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Household noises really can cause cat seizures: What pet owners can do

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Older cats can have seizures from certain common noises in the home

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown reason older cats can have seizures that pet owners will want to know about. It seems there are certain sounds that trigger seizures in older cats that is a newly identified syndrome termed feline audiogenic reflex seizures or FARS bust previously dubbed Tom and Jerry Syndrome after the cartoon cat that is so easily startled.


Research published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery sheds light on the disorder that can happen when an older cat is exposed to certain sounds.

Cats ranging in age from 15 to 19 appear to be particularly susceptible as well as the Birman cat breed.

Pet owners report in on sounds that cause cat seizures

Mark Lowrie and Laurent Garosi from Davies Veterinary Specialists and Robert Harvey from the UCL School of Pharmacy, London developed a questionnaire for pet owners to complete.

The research began when the charity International Cat Care asked neurologists at Davies Veterinary Specialists, UK for help identifying the disorder. But it turns out there wasn't much documented about the phenomenon that was dubbed the 'Tom and Jerry Syndrome'.

The now published results that come from reports of 96 felines reveals that cats can indeed have noise induced seizures that range from "absence" seizures (those that don't cause the cat to have involuntary movements) to brief contraction of the muscles known as myoclonic seizures to full blown generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

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The most common sounds causing cat seizures include:

  • Aluminum foil crinkling
  • Metal spoon clanking on a ceramic bowl
  • Clinking glass
  • Crinkling bags, either plastic or paper
  • Click of a computer mouse
  • Typing on a computer keyboard
  • Clinking of coins and keys
  • Hammering a nail
  • The click of an owner's tongue
  • The researchers found other common household noises can also trigger seizures in cats including a child's scream in one instance, squeaky shoes, bare feet on a wooden floor, the sound of texting or firewood being split, wooden blocks knocked together and even a computer printer.

    Humans can also suffer from the form of epilepsy that is thought to occur from stimulation that disrupts normal activity of the brain and can occur from sound, touch or seeing certain objects.

    What owners can do

    Feline parents can try to keep certain noises away from their cats by paying attention to what types of sounds trigger seizures.

    Cat owners reported worse seizures when sounds were loudest. They also noted it is sometimes difficult to identify which sounds would send their cat into a seizure, making it sometimes difficult to eliminate sound triggers.

    Lead author, Mark Lowrie, says the researchers are publishing another study suggesting a common anti-seizure medication known as levetiracetam can help manage 'Tom and Jerry Syndrome', now officially known as audiogenic reflex seizures or FARS.