Causes of Fainting in Cats

Fainting in cats can occur as a result of problems with the nervous system, bones and joints, heart and circulation or respiratory system. Fainting is not a disease in itself, but is usually a symptom of something more serious. Here's how to recognize and cope with fainting spells in your cat.

Recognizing a Feline Fainting Spell

When cats faint, they don't always lose consciousness. Sometimes cats suddenly experience hind leg weakness that causes them to sit down suddenly, and robs them of their ability to sit back up. Sometimes cats experience total collapse, in which they fall to the ground and are unable to stand back up. Sometimes cats lose consciousness when they faint.

Some cats recover from fainting spells on their own relatively quickly. Other cats remain in the collapsed position until they receive some form of assistance. If your cat suffers a fainting spell, he'll seem to suddenly sit down or lie down. He won't be able to stand again until the fainting spell passes, and he may lose consciousness.

Feline fainting spells can last from a few seconds to a few hours. Your cat may remain conscious but may appear anxious, confused or glassy eyed. If your cat fails to respond to your voice or touch, he has lost consciousness.

Causes of Feline Fainting Spells

There are a number of diseases and conditions that can cause feline fainting. They include:

  • Poisoning by household products, pesticides or human medication
  • Musculoskeletal conditions like hip dysplasia
  • Respiratory diseases like pneumonia, pulmonary edema and bronchitis
  • Nervous system diseases like degenerative myelopathy or a slipped disk
  • Abnormalities in blood pressure
  • Blood diseases like anemia and leukemia
  • Heart problems, including hereditary conditions and heart worms

In most cases feline fainting is a symptom of a serious condition. These diseases can become quite advanced before fainting occurs, and in many cats fainting spells may be the first symptom of illness.

Diagnosing Feline Fainting Spells

Your vet could need to perform a range of diagnostic procedures to determine the cause of your cat's fainting spells. Your vet will need a complete medical history and will perform a thorough physical exam. Make sure your vet listens carefully for problems with your cat's heart beat, since cardiovascular problems are a primary cause of feline fainting spells.

Routine blood tests can identify fainting spells caused by more common conditions like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), though your vet may need to perform specialized blood tests to check for conditions like leukemia or viral infection. X-rays can tell your vet if your cat has suffered any physical injury that may be causing spells of muscular weakness. EKGs help identify heart problems and ultrasounds allow your vet to examine individual organs for defects or injury.

If your cat's fainting spells are neurological in origin, your cat may need to see a feline neurologist. The neurologist may perform CT scans, MRIs or other specialized tests to determine the nature of any problems with your cat's nervous system.

You'll need to treat the cause of feline fainting spells in order to eliminate them.