A study revealed that the sound-induced seizures were more common in older cats, and the most common triggers were crinkling tinfoil, hitting a ceramic bowl or cup with a metal spoon and tapping glass.
Mark Lowrie and Laurent Garosi, veterinary neurologists at Davies Veterinary Specialists in England, and Robert Harvey, a molecular neuroscientist and geneticist at the University College London School of Pharmacy, decided to survey cat owners about the phenomenon, which has been dubbed as, “The Tom and Jerry Syndrome” after the cartoon character Tom, who often responds to startling sounds with involuntary jerks.
Hundreds of cat owners from around the world replied that they had noticed their cats were having seizures in response to certain types of sounds. Most owners’ vets didn’t know what was causing the seizures and didn’t believe a sound had been the trigger.
In a study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, the researchers looked at data from 96 cats, including the type of seizure, how long it lasted and what sound appeared to trigger it. They found that some cats — like some humans — suffer from seizures caused by sound, known as “audiogenic reflex seizures.”
As for cats, he researchers have identified this cat version of sound-triggered seizures as feline audiogenic reflex seizures, or FARS for short.
In cats, certain sounds triggered absence (or nonconvulsive) seizures; myoclonic seizures, characterized by brief muscle jerks; or generalized tonic-clonic seizures, in which the animal loses consciousness and its body stiffens and jerks for several minutes.
Both pedigree and nonpedigree cats can have these seizures, but they were most common in Birman-breed cats. According to researchers, seizures were also more common in cats ages 10 to 19, and the average age of onset was 15 years.
The sounds that triggered the seizures ran the gamut, including crinkling tinfoil (82 cats), a metal spoon clanking on a ceramic food bowl (79 cats), chinking or tapping glass (72 cats), crinkling paper or plastic bags (71 cats), computer keyboard or mouse sounds (61 cats), jingling coins or keys (59 cats), hammering a nail (38 cats) and the clicking of an owner’s tongue (24 cats). Less commonly, cellphone ringing, Velcro peeling or a walk across a wooden floor with bare feet could trigger the kitty seizures.
Owners could sometimes prevent the seizures by avoiding these sounds, however, that wouldn’t always be possible. Researchers said that, the epilepsy medication levetiracetam can be an effective treatment for managing FARS and could “completely rid” a cat of sound-induced seizures.