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

Marcel    International

8/3/2015 7:02:00 AM

My cat seems to get better if I give him ration of bird flavor, instead of meat flavor. But I'm not completely sure it's FHS yet (he was scratching himself a lot, fearing thin air, and acting paranoid, but he was not bitting his tail)

Here's a detailed explanation of what happenned:
-Cat was eating ration of birds flavor
-I changed the ration to meat flavor (same brand) and he started "seeing things" and being afraid of the thin air. Also he scratched himself a LOT (he usually already does that a lot, but this time, it was "a bit" too much).
-I searched the internet a bit, and read it could be related to food, so I changed back to the old food and the sympthons improved in half a day (note: he only ate the "bad ration for like 2 days", if he was eating it for more time, idk if it will really improve that fast or if it will improve at all)
-I was like, "really!!?". To make sure I gave the "meat" ration again, and the sympthoms came back. Then went back to the birds flavor and the symphons went away.
-when the bird flavored ration was over, I tried giving him one from a different brand, that had meat and bird flavor in it.
-the sympthoms came back
-switched to old ration and the sympthons went away


I don't know this cat age's because I got him from the streets, but before he could eat anything without problems. This problem only started recently.
My theory is that when he ages he gets intolerant to some substance that exists in some rations (similar to we getting intolerant to milk when we age).

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.

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