My cat has developed sensitivity to clicking sounds causing twitching

by Antoinette Worrall
(Birmingham England)

My cat has developed very sensitive hearing to clicking sounds causing him to twitch and today he had what could be described as a small fit.

I was about to feed him and he was sitting on the table as usually waiting. I was scrapping the leftovers from the tin with a fork and the sound it was making caused him to repeatedly twitch and as I stop it, he starting to run around in a circle.

I took him off the table and he tried to run away but was not in control of his body and still continued to try and run round in a circle.

I tried to hold him because he was heading for the wall and in doing so it appears as though he was having difficulties with his mouth and his tongue.

I held the wee chap until it passed which only took seconds. This was extremely upsetting to witness. I have booked him in with the vet today.

This sensitive hearing started to occur when his brother died on July 10. As time has gone on he has become more and more sensitive to any clicking sound especially the computer mouse.

Please let me know if you have heard anything like this before and what is it. Inner ear problem? He has no other health issues. He is generally a very happy/healthily cat (13 years old).

Antoinette


Hi Antoinette…. thanks for sharing and asking.

I am at a disadvantage as you are going to the vet soon.

Nonetheless, as you have asked, I will answer as best as I can but this is theoretical based on what you have said.

I don’t think it is connected to the loss of his brother except for the fact that this condition appears to be linked to age. The comments indicate it occurs in elderly cats. Perhaps the loss of his brother knocked him back emotionally and that brought this condition on. I have not found anything in the textbooks which refer to increased sensitivity to sound.

He may have encephalitis, a brain infection but I think this is unlikely. This is because he has a behavioral and personality change which goes wider than hearing problems. However having read the comments it appears to be linked to a change in brain function brought about by a degeneration of the brain due to old age. That is a guess obviously.

Update: I believe this condition is related to old age and associated changes in the brain but that is just a personal theory. More and more comments come in from caretakers of elderly cats (17th Sept 2015).

Click on this link to read more.

For the sake of completeness, Encephalitis can be brought on by:

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIV)

Panleukopenia – feline distemper

Feline Leukemia – signs. FeLV

Rabies (this does not apply because rabies as been eradicated in the UK).

Pseudorabies


Toxoplasmosis can also cause encephalitis. This is caused by a protozoan

Bacteria can also cause encephalitis.

A fungal infection (Cryptococcus) can also cause it.

The treatment is dependent on the cause.

I won’t go any further as you are seeing a vet who can make a far better diagnosis with your cat in front of him and the full force of his/her training behind him

Good luck to you both.

Update: Please see the comment by Mel at base of page. Very interesting. This may be a case of hypersensitivity to vibrations caused by sound due to deafness.

Best

Michael Avatar

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My cat has developed sensitivity to clicking sounds causing twitching — 42 Comments

  1. My cat started doing the same thing a month ago. She will be 18 in July. More recent strange behavior is her screaming in the middle of the night from the bathroom. The only thing I found about this is that she may be going deaf or developing dementia and gets lost or scared in the house. The tapping on the bowl with the spoon makes her eyes dialate and she twitches until I stop. Making clicking sounds with my mouth or hands has the same reaction. I have not taken her to the vet yet as this doesn’t seem to be severe.

    • Dementia comes to mind. Certainly the nighttime howling is due to dementia. She is lost and confused. The sensitivity may be linked to the dementia. It may be caused by the fact that she hears the sound but does not know where it is coming from or what it means, which causes anxiety, which in turn is manifested in twitching.

  2. Strange thing is my cat is ALSO 18 and I am trying to sort out the same kind of thing! She has some renal issues, but no high blood pressure (which can cause night howling) She doesnt “howl” just meows each night but she is not a very vocal cat so this is very strange.

    Kissy sounds, candy wrappers and such make her visibly twitch. Some days more than others. She does not walk in circles or appear to have a pronounced episode after, but this has come on rather suddenly and I don’t know the cause. No ear infection either.

    I am giving her subQ fluids for the renal issue. I know ears/ equilibrium can be very affected by the fluid level in your body. Watching to see if this also helps the twitching at noises and night meows.

    • I’m getting ready to take mine to the vet (see my lengthy post on this page) but from things I’ve read, hearing loss contributes to the twitching (hypersensitivity to noise vibrations) and mine meows very loudly at times.

  3. I have an older male cat (approx. 12 1/2 yrs) Last may, my cat had a seizure. his legs were going uncontrolably, his tounge was drooping and I thought he was choking….I got bit, and the seizure passed.(about a minute,or so) We saw the vet next day, and found an ear infection and treated.

    After this event, he seemed to be sensitive to clicking sounds, and it will make him twitch. 6 mos. to the day of last seizure, he had another. My girlfriend was getting his canned food ready, and when she tapped the spoon on the dish, he reacted and twitched, and then had another seizure. I asked vet about this, and was told probably no connection with clicking spoon causing this seizure. HOWEVER, as I am reading through the page to see about this symptom with my cat, I read that someone else has seen thier cat react to clicking sound, twitch and then have a seizure. This is no coincidence! Can anyone tell me what is going on here? I am watching the calender as 6 mos. is coming up again in may. Hoping to have a better understanding as to what is happening.

  4. This is my first post to any kind of board like this. I am researching to find a reason for what happened to my cat today. She is 17 and very healthy other than for awhile now has twitched at certain sounds. One that always gets her is hard food (when I feed the dogs) falling into the dish. She is pretty much deaf as we can tell she doesn’t hear us when she’s not looking at us and she meows very loudly at times. Well today she was in the garage and so was I, getting ready to till the garden. I started the tiller in the garage and seconds later my son yelled at me and pointed out what was happening. She was on the floor lying on her side with all 4 legs flailing uncontrollably! I quickly turned off the tiller and ran to her. I gently placed my hands on her and after a few seconds she slowed down. When I thought I could, I tried placing her upright to see if she could even sit up or stand. She was able to stand and even walk but one of her back legs wasn’t working quite right at first. Then everything soon returned to normal and she was fine. I’ve read some things that talk about deaf animals being extremely sensitive to sound waves and I’m thinking the tiller (very loud) sent her over the edge but I would never have thought it would cause her to have a seizure but that’s sure what it looked like. I plan on taking her to the vet after the weekend but wanted to research too. I lost her mother this past fall at the age of 17 1/2 and she seemed like she had a stroke the day she died. We found her limp and unable to move just shortly before she passed. Thanks for any input!

    • Wow, a tough experience but from a scientific point of view a fascinating one. I have never heard of that. Thanks Mel for sharing. I might do some more work on this. Your comment has inspired me. I hope she is OK.

      I think you are right. She has developed a hypersensitivity to vibrations to compensate for deafness and sound vibrations rather than make her ears prick up, make her twitch.

  5. Probably about 8-9 months ago, my ~18 year old cat had a seizure. We took him to the vets and was told his kidneys weren’t functioning as they used to and that was what probably caused the seizure. If it happened very often (daily or weekly), we should take him back in. Monthly episodes were likely, but nothing to cause any more concern than already was the case. As advised, we switched him to a renal diet.

    Since then, every 2-3 months, he has another occurrence. Today was the 4th.

    The 1st, I was at work, he was in the kitchen with my wife and she was probably preparing something (knocking about making noise I suspect).
    2nd and 3rd occurrences he was sitting on my lap whilst I was on the computer. Clicking away on my mouse and keyboard.

    At the time I thought none of it, but the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that he would twitch when I made that “kissing” sound to get his attention. It would happen at other times, but never really tied it to any noise, but I’m sure there was something. I never noticed him twitch with the mouse/keyboard clicks (as per 2 and 3). I decided I was being stupid and didn’t mention it to my wife.

    Today’s seizure, he was sitting on my lap and I was tapping my stomach. He twitched slightly and then looked very confused (as to where the sound was coming from maybe?). He then ran away and in a circle before travelling 3-4 metres across the room and fitting for about 30 seconds.

    I was adamant to my wife that I caused it and now reading this, it seems I have.

    He always takes about a minute or so to recover (stays still), then meows for another minute and then returns back to normal.

    Pretty sure he isn’t deaf, he can hear us calling without having to be looking at us. He comes running from a mile away when we do 🙂

    Anyway, that is just my story, I hope we can find some answers soon. Thanks.

    • Wow, Nick your story and your cat’s story is amazing. I never cease to be amazed by this phenomenon. Yours is a very complete story. Right now I don’t have any clever answers. Thank you for sharing.

    • The seizures are, likely, caused from a build up of toxins due to his kidney failure. Your vet should be doing more than suggesting a change in diet. Medications and, probably, fluid therapy might be considered.
      The sounds you describe may or may not be triggering the seizures. I tend to think not though.
      In any case, CKD is common in senior cats but can be managed to a certain extent. With the right sort of treatments, your cat can be more comfortable and they will prolong the inevitable.

    • My cat is doing the exact same as your cat. He came home limping around 2 months ago I took him to the vets they gave him a pain relief injection after arriving home he had a huge seizure and ever since he has started twitching at the kissing noise. At first it was other little noises clicking etc but has got worse. Iv heard people say Tom and Jerry syndrome but I’m more worried it’s something more. He is 17 in the early stages of kidney failure he was fine up until that day they gave him the injection since then it’s been all down hill

      • Your comment is interesting to me because the cause of the sensitivity (or it was exacerbated by the injection) appears to be the injection. I am sorry about that. If the injection is the cause it may be that this condition is caused by veterinary drugs. I’ll investigate that some more. This is a strange condition and the more info we can get on it the better. It is not mentioned in the books on cat health (I have several) or very rarely so.

        One notable aspect of this condition is that all the cats referred to in the comments are elderly it seems. It may therefore be linked to age and changes in the brain due to old age.

        • I’ve been reading up on your messages while searching the web for answers. My 17 year old female cat just started twitching at clicking sounds and had a big seizure yesterday, just ONE day after receiving the second injection from the vet, with a cocktail of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drugs because of gingivitis. Note, she had no twitching before the shots. She has always been healthy, petite in size with no weight issues. I am concerned she is having a serious reaction to the combination of toxins from the gingivitis infection, now cumulated with the toxins from the heavy medication. I don’t trust my vet anymore, but above all, I don’t want to stress my cat any more than absolutely necessary. I really don’t want to pack her up to drive her to the vet again. She freaks out every time… Will the toxins get out of her system eventually? What should I do? How can i help her “detox” ?
          Thanks for any help anyone may provide…

          • Hello Caroline. Thank you for contacting this website. I’m sorry to hear of the health problem that your cat is suffering from. Firstly, your comment is interesting from the standpoint that I had thought that this condition of reacting to clicking noises was simply to do with dementia in cats. However, drugs such as the ones you mention may be a contributory factor.

            I am not a veterinarian. Therefore, I can’t really answer your question but my gut feeling, based on my experiences, is that both the antibiotics and anti-inflammatories will pass through your cat’s system because they’re both designed to work temporarily. If after several days your cat still reacts to clicking sounds as described then I would suggest that this reaction is not in fact linked to the drugs but there just happens to be a coincidence. That might not be a case but it is my gut feeling.

            It may be the case though, by the way, that your cat was heading towards this condition by which I mean that your cat was heading towards reacting to clicking sounds because of the onset of dementia and that giving her these drugs simply exacerbated the condition and brought it on. If that assessment is correct then I would guess that the condition will not change and she will continue to react to the sounds in the same way for the rest of her life.

            Perhaps the best thing is to wait and see. Once the drugs wear off then you should observe her and see whether she reacts in the same way and if she does I would assume that it is due to other causes such as dementia as mentioned and then take steps to minimise the problem occurring by doing the obvious, namely, minimising the sounds that cause her to have this reaction.

            Once again, I thank you very much for commenting stop I’m sorry that my comment is not comprehensive or perhaps very helpful but it is the best I can provide at this stage.

  6. Just recently my 13-year-old cat began twitching or jerking when I have been using my computer keyboard and mouse as she likes to sit or lie beside me on the desk. Earlier this week things went a stage further and she suffered a seizure for about a minute. The vet took blood samples which came back all clear so any underlying problem is still unclear. Their suggested next step would be an MRI scan in case she has a brain tumour but I am not sure I should put the cat through this at her age. As the keyboard and mouse I use are wireless I replaced them with corded versions in case it was the RF signals that may have been causing the problem but that hasn’t helped as she still ‘jerks’ whenever I click on the mouse. It looks like she will need to be banished from the computer room from now which will not please her one bit!

  7. Our cat has developed the same tick, at 19 years old. It is usually from sharp noises, like wrinkling a water bottle.

    Yesterday the noise caused a full seizure.

  8. I have had the same experience with my Female cat she is 18 1/2 years old, I noticed the twitching with crackling noises, then last month she tried to get up on the table, she knows this is a no no, usually I tap the table and she backs off, she was slightly twitching, but didn’t stop so I tapped the table louder and my ring hit the table, she went into a full seizure, looked like an epileptic fit, twitching then shaking, flopped down and went into convulsions, and howled, this lasted a few minutes, I gently stroked her and kept her from falling off the table, with me crying and saying I’m sorry, I had just been talking to a friend and jokingly said I will travel more when the cat dies:( talk about guilt!!
    I was just eating crispy kettle chips and when I bit down the crunch made her twitch again, She is very needy lately But her Daddy my husband was admitted to a hospital a month ago just about the time of her seizure, for dementia , so she is usually on my lap if I’m sitting down, She has lost a bit of weight the past 6 months but is eating well and using the litter box ok, and does not seem in poor health she looks great for a cat almost 19 years old, she is an indoor cat,
    I’m glad to see others have experienced this, Like anything that goes wrong I’m not alone,

  9. my 10 year old Maine Coon cat had a seizure when she heard me clicking a pen on and off. she twirled around started jerking her head back and forth her legs were moving fast in a running motion while she was laying on her side. she was breathing heavenly and her heart was racing fast and she was drooling from her mouth and her eyes were fully dilated this lasted for 2 minutes. It took her an hour to bounce back to her sweet personality. she is fine but tired from the seizure. I will take her to the vet in a couple of days. If you find any information to cure these events please forward the information to me. Thanks!

    • Hi Coco. There is something happening that we don’t understand at the moment. I think research needs to be done into this because it may show up something that we, as cat caretakers, are unaware of. Your vet will be very good if he is able to provide a full and plausible diagnosis. He’ll probably just say don’t click pens of rustle plastic 😉 . Good luck though.

      I’ll do some more work on this myself and thanks for posting. If you have more info please come back and share in another comment which will be published immediately.

  10. Hi it’s been awhile, well Micki has gone to the rainbow bridge, I sure miss her, still look for her, It’s been a week, I was on my way out the door to go visit my Husband in the nursing home when she had another seizure, She didn’t bounce back like she did before, so I knew it was time, Took her to the vet, and they agreed it would be cruel to keep her any longer, I had that sweet girl for almost 20 years, the vet was impressed at her age and that she had only been sick (or depressed) for 6 months, it was her time, 🙁 No I won’t get another for awhile my life is going through changes, maybe when I am settled,
    I have the house up for sale, I wanted Micki to live out her life here, it’s the only home she knew, and it’s easier to find an apt when there are no pets to worry about,

    • Ahh, Resa, so sorry to hear this. My condolences. She looks wonderful in the photo. She had a long life. You will always remember her clearly as if it were yesterday.

      Thanks for updating us.

  11. I am so glad to come across this page. We have a 13-year old cat who has been so healthy all her life. A few months ago she began twitching in response to crackly noises. Shortly after that, she got a bad upper respiratory infection, and we attributed the twitching to maybe having fluid in her ears. At the vet, there was no evidence of ear infection, but they gave her a shot of antibiotics for the infection and had us add lysine to her food. She got over the infection, and in fact was more active and playful than she had been in years. A couple of weeks ago, though, my husband was stirring something in a hard plastic glass and she had a full-out seizure. We again took her to the vet. Several blood tests later, all the test results were normal. I found a couple of postings online that perhaps lysine overdose symptoms could involve seizures, so we stopped giving it to her. She has returned to being sedentary and still twitches at crinkly sounds and other tapping noises, but so far no more seizures in the past 12 days. We are baffled, as is the vet. The vet’s only additional recommendation was that we could take her to a feline neurologists for a brain scan, but given her age we have chosen not to put her through that. I am curious about this, and will continue to check back to see if other’s experiences are added.
    To Resa – my sincerest condolences on your loss. I pray for comfort for you.

  12. Hi there. I’m so glad to have stumbled across this forum!! We have an elderly cat, I’m ex vet nurse and it IS absolutely sound induced seizures. It’s most odd but my son brought the first seizure on by tapping on his iPad. Lots of yelling for me from son and we decided not to do anything about it as our cat is so old. Most likely has a level of dementia due to other behaviour issues. He’s almost 18 and very happy with his lot in life. He’s just started reacting to foil though I’ve noticed this morning. Ears twitching, legs twitching physically moves away from the noise. He’s not deaf that we’re aware of, when he starts his midnight yowling he’ll stop if you yell shut up, if he continues means you forgot to top up the food! Glad to hear I’m not the only one but sad as well. It is a most bizarre occurrence.

      • I have 2 cats who are 15 years old and sisters. A couple of years ago one started running and twitching and acting like something was chasing her or like she had been stung in the hind area by something. After examination I found nothing, no fleas or anything…after several episodes of this I began giving her massages which settled her twitching and she calmed down. In the past few months her sister began having seizures. We took her to the vet and our vet said older cats sometimes have seizures. Over the past few months I’ve noticed that she twitches to noise and so does her sister who we thought was deaf. The sensitivity to sound has progressively gotten worse and today as she sat on my lap I made a popping noise with my lips and it caused serious twitching, her eyes dilated and I could see that something terrible was happening to her because the twitching was very bad. I immediately grabbed her and rubbed her, talking very soft to her and her eyes returned to normal and she quit twitching. The twitching is most definitely related to sound and now that I’ve read through all of these posts, her seizures probably are too. At least now I can try to limit the noises that cause her seizures, I wish there was more I could do.

          • Michael I’ve read everything, all the links you’ve posted and the survey along with the study results. I printed it all out and I’m taking it to my vet, along with both of my cats to see if I can get a Rx for the medication. My cat’s twitching is slowly getting worse so if that med can slow it down or stop it I want to give it a try. And my vet needs to be informed about this disorder. I’m sure I’m not the only one around here who has cats with this problem.

  13. Dear Michael,

    I’m so glad to find that I’m not the only person with a pusscat suffering from twitches due to sound.

    Lucy has just turned 15, is sadly at stage 2-3 renal failure but still quite chirpy considering. She started to react to the computer mouse clicking a couple of months ago, and in the last few weeks from the kissy sound. She hasn’t had a seizure I don’t think but I would imagine continued noises could do it.
    I thought it may be due to being injured on the road a long time ago, ever since then she has had spots of pigmentation growing on the coloured part of her eyes and I wondered if it may be a slow bleed on the brain. A vet told me once a bleed may be the cause of the pigmentation, other vets didn’t know. She can see fine as far as i’m aware and has always carried out night howling from when she was small – only lasts a minute or so after lights out – always a two sylable meow – like she’s trying to say ‘he llo’ – hilarious. One last thing to mention, I noticed about a year ago if I stroke around one of her ears too much she looks like she may start to twitch so I then stop – this may or may not be significant?
    Thank you for your research on this subject, I feel forarmed and will definately try massage should a seizure occur.
    Best wishes

    • Hi Janet. The more I hear about this condition the more I am convinced it is due changes in the brain in old cats – a sort of side effect of cat dementia. Most comments come from people who care for old cats. You mention that she looks like she is going to twitch when you stroke around one of her ears. This may be significant. It may simply be sound again. The sound caused by stroking near the ear. This condition is very sound sensitive. Thanks Janet for sharing as it adds to the sum total of our knowledge about this condition which is important as vets don’t yet understand it.

  14. My 18 or old cat had her 1st seizure on Jan 1st 2015. A few months before that she would not eat her hard food, that’s all she ever ate, or drink her water. I took her to the vet and they said she was dehydrated and kept her 2 nights. When she came home i started giving her wet food with the option of dry food too. Half cans as needed, so it didn’t dry out. She got better. The seizures happen about every 4-6 months and last about 30 seconds but are scary. I just pet her and not let her hurt herself. I softly & lovingly talk to her and pet her while it’s happening. We were not sure what caused it until we noticed she twitched every time a bag crinkled, we clapped our hands, or any tinking noise. After she has a seizier she looks dizzy or sometimes can’t stand for about 5 min. Once she even walked in circles even though she was trying to walk straight. We have not taken her to the vet because lack of money and she seems to be fine after 10 minutes or so. We try to keep the noises that affect her to a very minimum. Even at Christmas she had to go in the room while opened gifts because the sounds of the wrapping paper was bothering her. She is not deaf or blind, just old. I’m glad to know it’s not just my cat and it happens in older cats like mine. I will continue to avoid noises that trigger episodes and spoil her.
    3 months ago she wasn’t eating her food again so I tried a new brand of wet food, that she now loves… As long as I change the flavors each time. I also change her water twice a day.
    Bless all our fur babies.

    • Hi Jessica. Thanks for reporting on your cat’s seizures. Your story supports my suggestion that this condition is age related. I think you are doing right in simply avoiding making the type of noises which cause the seizures. That is about all you can do in fact. The best of luck. Wet food is better than dry. I only use dry for nighttime grazing. Otherwise my cat only eats wet. It avoids dehydration. Most cats on permanent dry cat food are mildly dehydrated it is believed.

  15. I am so glad I came upon this website. I was searching to understand why my cat had a seizure last night. Sabrina is 17 years young – still bright but slowing down a bit. She has been sensitive to the clicking/kissing sounds for about a year. Last night she jumped on the ottoman and forgetting that she is sensitive to the kissing sound, I made it. She twitched, walked in circles – which I thought she was chasing her tail as she does every so often, jumped off the ottoman still circling and then dropped. I screamed, I thought she was dying and not breathing. Good thing my husband was there to calm me and Sabrina. Unfortunately, he did receive a bite or two and then her seizure stopped. She was disoriented and after about an hour started coming back to us and was eating and meowing as normal. She has been howling lately a lot lately, too and I have noticed her hearing has definitely diminished. I truly believe that after this seizure, there is very little she can now hear. I don’t want to take her to the vet – not yet. She becomes very agitated and she is just too old to upset so I’ll wait. If the seizures continue,then I will take her to see what they have to say. My sweet baby is such a joy in our lives, it’s so hard to see her this way. Thanks everyone for sharing your stories, you have shed some light on my little girls situation.

  16. I just wanted to share that my female, indoor cat, age 15, started twitching as well, recently. She’s slso become extremely affectionate with me and more tolerant of my five year old daughter loving on her. At night, she has started meowing for me to pet her, and will pat me with her paw if I stop, or she’ll even give me a little love bite. Noises cause her to twitch and if they don’t stop, she jumps off the bed and drops low to the ground. I never witnessed a seizure, but once or twice in the last year, her back leg(s) gave out on her for a few seconds.

    The recent “twitching” began after I gave her a topical flea treatment from the vet. She had been showing signs of fleas, quick bursts of running, then stops to chew on her hind quarters, and then was vomiting a serious amount of furballs. Once I gave the treatment, the “flea” symptoms stopped but the twitching started. Feel bad for her, but she tucks in closer to me now to sleep and lounge, so I just love her back.

    Glad I found this site. It gave me some insight. Thanks.

    • Thanks for the interesting extra bit of information about the flea treatment possibly kicking off the sensitivity to clicking sounds. It is certainly possible because flea treatments are insecticides which affect the flea’s nervous system and can affect the cat’s nervous system too which ties in with my theory that this condition is linked to brain function and old age.

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