Feline Hyperesthesia

September 26, 2011
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Cats have many unique characteristics that make for some interesting health challenges, but one of the strangest is “Ripple Skin Syndrome,” or “Itchy Twitchy syndrome” (technically called “feline hyperesthesia”). This condition starts as a rippling of the cat’s skin on its back, from the shoulders to the tail; the cat may turn and lick or bite at the area; and most cats will run away as if something frightened or hurt them.

The jury is still out on exactly what causes this problem. The first thing to rule out is a flea problem; in a flea-allergic cat, just one flea bite may cause severe and long-lasting itchiness. Flea-allergic dermatitis may cause the cat to lick and scratch, especially around the hind end and base of the tail, even to the point of serious hair loss (alopecia).

Dry or itchy skin may appear similar or be a contributing factor to the problem. Adding essential fatty acids to your cat’s food, or trying a hypoallergenic diet, could be the keys to resolving the issue.

True hyperesthesia, in many cases, appears to be a form of seizure disorder that may respond to anti-convulsive medications. It may also fall somewhere on the behavioral obsessive-compulsive spectrum; for these cats, stress reduction measures such as play therapy, indoor enrichment, and flower essences may be helpful.

One Response to Feline Hyperesthesia

  1. GreenMoth on January 21, 2014 at 11:28 am

    So glad to find this article, because my darling kitty (Jekyll & Hyde in a fur coat) has been doing this – and I find myself wearing high, thick socks and/or mid-thigh boots all the time, to prevent deep bloody scratches on my lower legs (so I can stand still during these attacks and talk to her calmly, instead of pulling away or grabbing her (which seems to escalate the event)).
    This is a sad state, for someone who loves to wear no shoes/socks at all.
    My kitty has become increasingly aggressive in this way – and I’ve had no clue what was going on; but – oh yes! the skin-ripples, the biting at her backside, the mad crazed dashing around. Well described here. I have ruled-out fleas, but had no idea what else might be the problem.
    At least now I have a glimmer of understanding, and just maybe the first step toward changing things!

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