What is hyperesthesia syndrome? Hyperesthesia syndrome commonly referred to as “rolling skin syndrome” or “twitchy cat disease.” Little is known about this disorder that occurs in young cats. It is a form of feline obsessive-compulsive behavior. Cats with this condition display hypersensitivity to being touched along the spine, down the back and at the base of the tail.
How does my cat get hyperesthesia syndrome? It is unclear how cats develop hyperesthesia syndrome. However, cats who are highly anxious or aroused or aggressive tend to show symptoms of this disorder.
How do I know if my cat has hyperesthesia syndrome? Common signs associated with hyperesthesia include dilated pupils, muscle spasms, twitching, skin rippling, excessive tail twitching, tail chasing, self-mutilating behaviors (such as biting the tail, flanks and hair plucking) persistent howling and dashing off madly. Some cats experience grand mal seizures during or following a hyperesthesia episode. Often, the condition surfaces when a cat begins to do routine grooming. This grooming then escalates into a biting frenzy. Schedule a thorough physical exam by a veterinarian who will perform tests to rule out other possible conditions such as skin allergies, arthritis, abscesses, cancer or organ problems.
What can I do about hyperesthesia syndrome? Trying to stop a cat from licking or biting its skin or chasing its tail during an episode can be difficult and unsafe. You risk being bit. However, you can take steps to thwart episodes by making the home environment less stressful and more welcoming. Do this by feeding your cat two or three small meals a day on a regular schedule, engaging your cat in daily aerobic exercise like chasing a feather toy, teaching your cat clicker training or performing simple tricks, providing cat trees and perches, and preventing any infighting between cats in your home. Anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications may be necessary on a temporary or permanent basis to reduce the symptoms. A referral to a neurologist or behaviorist may also be recommended.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting hyperesthesia syndrome? The cause of this condition is unknown. From the start, provide your cat with a stimulating home environment that includes toys, interactive play, window perches to view outside activity or fish tanks to provide mental stimulation. Properly introduce new pets or people into the home to reduce stress.
Are there certain breeds that get hyperesthesia syndrome more often? Young cats between the ages of 1 and 4, particularly Siamese, Abyssinian, Burmese and Himalayan breeds are more prone to developing this disorder.