Feline Hyperesthesia syndrome(feline psychogenic alopecia ) aggression manifests itself spontaneously. Cats with such syndrome are extremely sensitive when touched along the spine. To avoid this bad habit, it is very important that the cat is not stressed.
“Hyperesthesia” means “abnormally increased sensitivity of the skin.” It may begin with signs typical of feline psychogenic alopecia , and then escalate. It is known by many names including “rolling skin syndrome,” “twitchy cat disease,” “neuritis,” and “atypical neurodermatitis.”
Hyperesthesia syndrome occurs more frequently in oriental cats, breeds like Siamese, Himalayan, Burmese, and Abyssinian. This syndrome is most common between 1 to 4 y.o. cats. Hyperesthesia syndrome seems to have no known cause and aggression is called idiopathic.
Feline Hyperesthesia syndrome becomes apparent in few ways.
- Twitching of the tail.
- Rippling of the skin over the back
- Muscle spasms and twitching
- Cats may exhibit strange behaviors in response to touching such as tail chasing, biting at the tail, flank and sides, to the point of self-directed aggression. They run, jump, hallucinate, vocalize, and even turn around and hiss.
- They may self-mutilate with extreme biting, licking, chewing, and plucking of the hair (sometimes called “barbering” or “fur mowing”). This behavior leads to hair loss and sometimes to severe skin lesions.
It is difficult to distract the cat from these behaviors once they begin. The sequence of events varies. Your cat might twitch first, then focus on that spot to lick and chew; or, he might be grooming, then start to twitch, then progress to other signs mentioned above. Behaviors that might mimic feline hyperesthesia syndrome are estrus (cats in heat), and certain types of seizure disorders. If you suspect your pet has feline hyperesthesia syndrome, you may go to the vet for neurological check. Sometimes anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications, such as medications that increase serotonin (a brain chemical), may be helpful and will be prescribed by your veterinarian. These drugs are usually given for about twelve weeks, or until the symptoms decrease, then slowly tapered. Some cats may not be able to taper off the drugs and will require them indefinitely. Your veterinarian will monitor his condition with blood tests during this time period. Many of these drugs are not approved for this syndrome in cats, so your permission is required. Your veterinarian may also refer your cat to a behavior specialist for additional treatment of this unusual syndrome.
If you can identify and avoid stressors that can trigger hyperesthesia syndrome should be avoided. Some cats may be startled with excessive attention or a sudden unexpected noise, such as clapping or hitting a newspaper against a table.
The cats also may respond to medication for seizures or anxiety and antidepressants that act on the human brain cat to apply brakes behavior.