheÂs still doing on the floor. IÂm surprised my husband is being so tolerant.

She has had little energy to do anything but HAS been following me or anyone around as we move around the kitchen. She has trouble coordinating her hind legs, and can fall over easily. Jumping up on anything is out of the question. As I criss-cross the kitchen she follows my every turn, but itÂs hard on her because the turns take too long for her and she may stumble. The vet said her sluggishness is probably due to the meds. IÂve been putting her next to me on the sofa when I read a book late at night, but sheÂs been pretty out of it.

As of yesterday evening I saw an improvement. She might be adapting to the soporific effects of the Phenobarbital. Or something. One of the meds, a liquid antibiotic, Clindam, ran out at 3 yesterday (we are supposed to use each until they run out). Friday night she meowed a bit for the first time when picked up. Not full voice, kind of half-voiced. Sunday afternoon she seemed to want affection more than food so I put her on my lap and petted her for a long time; and she purred for the first time. It sounded different, more a vibration I could feel through her side rather than a sound.

So IÂm feeling hopeful but trying not to get carried away. Thanks for thinking about her. Keep up the kitty prayers!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2007 at 9:08PM
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Please keep us posted! I am hoping for the best.

It must have been lovely to cuddle with her.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2007 at 9:39PM
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Here's one side effect of the drug she finished: ***The only side effect of concern is upset stomach including diarrhea (which can be bloody) and vomiting. If your pet develops an upset stomach on clindamycin, please discontinue the medication and notify your veterinarian.***
Maybe it was playing a part in her pooping on the floor?

Sounds like she may be relearning a lot but from what you've written it appears she making baby steps of improvement. I hope all goes well with the neurologist.

Have you considered putting her in an open-type carrier on your counter while you're in the kitchen It may make her feel more comfortable and connected to you without stumbling around the floor.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2007 at 10:45PM
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Thanks for your support!
She hasn't had any diarrhea or vomiting, but since antibiotics kill all the intestinal flora, I would expect some side effects.

Now this evenng she doesn't look that great, again. She would not eat her dinner. But maybe she is tired from walking around more today. I think tomorrow I will bring her in a basket to another part of the house; there's a limit to how much I can do in the kitchen!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2007 at 11:33PM
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Today (Monday) I took my cat to the vet for a follow-up appointment. He was impressed with her progress. He is very hopeful. The last tests came in and confirmed that she did have a stroke caused by a parasite. They gave her a parasite killing drug in the hospital.

He said she was recovering extremely well.unusually well. (a lot of people must have been praying for her!) When I spoke to him a few days ago he was telling me not to get my hopes up, that the damage was extensive and many cats would either not survive or not have a life worth living. At that point she was mostly laying down, barely staggering over to her food, and very groggy, and making messes on the floor.

But in the last 3 days theres been a really dramatic improvement. Since then shes walking more and more, looking alert and has been very responsive and extremely affectionate. Plus has remembered how to use the litterbox, at least for #1.

He says she is still a bit blind in her left eye and is missing some sensation on the left too, but seems to be learning to compensate. She still staggers a lot and has problems with her left side legs. Hopping up on the sofa is a thing of the past. We can reduce many of the meds.

I usually read a book late at night after everyones in bed, and she almost always sits next to me. Since shes been sick Ive been carrying her to the sofa and petting her while I read, even when she seemed to not know where she was. Last night she purred for an hour while I read the latest Harry Potter book. It was like she felt happy to be alive.

Thanks to all those who wished, prayed, or sent their support! It seems to have worked, for her as well as me.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2007 at 10:35PM
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Wow! That's great news! (((hugs))) :)

Her not having all her sensation on her left side explains some (if not all) of her stumbling. Imagine trying to walk when you can't feel your feet!

I hope she continues on her road to health and am sure she'll feel better once she's off the meds!

Did the vet have any clue how she got the parasite?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2007 at 11:24PM
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That's good to hear.

For old cats that cannot climb, people put "steps" near beds and sofas (ottomans, etc) to help the cats climb to where they like to go.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 4:31PM
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Yes, it's a common parasite found in any soil. Usually dogs, cats or other animals roll in the dirt and the larva attaches itself to the skin, burrows in, and encysts itself for its metamorphosis. You only find out they have one when it burrows out again, MUCH larger, leaving a sore or abcess in the skin. Animals can also sniff them up when sniffing the soil (happens all the time, after all); the larva may then be sneezed out if you're lucky. It also may crawl up the nose inside all the way to where the inside meets the opening in the skull where the olfactory bulbs are. Then it encysts itself there in the brain, and as it grows, blocks a blood vessel, causing a stroke, or damages a part of the brain. Gross, isn't it!? The vet said ANY cat or dog that goes outside and sniffs dirt could get this. My cat used to go out for brief gardening sessions with me. She wasn't outside much, because she's afraid of most animals, but apparently all you need is once. About a week before her seizures she was sneezing violently and frequently one day. I thought she had a cold! In retrospect she was trying to sneeze out the parasite.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 7:27PM
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BTW, I have put some steps next to the window and the sofa, but she won't use them! I don't think she realizes what they are for, though I have walked her up and down them.

Today I was laid out on the sofa most of the day with a terrible migraine. Couldn't move, much less bend over, without having to throw up. After stumbling downstairs to give her her morning pills and food, I decided she'd be too lonely barricaded in the kitchen, as today I could not be in there (except to trade ice packs). I removed the barricades to the kitchen and let her walk around, figuring if she made a mess on the carpet I'd just deal with it later.

She insisted on being next to me on the sofa, and had to try jumping repeatedly to get up there, with me doing my best to catch her! Whenever the kids were sick I always put them on the sofa, and she took the role of nurse-kitty and comforter seriously. (No one ever lays on the sofa unless they are sick.) Today she didn't leave my side for about 4 hours. I felt like she was trying to repay me with comfort when she knew I was not feeling well.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 9:55PM
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Maybe, if she is not able to jump up on the couch or climb the steps, you can build her a ramp like the one I built for my rabbit to get into her cage. I built it out of 1 1/2" PVC pipe, connectors and heavy plywood that I covered with a carpet remnant. I will try to put a picture of it on so you can see. It was really easy to build, you can get everything but the carpet (maybe even that) at Home Depot. They even have a nifty little tool to cut the pipe with that makes building it a breeze. If I don't do the picture right I will have my son help me with it tomorrow.

I can't wait to see if I did the pictures right, it took me over 1/2 hour because I acidentally set my new camera to save the photos to the wrong place in the computer. Thank goodness I married a tech guy! I'm sure he can fix the mess I made.

Sorry, I guess I did not do it right! But the links do work if you cut and paste them in, I checked. Maybe someone can tell me how to post an actual picture? Or maybe I should ask my son to do it for me!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 10:46PM
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I'm curious - what kind of cat is she?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 11:10PM
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She's a domestic shorthair, solid grey; looks like a Russian Blue.

Don't worry about the pictures, jcrowley99, your description is clear enough. I can't post pictures here either. Actually I think I can set up a big sofa pillow as a ramp until she gets more strength back. She seems to want to do everything the way she always has, and that means jumping. She walked around the "steps" and jumped next to them. (Sure hope she doesn't try to jump up to the sink like she used too)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 12:20AM
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Here's the pic of the ramp.........
Nice job!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 12:33AM
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I'm happy your cat appears to be recovering from the stroke. I wish you well with her. I never knew about the parasite thing. How scary and gross.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 12:52AM
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Thank you so much for posting the picture for me! Can you tell me how you did it or is it too difficult for someone with obviously limited computer skills?


    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 9:39AM
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There's a code you least for the hostsite you're using.


In front of 'img' type in

If I place the symbols here the code won't show up. Where you see YOUR PICTURE URL paste in your http address.

You must have the quotation marks shown in the code!

Below is a site where you can practice .......

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 11:16AM
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Thank you Ann, I did have to have my son translate for my but now I get it! So, Here is the other picture.

Linnea, I am glad your migraine is better, they are the pits! It is so sweet that your cat wanted to help you feel better. I am glad she is doing better. Maybe if there is something lower she likes to jump up on you can move it by something taller she wants to get on? A foot stool or step stool? She might be more willing to use something she is already familiar with. I'm sure she feels she should be able to do whatever she wants! :-)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 1:14PM
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That's great news! I am glad your baby is getting better. I used a ramp for my kitty and so much easier then steps...
I feel for you with migraines I get them too they are horrible..I have 4 fur babies right now all brothers and they follow me from room to room ..the other day my DGS was playing his game on my tv in the bedroom and I closed the door so the cats could not go in.They sat outside the door crying DGS said grandma why are the kitties crying I said because they want me with them he said well you better go so they don't cry .....I just love them.......I know when I don't feel well they are at my side...we also are couch sickies LOL I hope your baby keeps doing well.keep us updated.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2007 at 12:52AM
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Thanks so much for your support. I work at home alone (I'm an artist) and there are days at a time when I never leave the house and see no one til the kids get home. My cat is my buddy, cheerfully moving from office to studio to kitchen to keep me company.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2007 at 12:03PM
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My cat had a stroke the same day yours did.. the only diference is my vet didn't give my cat any meds or anything.. I belive they only gave her some steroids that very day.. My cat is getting better but seems to be taking longer then yours.. she will not eat on her own.. I have to hold the food dish to her mouth.. she wont use the litter box.. I'm having a hard time

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 9:53PM
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Did the vet say what may have caused the stroke. Was it parasitic like linnea's cat?

If you're not happy with the treatment, don't hesitate to get a second opinion.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 10:09PM
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I'm sorry to hear about your cat, Alaina. I never knew cats had strokes before this happened; but I assume that like human strokes there are different extents of brain damage. Do they know what caused your cat's stroke? In my cat's case it was the parasite that interrupted blood flow to part of the brain causing areas to die. Did your cat have seizures too?

The prednisone she takes daily is to reduce brain inflammation. If my regular vet had been open I would have taken her there first. But since they were closed their service sent me to an animal emergency room. I sometimes wonder if this made the outcome different. This emergency clinic has a neurologist on staff and he was the one who took charge of her care. (I didn't know there were animal neurologists either!) Even if I had been able to take her to our regular vet, this would have been beyond him (not the treatment but the equipment needed for the diagnosis).
Knowing she was having seizures, and the fact that she had no symptoms before they suddenly appeared, made diagnosis faster; though finding the cause of the stroke took longer. This clinic was really expensive. I put down a $1000 deposit against charges on the first night. I think I was so shocked at what had happened to her and the suddenness of it that I didn't question anything they were doing. The room where they were working on her and the other "patients" was just like a human ICU in miniature.
She was originally given a whole battery of meds and shots to kill whatever possible infectious agents were causing this (like bacteria, fungus, parasites), plus something to stop the seizures.

My cat looked really bad for maybe the first week she was home. Hardly able to walk or crawl. I would stand there looking at her and wonder if I should just put her to sleep. But she didn't seem to be in pain, and still seemed to enjoy being with us, so I just prayed and waited. I was rather surprised that she was interested in eating especially since she was hardly moving around enough to need the calories. Someone later told me that one of the meds (as a side effect) stimulates the appetite. I'm not sure if it's the prednisone or the phenobarbital that does that. We brought the food to her too: it was too hard to see her struggle towards it.

Even when she was looking much better she was not using the litter box. The vet said to retrain her as though she was a kitten. To watch how long after she ate came the pee or the poop (was about 20 minutes); then to place her in the litter box several times a day at about the right time. Also to put the litter box right next to where she was resting (but not next to the food), and use one with very low sides so she could step into it easily. Peeing in the right place came several days before pooping in the box. She has been quite good in the last few days but still had a major accident on the foyer floor today. At her follow-up visit 5 days ago the vet said she was recovering faster than usual, possible because she's "young" (eight) compared to most cats with strokes. But the pattern of damage and kinds of impairments she was having were a textbook case.

I hope your cat will continue to improve and will pray for her. I hope these details have been helpful.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 10:44PM
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Thank you so much, I have been feeling really bad the past couple of days, I have a really busy lifestyle, and I can't give her the attention I would like. she seems to be worse today... her head seems to be shaking... and she's not moving around much. My cat (tiger) is only 3 years old. I'm going to take her to another vet, I just don't feel they said enough to me and need more answers, the other problem is money, I just don't have the funds to shell out to her witch makes me feel like even more of a failure.. I will keep you posted and I will pray for your cat too.. thanks again

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 3:20PM
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oh, the day we noticed something was wrong she was panting like a dog... then she just started bumping into walls... she was walking in circles, it was really strange... then.. she bit daughter and I. I don't think she ment to, she was just scared.. but she did bite us hard enough that we did go to the hospital. I thought I might need a stich, by the time we got home, which was really late, just was sleeping and I didn't think much about it until the next morning, she was incoherant. So then I took her to the vet

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 5:08PM
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I am so happy for all the baby steps your kitty has made. I used to work for a large veterinary emergency hospital with a number of specialists, and I've dealt with other specialists with my own pets, so I think it's fantastic that your cat was initially able to be treated by a neurologist. Veterinary medicine has become so specialized that most "regular" small animal vets (who deal with vaccines, well-pet visits, ear infections, etc.) really aren't equipped to deal with something like a stroke or many other serious conditions. I'm not bashing "regular" vets, but there's plenty of business to be made dealing only with the problems 99% of pet owners will face, so when you're dealing with something out of the ordinary, it's always good to consult a specialist. They are expensive, but worth it, if you can afford it.

I hope your kitty recovers enough to get back to her (and your) normal, every day activities. This may well be just something you tell stories about years down the road. Cats are much more resilient than it seems.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 9:23PM
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Hello - wanted to make sure you are aware that Baytril can cause permanent blindness in cats. I found this out surfing the web looking for some answers as to why my cat went in to get her teeth cleaned and came out blind and paralyzed. Turns out my kitty didn't have Baytril, and probably had a stroke while under sedation, but I saw several websites citing Baytril as having a potential side effect of permanent blindness. By the way, my kitty has forgotten how to use the litter box also, and nothing is working so far - I think she's brain damaged from the stroke and just has no instinct in that area anymore. Good luck with yours!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 4:25PM
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