Can Cats Outgrow Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome?

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, explains symptoms and treatments for this cat health problem.

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Q: My 7 year old neutered male Siamese cat has feline hyperesthesia syndrome. Do you know any cats that have out grown this? He has had it for over two years.

A: Hyperesthesia syndrome, sometimes referred to as “rolling skin syndrome,” is a problem in cats that can cause twitching of the skin (especially around the base of the tail), vocalizing, excessive grooming, sudden jerking, and running around as if being chased. Affected cats can also self-mutilate, which can cause hair loss or severe skin irritation or injury. Siamese, Burmese, Himalayans and Abyssinians are the most commonly affected breeds.

I have had success controlling this problem in cats with anti-obsessional drugs, such as fluoxetine, and with anticonvulsant drugs such as phenobarbital. But I have not seen cats outgrow this behavior, and in the cases where I’ve tried to wean the cat off of their medication, or where the clients stopped giving the drugs on their own, the symptoms usually return. But, as long as you administer the medication, most cats’ symptoms remain well-controlled, and side effects of the long-term use of these drugs are minimal.

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Reader Comments

Joyce    International

9/20/2014 5:12:03 PM

My cat had this. It got to be so severe it was so sad to watch her in such pain. We switched her from normal cat litter to sawdust kitty litter(you can get it almost anywhere you get kitty litter.) and it STOPPED! She is completely cured now. I wanted to share with others to hopefull help other kitties with discomfort.

Christina    International

7/17/2014 12:31:02 PM

My cat developed this disorder shortly after turning 8. It started off mild and slowly progressed to the point where he was almost always trying to attack his tail. We tried every natural recommendation we could find. We tried medicine recommended by our vet. X-rays and blood work showed nothing wrong at all. Finally, out of desperation and not wanting to see our cat suffer anymore, we resorted to something drastic...tail amputation at the base. From the day I picked my cat up, he was back to his old self. Happy, playful, and no more strange behaviours (howling, running out of the room, attacking himself, running in circles, etc.
I understand how helpless and frustrated this can make you feel...if anyone needs any advice or has any questions about things we tried before resorting to amputation, feel free to contact me at christyteather@hotmail.com.

Carol    Boise, ID

6/16/2014 9:09:25 AM

I had a cat that had this condition however it was before there was a diagnosis for it. My daughter found her as a tiny kitten only a few days old with her umbilical cord still attached. A stray mother cat living in a home where my daughter baby sat, moved her kittens somewhere else and left this one in a hole in their yard. We had her for about 14 years going through her hissy fits appearing to fight with herself. She would attack people she didn't know so we kept her in a bedroom whenever company was around. We finally had her euthanized at 14 when she started pooping in weird places like my desk, windowsill and bed. I'm glad they now have a name for it and have medications that can help. Back then there was nothing.

Christina    Whitby, ON

5/29/2014 9:53:30 AM

My cat was diagnosed with this disorder, it became pretty severe (biting his tail almost constantly, causing quite a bit of bleeding). We tried everything, both natural approaches and meds/treatment frmo our vet (he was actually assessed by 2 different vets as well). Nothing helped at all. After 6 months of this, our last resort was tail amputation. The day we brought him home from his surgery, he was back to himself. He has been perfect ever since. It was the best thing we ever did for him and I wish we had done it sooner!! I jsut wanted to share this because I know how furstrating it can be when nothing is working (and it all adds up $$). It has been 3 months since the amputation and he has not had a single episode since.

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