Have You Ever Heard of Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures?

Birman CatDoes the sound of someone chewing their food or tapping their fingernails make you cringe? Is there a common sound that doesn’t typically bother others, but can easily and quickly send you over the edge? If you have a kitty companion, you may not be alone.

Discovered in the United Kingdom

 A bizarre seizure disorder affecting felines was discovered a few years ago in the United Kingdom. Common, everyday sounds seemed to trigger these epileptic-like seizures, accompanied with various symptoms such as loss of balance, convulsions, running in circles, restlessness and freezing in place. Noises that induced these seizures included things as simple as the clicking of a TV remote control, rustling of a newspaper and a variety of other normal household sounds.

Researchers began investigating this odd phenomenon and soon learned pet parents from around the world witnessed the same reactions to certain sounds in their own felines. The one factor almost all cases had in common was the affected cat’s veterinarian having no explanation for the condition, and the general disbelief that sound was the trigger.

FARS, a.k.a. the Tom and Jerry Syndrome

With these findings, the researchers became even more determined to study the anomaly and find answers. They collected data from 96 affected cats and concluded that some cats do indeed suffer from seizures caused by sounds. The disorder was named Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures (FARS), otherwise known as “Tom and Jerry Syndrome.”

Research found some sounds did indeed cause the afflicted cats in the study to experience non-convulsive seizures, brief jerks of a muscle or group of muscles, or full-body seizures that lasted up to several minutes. The sounds that most often trigged these seizures were:

· Aluminum foil being crinkled

· Tapping of a metal spoon against a ceramic bowl

· Clinking or tapping of glass

· Crinkling of a plastic bag or paper

· Typing on a keyboard

· The clicking of computer mouse

· Clinking of coins and keys

· Hammering of nails

· A person clicking their tongue

Among the 96 cats studied, all were affected by one or more of these sounds, but the Birman breed proved to be particularly vulnerable.  The cats in the study all ranged in age from 10 to 19 years, with the average age being 15, leading researchers to conclude a seizure disorder may be overlooked by veterinarians as older animals naturally tend to have other health issues that are more obvious and recognizable.

Thanks to the UK researchers, FARS is now a known and recognizable disorder and the kitties who suffer can be treated with sound aversion and anti-seizure medication.

If your kitty companion experiences any of the signs that go along with FARS, seek veterinary attention and mention your suspicion that your kitty may have the disorder.