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Household Sounds Are Triggering Seizures in Cats, UK Vets Report

It's being called "Tom and Jerry syndrome" due to the frenzied way cats react to certain noises.

Michael Leaverton  |  Apr 30th 2015


Some time ago, the nonprofit advocacy group International Cat Care began receiving reports from around the UK of cats suffering seizures and odd, spastic behavior; the group passed the info to Davies Veterinary Specialists, who investigated the cases and discovered something very odd. The seizures were linked to seemingly mundane sounds, according to the Telegraph. How mundane? Well, it appeared that cats were suffering seizures and “jumpy” behaviors after hearing such around-the-house noises as:

  • The rustling of newspapers and cracker packets
  • The clicking of a computer mouse
  • The tapping of a boiled egg
  • The opening of a cat food tin
  • The popping of pills from blister packs
  • The dropping of metal items on tiled floors or ceramic bowls
  • The hammering of nails
  • The slapping of foreheads or the clicking of tongues


Cat and mouse, via Shutterstock

One cat, Moochi, would convulse and lose his balance after hearing repetitious tapping sounds. Another, Jeffery, would have fits lasting a full minute after hearing mouse clicks. Grace would freak out at the sound of rustling newspaper, running in circles and then convulsing.

The vets believe the cats’ reactions are similar to reflex epilepsy in humans, but they’re still investigating, seeking more cases and trying to determine a pattern or “what trends are behind the reactions,” according to the Telegraph.

“We want to see if other vets and owners are aware of the problem. It could be they haven’t even associated these fits with noise. I’m sure that a pattern will emerge. It doesn’t seem to be occurring at times of stress. It is often when the cats are being fed — which is probably one of their happier times of the day,” Mark Lowrie, from Davies Veterinary Specialists, told the Telegraph.


As for the seizures, some are similar to what you might find in humans, with jerking motions, while others are mild, consisting of a cat being “jumpy” or freezing. It’s being called Tom and Jerry syndrome, apparently because of the way Tom would freak out and run around the house like his tail was on fire (or actually was on fire).

“It is hard not to smile, because it does all sound rather Tom and Jerry, but it would be very nice to get to the bottom of it,” Claire Bessant, chief executive of International Cat Care, told the Telegraph. “People seem to be getting around it, by making sure they tip toe around their animals and try to avoid making the noise.”

Via the Telegraph 

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