What Is Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome and What Can You Do?

sick cat

Cats manifest strange behaviors, for sure. They are unlike dogs in that they are very fickle with how they are touched and handled. Little things can spook them or set them off into a strange set of behaviors that leave you questioning, “What was that all about?” Well, some of the strange behaviors they may do can actually be related to a medical issue rather than just a “cat issue.” One medical condition seen in some cats is known as Feline Hyperesthesia, also known as twitching-skin syndrome, rippling skin disease, or rolling-skin syndrome. This can manifest in different ways, causing the cat to show signs and symptoms that can cause a cat to react in an abnormal, frantic reaction to your touch.

If you have ever been sitting there quietly with your little kitty snuggled up next to you and you reach over and run your hand over his back and he suddenly goes off in a tangent, licking himself frantically, perhaps with his eyes wide open and pupils dilated and tail twitching, then suddenly stops, this odd behavior is probably a result of this condition. Or he may start aggressively gnawing and chewing on his lower back and suddenly run off. There are other ways to tell if your cat may have Feline Hyperesthesia, such as, your cat may have symptoms of hyper-salivation, uncontrolled urination, and he be very vocal with bouts of loud, alarming vocalization sessions.

Feline Hyperesthesia is a neurological condition that some people tend to believe this condition falls in the general obsessive-compulsive disorder group, while Dr. de Lahunta, DVM, Emeritus professor of anatomy at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says that he believes it is a type of seizure disorder. He has reported that he has seen many cats show signs of seizure activity immediately following one of these episodes.

Dr. de Lahunta has said that the reason cats will suddenly begin to scratch, lick or chew on themselves when you touch them on their back, a skeletal muscled called the cutaneous trunci, which runs under the skin, is hyper-responsive when you touch it or scratch it. It makes the skin ripple, and the skin cannot move on its own, it has to be stimulated by the muscle. When that ripple feeling starts, it drives a cat to want to lick himself there, scratch at it, chew. A cat can become self-mutilating if the condition is bad enough.

There are also certain breeds that are more susceptible to the condition, for some reason. One is the Siamese breed. There is no known cause of a cat developing this condition, but there is a way to help treat it to keep your cat comfortable and it is typically treated with medications – anti-seizure medications.

If you suspect your cat may have this condition, you need to have him checked by his veterinarian. The doctor will first, want to make sure there isn’t some other underlying reason why your cat is chewing or scratching at his back, like fleas or a skin disorder. There are not any specific tests for this medical condition, so your doctor will order other tests that will help rule out other types of medical problems before making the diagnosis.

Along with medication, your veterinarian may order behavior methods that can help reduce your feline’s anxiety and stress level to help keep him more calm and relaxed.


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