Monty and epilepsy

March 20, 2019, was #worldhappinessday and it was a double happiness day for us because it was also the day Monty got to celebrate being seizure-free from epilepsy for one year!

Reaching one whole year since Monty last experienced a seizure is a huge milestone and such a relief. It was a nightmare to see our little boy going through this and not knowing how we could help him!

We are getting daily questions about Monty’s epilepsy medication, his seizures, what we did, and much more, so now I want to sit down and tell you all everything that happened and what we did.

In March, 2018, Monty was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Here is the story with all his symptoms, his treatment, and everything else I can think of about this whole nightmare experience!

In the summer of 2017, we moved into a house with a big backyard for Monty. We moved from an apartment where Monty had always been an indoor cat. A couple of months after we moved in, we finished fencing the entire backyard and Monty got to run in his garden for the first time. He was so happy, and very curious as always.

All was well until about three months later, when we noticed that Monty was acting strange. One evening we found him lying in a corner, looking completely stoned! He was frozen in a weird position, sitting on his bum with a faraway look in his eyes. We ran to him and talked to him while stroking his head until he came back again. The episode lasted about 1-2 minutes and afterwards he was completely normal again, like nothing had ever happened. We didn’t know what to think because he had been playing with catnip right before it happened, so our conclusion was that he must have been very high on catnip.

We didn’t experience anything unusual again until March, 2018, when he had another weird episode. He had been sitting in the window in the living room and looking at birds that we were feeding. Suddenly he was spacing out and looking very stoned, with blank eyes and his whiskers sticking straight out from his face. We got very scared and called the vet. This episode lasted about one minute and like the last time, he was completely normal again afterwards. We scheduled an appointment for Monty the very next day. Sadly, he had another episode again that day and this time he seemed not only stoned but disoriented. He simply couldn’t figure out where to place one of his paws. He stuck one of his front paws out like he was trying to figure out where the ground was. This episode lasted around two minutes, and again he acted totally normal once it was over.

For the next week, Monty’s seizures got more intense and happened up to three times a day. The vet wasn’t sure what was happening to our boy but even though it didn’t look like typical epilepsy, she thought he might be having epileptic seizures. Monty needed a team of specialists, so we went to a big animal hospital that has the only MRI scanner for animals in Denmark.
They did all kinds of tests on him—an ultrasound on his heart, blood samples to look for poisoning and organ failure, tests of his nervous system, and an MRI scan. They also tried doing a spinal tap to check for meningitis but the test failed. He went through so much and as it often is with epilepsy, it is diagnosed when there is no other explanation.
We are so grateful and feel very lucky that they didn’t find anything wrong in his brain. It could have been a tumor and that is why this MRI scan was so important. We remember sitting and waiting at a café nearby for Monty to be done with the MRI and to wake from anesthesia. We were so terrified and we tried to watch a movie on our laptop but we couldn’t even follow the movie because the only thing we could think about was our little boy. I actually can’t even remember what movie it was, but I can remember all my feelings and how everything looked at the hospital and things like that.

When we picked Monty up, the vet asked if we had ever considered whether Monty was deaf! We thought it was the weirdest question she could ask us and we asked why. She said she asked because Monty had been crying so much before the anesthesia when they were about to get ready and when they stroked him and talked to him to calm him down, he acted like he was deaf and ignored them completely. He just kept on crying loudly and since Monty is always reacting to our voices, we imagined that he was just so scared that he was simply doing his best to cry for us to come. That was hard to hear but at least it was time to bring him home.

Monty’s tests all came back negative and he was put on a medication called Keppra (Levetiracetam in Danish) but it didn’t work! He kept having seizures, so he was put on phenobarbital as well but that takes about two weeks to have full effect. Keppra was supposed to work right away but it didn’t. When the phenobarbital started to work after about a week or two, he didn’t have any more seizures. Unfortunately, the medication made him so drunk, wobbly, and tired! After about two weeks, Monty had lost some weight because he was sleeping so much that he just wasn’t eating enough. The vet took a blood sample and saw that he had enough of the medication in his blood so we were able to lower the dose a little. Monty started to wake up, we gave him some medication for nausea, and then he started eating again. We slowly got our happy boy back and he started to play too. Sadly, he hurt his knee when he was still a little “drunk” so we had to force him to rest but that is a whole other story, and his knee is fine again. He is indeed a miracle boy and now a year has passed without any seizures and we cannot even express how relieved and grateful we are! <3

So that was the entire story of this nightmare we went through with our boy and we have some advice for you if you have a cat that suddenly experiences seizures.

  1. If you can, and your cat is not in danger, take your phone and record the seizure so you can show your vet exactly how it looks. It is very difficult to explain and if you are two people, one can record while the other person is taking care of the cat.
  2. Call the vet right away! If the vet is closed, call your animal hospital! Don’t wait! Seizures can be fatal, so it is extremely important to react right away.
  3. Epilepsy normally shows up in young cats up to seven years old and most of the time it appears as shaking symptoms. If your cat is shaking, we highly recommend you follow these steps right here:
  4. Always remain calm! Please don’t panic! It is easier said than done but you need to be strong for your furbaby and therefore you need to remember to breathe and think! Stop and think “what should I do?”

Are we sure that Monty has epilepsy?

Well, to be honest, no. We are not sure that he has epilepsy because of many reasons.

It is not normal for cats to get epilepsy at his age. Monty was eight when he started having seizures and normally, symptoms begin earlier than that.

His seizures didn’t look like typical epilepsy seizures with shaking, peeing, and screaming. His seizures were very slow movements like he was disoriented and stoned.

Monty’s seizures started when he got access to our garden. He was exposed to a whole new world and that could trigger epilepsy, but it could also trigger overstimulation and anxiety. So maybe it was some kind of overstimulation and anxiety we saw in him.

No matter what it is, epilepsy or not, the phenobarbital is working and we are very grateful that he is doing so well! We were so scared of losing our boy!

Things to think about when dealing with epilepsy:

Overstimulation and stress can trigger a seizure, but that doesn’t mean the animal with epilepsy should be bored. We removed the bird feeding station in front of the window because looking back at it, it was too much for us to feed birds right in front of the window in the living room. We didn’t knew that he could get overstimulated but of course he did! He was chasing birds in the garden and when he got inside he saw birds eating in front of his window! He was obsessed with the birds and he didn’t rest a lot like he does now when he is inside. He was constantly looking at the birds!

One last thing I want to say. Please call your vet or 24-hour animal hospital if you are in doubt of anything concerning your cat’s (or any other animal’s) health. Don’t google or ask in a group. Call right away and ask a professional. <3