Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome | Cat Health Collection

Plants toxic to cats
Plants toxic to cats - A - Z guide to toxic plants

cat vaccinations
Vaccinating your cat - Everything you need to know about cat vaccinations.

Hyperthyroidism in cats
Hyperthyroidism - Caused by a benign tumour of the thyroid gland which produces excess amounts of hormones which increase metabolism.

Cat fleas
Cat fleas - Everything you need to know about cat fleas and how to get rid of them.



Cat World > Cat Health > Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

What is feline hyperesthesia syndrome (FHS)?

The word hyperesthesia literally means increased sensitivity to touch, and this perfectly describes a unique disorder in felines known as  feline hyperesthesia syndrome. Other names it is known by include rolling skin disease, twitchy cat syndrome, twitch-skin syndrome and self-mutilating syndrome.

Feline hyperesthesia is a somewhat mysterious condition characterised by bizarre behaviour such as rippling skin along the back, sudden bouts of frantic biting and licking at the tail, pelvis or flank, eyes wide open, dilated pupils, running crazily around the house and aggression. During an attack, your cat will behave as if he is reacting to a hallucinatory stimuli.

Despite so much understanding of feline disorders, feline hyperesthesia syndrome is still rather misunderstood. The condition appears to start in early adulthood, Siamese cats are most commonly affected but it can occur in any cat, regardless of breed or age.

What are the symptoms of feline hyperesthesia syndrome?

Aside from the common symptoms listed in the first paragraph, other symptoms may include:

The most unique symptoms of feline hyperesia include:

  • Sensitivity to touch, especially along the spine. This may result in the owner being attacked by the cat.

  • Severe cases of FHS may include self-mutilating by biting, licking and pulling out the hair on the back and tail.

What causes feline hyperesthesia syndrome?

The cause of feline hyperesthesia syndrome still isn't entirely known. One hypothesis is that feline hyperesthesia syndrome is actually a form of seizures, while others believe it is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. Other possible causes include neurological disorders, stress and anxiety.

How is feline hyperesthesia syndrome diagnosed?

There is no diagnostic test for feline hyperesthesia syndrome, diagnosis is based on eliminating other possible causes of the behaviour such as  parasites, food allergies, hyperthyroidism,  spinal diseases and other neurological disorders. Tests your veterinarian may wish to perform include:

If possible, record the number of attacks your cat experiences. Certain triggers may initiate an attack such as petting, grooming, contact with another cat.  It is important to be aware of these cues and inform your veterinarian.

If all other possible causes (listed above) are ruled out, your veterinarian can assume the cat is suffering from feline hyperesthesia syndrome.

How is feline hyperesthesia syndrome treated?

Treatment is directed at the underlying cause, if this can be identified and may include:

  • Reducing stress in the household, including addressing any fighting between household cats.

  • Providing your cat with an enriching environment such as plenty of play to burn off energy.

  • Providing him with his own bed, food and water bowls, scratching post.

  • Providing your cat with a regular routine such as feeding at the same time every day. Several small meals are better than one or two large meals.

  • If grooming or petting cause an attack, avoid these activities.

Drug therapy:

  • Anticonvulsant medications such as phenobarbital.

  • Anxi-anxiety drugs.

  • Corticosteroids such as prednisolone.

  • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

It may take a little time to develop a suitable drug regime for your cat and his particular circumstances, and will take several weeks before you begin to see an improvement. Your veterinarian will gradually reduce the dose of any medications your cat is receiving until he is on the minimal dose required to manage the condition.

Also see:

Twitching in cats   Flea allergy dermatitis   Feline hyperthyroidism  



Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome | Cat Health Collection
Cat Breed Profiles
Maine Coon profile Maine Coon
Affectionately known as coonies, the Maine Coon is the largest breed of domestic cat.
Bengal breed profile Bengal
Originally christened the Leopardette, the Bengal cat is a hybridization of domestic cats and Asian Leopard Cats (a small wild cat)
Ragdoll breed profile Ragdoll
The Ragdoll is an extremely laid back and placid breed of cat whose history dates back to the 1960's with a white female cat named Josephine.
Burmese breed profile Burmese
The Burmese cat is a popular breed of cat and for good reason. They are the third most searched breed of cat on this site.
Persian breed profile Persian
One of, if not the most popular breed, the Persian is one of the oldest known breeds of cat.


Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome | Cat Health Collection