Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome — What Is It and How Do You Treat It?

Feline hyperesthesia syndrome — a.k.a. twitch-skin syndrome, rippling-skin disease or rolling-skin syndrome — is difficult to diagnose but treatable. Here’s how.

A sick gray cat curled up in a blanket.
A sick gray cat curled up in a blanket. Photography © zlyka2008 | Thinkstock.

With their unique ways and fickle preferences, it’s no secret that cats can be a little weird. But sometimes, that strange thing your cat does is actually a medical problem. Take, for instance, feline hyperesthesia syndrome, sometimes called twitch-skin syndrome, rippling-skin disease or rolling-skin syndrome.

What is feline hyperesthesia?

A brown and white cat licking and grooming.
A cat with hyperesthesia may lick at her back, flank area or tail. Photography by DoraZett/Thinkstock.

“Cats with hyperesthesia syndrome are extremely sensitive to touch in the lower back region,” says Michelle Murray, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM (Neurology), CCRT, owner of NEST Veterinary Neurology in San Clemente, California. “Touching this area can cause them to suddenly vocalize, salivate, scratch, bite or lick at their back, flank area or tail, or even urinate. The skin along the back appears to twitch or ripple. They can be agitated and often run frantically around the house for about 20 to 30 seconds until the episode stops.” Cats generally go back to acting normal after an episode passes.

Feline hyperesthesia syndrome is extremely rare. Dr. Murray says that even in her neurology-only practice, she does not see feline hyperesthesia syndrome often. But for those cats who are affected, feline hyperesthesia syndrome can be troubling, especially for felines who self-mutilate in an effort to curb the uncomfortable feelings caused by an episode. Feline hyperesthesia syndrome can affect cats at any age, although it’s more frequently seen in adult cats. Any cat breed or mixed breed can be affected.

What should you do if you think your cat has feline hyperesthesia syndrome

If you notice your cat exhibiting symptoms of possible feline hyperesthesia syndrome, schedule an appointment with your regular veterinarian, who will examine your cat to look for other causes for the symptoms, such as an injury, skin disorder or flea infestation causing severe itching, or painful condition like orthopedic and spine or nerve problems.

If your vet cannot pinpoint a cause of the symptoms, the next step would be to consult a veterinary neurologist for another exam and more tests.

Diagnosing feline hyperesthesia syndrome in cats

“There is no specific test for feline hyperesthesia syndrome,” Dr. Murray explains. “The exact cause is actually unknown, but thought to be a type of seizure disorder. For this reason, the only way to diagnose feline hyperesthesia disorder is to rule out other causes for the episodes.”

Tests that your regular vet and/or veterinary neurologist might want to run include basic lab work; skin scrapings, biopsies or cultures; X-rays; and possibly advanced imaging such as MRI. “With feline hyperesthesia syndrome, all of these tests can be totally normal,” Dr. Murray explains. If no other specific cause can be identified, the veterinarian might arrive at a diagnosis of feline hyperesthesia syndrome. Know that it might take some time to go through the process of testing for and ruling out the various conditions that might be causing the symptoms.

The final word on feline hyperesthesia syndrome

Although the exact cause of feline hyperesthesia syndrome is still a mystery, since many veterinarians believe it to be a seizure disorder, treatment involves using medications.

“Anti-seizure medications (such as phenobarbital or gabapentin), anti-anxiety medications (amitryptiline or Prozac) and/or anti-inflammatories (prednisone) have varying degrees of success,” Dr. Murray says. “It is also helpful to keep the environment as calm as possible and not to touch the cat’s back area to avoid triggering episodes. In general, the prognosis is good but may involve the long-term use of medication(s) to manage the symptoms as well as possible.”

Tell us: Does your cat have feline hyperesthesia syndrome? How do you deal with feline hyperesthesia?

Thumbnail: Photography © zlyka2008 | Thinkstock. 

This piece was originally published in 2018.

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72 thoughts on “Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome — What Is It and How Do You Treat It?”

  1. So I’ve noticed the skin ripples with my cat (7 year old female, she was a rescue and has been with me for about 1.5 years). She also has a tail that almost never stops moving. The only time it doesn’t twitch is when she’s deeply asleep. However, I’ve never noticed any skin damage or missing patches of fur. She does self-groom a lot (and she will eat her own hair… oof) but she’s also very furry. Could this still be FHS?

  2. My cat has always been bothered by her tail instead of the other way around. It starts moving from the moment you touch her or say her name, which just excites her and makes the tail start.
    She will see her tail wagging and she’ll grow uneasy. She then usually starts to catch it angrily to make it stop moving, which either results in her running away scared all of a sudden, or her catching it, biting it once, then scream and run off as if the tail just bit her.
    When I find her sleeping she has often tucked her tail all the way underneath her so it can’t move. When she’s lying next to me, and I touch her and she grows visually uneasy of her tail wagging, ironically when I then catch the tail in my hand and hold it still, she will calm down, close her eyes and eventually sleep purring, while if I didn’t touch it, she would have ran off scared if it again…
    It’s the first cat I ever had (or even known) that is this opposite in touching and holding the tail. Usually it’s not a good idea to hold a cat’s tail, but my cat apparently requires it to not get a panic attack seeing it move…

    Conclussion: Most cats wag their tail wgen they get annoyed, my cat gets annoyed from wagging her tail… ;p

    1. Our Calico has had Hyperesthesia for about 7 years, she’s 9 yrs old now. On the great advice of our Vet, we bought things to help keep her busy..a wobbly cat treat dispenser, a cat tree, a cat food dispenser. Also, if we put some pressure on her back, she acts comforted. Sometimes catnip helps,too.

  3. My cat Dusty was badly burned in a wildfire. He has recovered remarkably well and was doing great until the FHS hit. We believe it was triggered with a flea bite (he is highly allergic) then the additional taxing to his system that crossing the mason dixon line caused (bringing on new allergens hed yet to experience but quickly became allergic to).

    After visiting 2 vets and Tufts Vet Med he is on a regime of gabapentin every 6 hours. Atopica and Cerenia once a day for any itchiness. He get CBD oil in his food twice a day and his food is limited to chicken only (he is allergic to fish). He was doing great until the weather changed.

    Apparently colder weather can bring on symptoms. He then got into his sisters food that has fish and all H**l broke loose. So here we are at ground zero with him twitching and licking and biting like an automaton all over again.

    We will be heading to the vet tomorrow and Tufts in a month. He is FIV+ on top of everything else so I am hesitant to put him on a lot of meds. I am sharing all I learn about him on his instagram and facebook page. I’d love for anyone experiencing similar issues to follow him so we can share our experiences.

    Thank you for sharing this information Catster. You guys can find Dusty under Dustythecampfirecat.

    1. I have cat with FHS. She’s 2,5 years old now. I got her when she was about 1 year old because her owners rejected her (she had gastrointestinal problems and treatment was too expensive for owners).
      I noticed those back muscle spasms episodes probably from the beginning. They were occasional and did not caused any harm for her.
      Last month she had stress episodes – her food changed (didn’t found to buy her favourite), we had dog quest at our home for an hour, there were some furniture replacements in the apartment. And probably the biggest stress – I yelled at her few times because of constant pooping near the toilet box. All those stress triggers happened in two weeks time frame.
      After those stressful events I noticed, that she licks her lower limb/belly more often. She started to spend way more time at her box on the top of the closet licking herself. She refused to eat dry food, even when I finally found her favourite one. At the same time I noticed that she licked and chewed off her hair in medial areas near armpits, also in lower belly area between legs, then outside of her back leg (it took her a bit more than one week to do so much harm on her fur). I took her to the vet and he quickly said diagnosis – feline psychogenic alopecia and gave her steroids (prednisolone) for one week. First two days she seemed calmer and slept more, episodes were not so often. The third day she started to grind her teeth and all those episodes of back muscle spasms and excessive licking/grooming came back. Then I realised that she’s in pain during those episodes and that those muscle spasms are related with her alopecia.
      I did a research on feline neurology (I’m veterinary doctor, but working as a scientist) and found information about FSH. And then I had no more doubts about her condition.
      There are many opinions about this syndrome and basically no one knows what causes it.
      So here’s what helped for us:
      1. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) really helps her during episodes. I give her to smell dried catnip (crushed between fingers to make those active oils get out) for few times, till seizures/back muscle movements stops. I’m giving her to smell Catnip when she licks herself too much on one area. Also, I puted Catnip filled little pillow in her sleeping box and sprinkled some on scratching board.
      2. I’m doing my best not to touch her back since touching induces those seizures.
      3. I’m giving her more attention, playing with her running games, talking with her when she seems stressed and making sure she feels loved. Also, I’m letting her to stay for a while in open balcony, so she could enjoy fresh air and direct sunlight.
      4. No treats! I changed her diet to grain free, since I read a lot of cats with FSH owners saying that they noticed, that grainy foods triggers seizure episodes.
      After one week of using Catnip and other above mentioned things – she’s a lot more calmer. Episodes are not so long lasting and strong, and they occur less frequently. Also – no new chewed fur areas, and the old ones seems to start growing back it’s hair.
      I noticed that muscle spasms often starts when she’s asking for and not getting her new favourite canned food. She calms down after she eats.
      One more thing – she loves to stay at warm places. She especially likes to lay on the radiator. And together with all those stressful events – heating season ended.
      Now I’m still looking for answers – what really causes this syndrome and how to prevent it.

      1. Carol Shepherd

        We have sent this to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine but think you might be able to help us as well.

        We have been driven nuts trying to solve the problem of the “skin twitch and run around” problem that we have encountered with our two cats. We have now discovered that it is certainly Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.

        Interestingly, our two cats are brother and sister and that seems to suggest some kind of genetic component. Would there be any advantage to analyzing their blood to see if any further knowledge can be gleamed through DNA or whatever.

        We have had the cats from their birth and the FHS didn’t manifest itself until they were about five years old. And it happened almost simultaneously.

        For the last couple of years since it started, we’ve been altering their food in the hope that it was some kind of food allergy – but none of these permutations seem to have had any effect whatsoever.

        I’d be interested to know if diet has anything to do with this syndrome – or if we can simply go back to giving them what they like – primarily salmon and tuna varieties.

        If any of this helps, please let me know.

  4. I have a senior cat with hyperesthesia. My vet for many years wouldn’t believe that’s what I thought it was so I found her a new vet. New vet wasn’t familiar with disease but looked into it and started treatment. After several months of medications, everything was good. We had a great summer. Now that fall is here, my girl has started having episodes again. Not sure if it is somehow related to fall allergies but strange that it started happening just as bad as before but after all summer of having no issues. Now vet won’t continue same treatment and gave her prednisone which does not work. I will try CBD oil and I am going to take her to another new vet. Other than that, my girl is very happy and healthy.

    1. This sounds like my cat…this time of year she will make a sore on her body..and lick and scratches it…I also had many tests done by the vet that costs $$$$$..and still no remedy..she’s 6yrs old now..it started when she was 1…her first year I took her to the vet maybe 6-7 times….now she’s freaked out and I can’t get near her…I can’t even bring her in for her shots…I get so stressed seeing her like this…but there’s nothing I can do.. so now I give her “‘nupro for cats”..its all natural and good for the health and skin…also I give her “calm and relax”…Salmon oil is good too..she usually hides under the bed during these episodes…she’s afraid I’ll take her to the vet. I try not to get stressed out…’I know it will heal and go away until next year….this is probably not the best way to deal with this…but I let her alone and make sure she’s eating and using the litter box…and try not to stress her…I love her ❤

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  6. I have a 4n half year old female cat. She is such an adorable little girl I didn’t have any problems with her until now. One day I noticed that she was having difficulty in urinating. She was going to her litter box frequently but each time only 1 teaspoon or so urine is seen. I tried a homeopathic medicine usa urvi n along with that I gave her yogurt too for six days. Its then that I started noticing the ripples on her skin .she seems to be scared of it n tries to lick n bite her stomach n towards d tail. At d same time she runs n hides in d wardrobe. When she is in there she is ok. Some times she come out n sit or lay down for 2 hours at a stretch but again d attack starts n she runs n hide. Sometimes d attack is more frequent. Like within 10mts. She usually sleeps with me under my blanket but after the start of this disease she sl6in d wardrobe. Though she come to me at bed time as soon as she gets under d blanket d attack starts n she shoots off. I am heart broken. She is having crystals in her urine for which doctor has prescribed a med moxclav. I am from Kerala India. Can anyone suggest anything to help my cat

  7. I don’t normally post to things like this, but thought I would share and question – if anyone has suggestions. I believe my 6 yr old cat has suffered from this since birth. Hard to tell with a kitten as they are already super “crazy” but even the vet where I got him from, felt he was special. He is an orange tabby who normally are somewhat mild! Although he is super affectionate, he would chase things that aren’t there, twitch, sensitive along his spine, had a “ridgeback” on his spine when he was slightly agitated and most of all, his eyes would dilate. During these episodes he would also hiss and act scared. I have been treating him with CBD (don’t really notice a difference) and gabapentin.
    My real problem is that he is not an only kitty. he is currently 6 as I stated and I have a 16 yr old female. She has always been timid, but as she is older and not feeling well, she hides and has not wanted to eat. He hisses at her more than normal – as if he senses her weakness. I have had to separate them, which causes me stress as I try and split my time with both of them! He is super loving with me, as long as she is not around. When he has an “episode” it doesn’t seem to last as long, if she is not around and it is just me.
    Anyone have any suggestions?

  8. I’m just going to leave my opinion. I truly think this is caused by anxiety and stress in cats. We have 2 beautiful cats (sisters) one is a lot more timid than the other. However, both are extremely social not scared and love people.

    Anyway a series of events. The more timid cat gets more matted fur. Unfortunately we couldn’t keep up with this time so I called a groomer. Well the cat was not having any of it! It was traumatizing for her and the groomer couldn’t even finish.

    Next we had 2 weddings to attend 2 weekends in a row. Unfortunately our normal cat sitter was out of town so we had a new lady come in.

    Anyway when we returned from this weekend our house was in disarray (New cat sitter didn’t do a great job) and timid cat was acting insane. All the symptoms of FSH. running around like crazy, ripping back, twitching, licking, hiding under the bed etc. I spent the day we got back so beside myself. I kept trying to coerce her out of the bed and finally I did. I distracted her with playing and then go there on the bed and just laid with her.

    Needless to say thankfully after a day/two and going back to her normal routine. With lots of attention from us. Getting things back to a clean and calm environment. We also got some calming spray and sprayed around. She is back to herself. I said a little prayer of thanks because the disorder is nerve wrecking for pet owners. Especially when you love the little critters so much.

    I think extreme anxiety can really be a trigger. I am hoping it never happens again but for anyone dealing with this I would think about that for sure!

  9. Harriet S Gross

    my cat Jezebel was rescued at about 9 months old & came to me fall 2006. she began having symptoms very shortly after rescue:she looked as if she was either having a flashback or hallucinating. no skin rippling & she’d just do it out of the blue. mutilated her tail. she also has post traumatic stress disorder: likely abused before she found me. she has a sensitive tummy: had blood and mucus in her stool. she has been on elavil(amitryptiline), at first every day, now down to 3 times a week. also only eats Hill’s prescription I/D. elavil worked like a charm: no episodes since! she remains high strung but is so much better than when rescued! she’s an absolute love & i’m so glad she came to me

  10. Greetings All, I have a 1 yr. old kittie that sufffers from hyperesthesia syndrome. She was originally diagnosed as being epileptic and was put on phenobarbital. (5mg/day) Even on pheno she still has three or four episodes a day. It took forever to figure out what the heck was/is going on with her. Tried CBD oils from holistapet, which works ok but: you have to give them 15mg/day for it to be effective, which gets a lil pricey. She is still on pheno, but I have found that letting her eat catnip (growing in various places in the yard) has helped her alot. Still a work in progress with the veterinarians to solve the mysteries.

  11. My 7 year old, Tinkie, woke us up last night yowling as if she was on heat (she was spade at 8 months).

    She was staring at a corner of the room, growling and looking terrified. I couldn’t see anything, and the other two cats were upset by Tinkie’s behaviour but not concerned about anything else in the room. She was right next to me so I stroked and chatted soothingly to her. After about 5 minutes she calmed down a bit, but it took a good 15 minutes for her to calm down completely.

    In the past year or so I have noticed that she seems to be “seeing” things.

    She has always been nosey, but these investigations did not seem normal.

    Should I be worried? Other than this, she is pretty much the same as usual. Overly attached to me, Mother Hen to her sisters, grooms slightly more than the other two, grooms her sisters, very much an indoor girl and my “good girl” in that she goes about life without doing too much of normal cat like “naughtiness”.

    1. Hi Mandy,

      Sorry to hear that you’re experiencing this! We suggest asking a vet for the best answer. These articles might help provide some insight, too:

    2. I had a cat that did that at age 10. It turned out that he had kidney issues. I thought it was he was loosing his mind. Glad I took him to the vet. Go to the vet right away!

  12. My cat had feline hyperesthesia, and after searching for the cause and a solution for years I discovered (through trial and error, mainly) that it was not diet related – at least in my cat’s case. Instead, it was a result of the use of Paradyne (Revolution) flea drops. This medication kills fleas using a neurotoxin that can cause neurological symptoms and hyperesthesia as a side effect in sensitive animals. When I stopped using the flea drops, the symptoms gradually receded. *Please Note: It did take several months for the symptoms to completely disappear, but they began to get noticeably better after the first missed dosage, and continued to improve until there were no more visible symptoms at all. Not sure if this syndrome can be caused by other flea meds, as well. In any case, it’s worth a try if your cat is suffering.

    1. Hey just wondering what (if any) flea medication do you use, or if not, how you deal with fleas? We have an outdoor cat who we are now thinking might have FHS.

  13. I have had my 7 year old since she was 3 days old. Her mom obviously “dropped” her off and some people found her and brought her to the local animal shelter. I raised her, and while she was a mean kitten, didn’t seem to start having the hyperesthesia until much older. My vet sent me to a cat neurologist and Sissy is now on 25 mg. Gabapentin twice daily, 25 mg. Zonisamide twice daily, and 1/4 tablet Amitriptyline (10 mg. per whole pill) once daily. It isn’t perfect, but she is much better. When she starts her “episodes”, as I call them, I can usually distract her with a laser light or some other toy to distract. I’ve tried weaning her off the Amitriptyline, but she started getting worse, so we’re using it again. I don’t know that there is a perfect solution. As long as she’s happy, I’m happy!

  14. My cat has hyperesthesia and it is due to flea medicine toxicity (she ingested some of it and we had to flush her system with water and she almost died). She has tremoring (shaking her feet or thumping them on floor like Thumper) and she chews her nails down constantly. I distract her when I am home. I also have to separate her from my other two cats (one is her brother) because they seem to stress her out/bully her (her episodes increase if I leave the oldest out with the two siblings as he does bully her and her brother). Keep it stress-free is my advice. If you leave music on, try to search for binaural beats for cats on youtube to soothe. I use CBD oil for her brother’s UTI/gut inflammatory issues but it is too expensive for me to use on both of them, so I haven’t tried this yet (she is also picky). ALSO — KEEP FISH OUT OF THE HYPERESTHESIA CAT’S DIET BECAUSE FISH/MERCURY AFFECTS THE NEURO SYSTEM AS DOES HYPER ESTHESIA. I NOTICED WHEN I STOPPED BUYING FOOD WITH FISH OIL IN IT (STICK TO WERUVA PAW LICKIN’ CHICKEN, QUIRKY TURKEY, OR OTHER CHICKEN FLAVORS!) HER SHAKING SUBSTANTIALLY DECREASED.

    1. Yes! My cat has all the symptoms of Hyperthesia and I removed fish from his diet and it went almost completely away. I believe he also has dry skin which activates it, as witnessed by his increase in episodes during this recent bout of Santa Ana Winds. Since they have died down, so have his episodes.

  15. I have been giving my 10 year old girl CBD which seems to help most of the time. She started showing symptoms about a year ago. Anyone else use CBD to help?

    1. I just started using CBD for my 5 year old, but it actually doesn’t seem to help. I give 2mg treats from Holistapet twice a day. He also gets 50mg gabapentin 3x a day. His problem is exhibited mostly in the morning and other times before meals … I wonder if hunger has something to do with it.

      1. Our cat has more episodes when the food bowl is empty. Sometimes its food and sometimes its because she wants to play. We definitely think she has some sort of anxiety when her environment isn’t just as she likes it to be. We also noticed that when she is outside on the patio she doesn’t have any episodes.

  16. my Callie developed feline hyperesthesia at about 2 yrs old. I noticed that she would have these episodes of chasing her tail, eating things that are not there (hallucinations) and she would attack herself as if she was flea infested, but she has no fleas. She picks at her ears until they are all ripped and bleeding. My vet had no idea. I was a year searching on the internet until I found this condition, Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome… That was lik3 hitting the jackpot! I printed the info and brought it to another vet. I told her my cat had all the symptoms of this condition. By this time I had already started to treat Callie with kid love! I also had a cone on her head so she couldn’t scratch her ears. I cut the cone down and put a colourful border around it. I cut it down enough so she can eat and clean herself as best she could. After each meal my husband or myself would sit down and put her on our lap and take the cone off. She would clean herself sometimes for an hour. Sometimes she would go weeks without wearing the cone because about 60-70% of the time … when she feels an episode coming on … she runs to me and i pick her up and just cuddle her for however long she needs. So my vet said that what I was doing for her was better than meds and to keep on doing it. Her sister, Tabby, does not have the condition.
    My question to you all is: Is there a special diet or certain things I shouldn’t be feeding her? And what’s th3 best cat food for her and could it help?

    1. My Inky is 3 years old and I just started giving him cod, samon wet food, I’m not sure if this caused it but that’s when the episodes started. I called my vet and told her I was going to do .5 Mgs of CBD in the morning then .2 mgs in the afternoon and it’s been a week now plus calming music and it really helps so far I’m impressed I’m keeping my fingers crossed ???? also told my vet if he gets worse I would bring him in

  17. This is my first visit to site i just want say thanku i thought for sometime i was crazy i diagnosed her before vet did all the symptoms she also rubs her chin bloody on anything she could find ..its so emotional on us when i leave to work she cries so i cry but have to work its just her and i in the home ..sadest thing ..it hurts her and hurts me as well

      1. I put YouTube on for my cats called calming your kitties music they love it. My Inky is three and just deleveped this hyperthesia so I give him CBD oil for pets it works for him ????

  18. My cat started showing signs of this around 1 year, she’s 8 meow. The vet at the time put her on anti anxiety meds and they didn’t work for her. So I started putting a sweater on her to keep her from reaching her tail while I had it bandaged (she has torn it up really bad at times) and that sees to make a huge difference. She still displays symptoms regularly but I can usually distract her with her Mousr toy (or other things) but if she is persistently going after her tail, I put her sweater on her and she calms down right away.

      1. You could always use a sock too. Just cut it at the toe. My vet uses them as thunder jackets & anti anxiety. Seems to help

        1. Interesting! I was thinking about getting a Thundershirt! My one year old red tabby is full out hyperesthesia and if under a blanket sometimes calms down. He is on .5 ml gaba twice daily and the vet wants him weaned. I say no way, it seems to help. Here is another syndrome not studied in cats. I don’t want all the tests to eliminate other stuff, I have had cats long enough to know what I see.

  19. My 10 month old boy physically attacks his tail. He has ripped the skin. He has a ripple above his tail right before he goes into attack mode. I know it’s drastic, but would amputating the tail calm this?

    1. I’ve heard of other people doing amputation and their cat is still able to attack the part that has remained because the vets can’t amputate the entire tail. There will be a stubby tail left and your cat will still be able to reach it and damage it. Like I said in my post, I’m able to help Luna by distracting her with toys or putting her sweater on. The sweater may not work for all cats and it doesn’t work with her all the time because sometimes she’s able to slip out of it and of course bite the bandages off and then lick her wounds until they are all open and bleeding again. I’ve been dealing with this for 7 years and nothing has been 100% yet. But I haven’t tried any anti-seizure meds. maybe those would work better than the anti-anxiety ones she was on.

      1. Hi i have a 5 year old siamese calico mix female cat whos name is also luna ..she started getting theses symptoms at age one she was a rescue cat from abusive and neglectful home she is everything to me ..my daughter even calls her sister ..at first it was mils mabey once or twice a month now daily ..when she has episodes shes vocal and at times mean ive learned by her beggining behaviors and dialation of pupils when its getting ready to start antd i also do the distraction thing fav tpys opening door screen closed fresh air treats talk8ng to her and telling her its ok ..she gets scared during episodes which terrifies me i also have tried anti anxiety no help cat nip makes a small difference but i found just the one on one comforting her helps the most so far but this is a terrible disorder and i wish i could take it away i wotry when im at work after work i spend all my time with hershe eats ok sleeps ok poop looks fine normal amount active slightly overweight but the episodes last much longer now i dont know what else to do ..its heartbreaking

  20. Hi my cat recently developed small scabs on her back mostly near her tail (its not fleas or many of the other items listed here; only possibility could be stress as we just moved down the street). Whenever I pet her in that area (even before the scabs) her skin/fur absolutely ripples like mentioned above. She doesnt do anything crazy but it does seem that that feels uncomfortable for her. Does that mean she has a very minor case of HS? Would it have anything to do with the scabs? She is a pretty major groomer but I’ve never seen her groom in that area. I know I can bring her to the vet and will if it gets worse but if anyone could reply about something I can do BEFORE a vet visit I would appreciate it (also I have read about 20 articles on the site so links to other pages isnt going to help). I do appreciate the info and accept advice as at my own risk as I know you don’t want to reply and have something happen to my cat worse than the small scabs (not extremely worriesome at this point; just trying to get ahead of it if need be) there.
    RYan (and Vaca)

    1. Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for reaching out. We suggest a visit to the vet for the best diagnosis and information. Here are some articles that might help if you haven’t read them yet:

    2. My cat takes a small dose of Phenobarbitol. He still has some episodes, but the higher doses can be toxic. It’s worth discussing with your vet.

  21. Hi all,

    Re: St. John’s Wort — Please check with your veterinarian or a holistic veterinarian before using any herbal supplements.

    1. I just read on “Healthy Pets” where a vet said this: “I’ve also had good success with kitties using homeopathic Aconitum and Hypericum orally to help dampen emotional and neurologic reactivity that can lead to physiologic symptoms.” I believe Hypercium is St. John’s wort.

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  23. My cats fur starts twitching when I put him on a certain red blanket. He would stand there twitchng than jump off and run around. The blankets usually on my bed and when I put a tan blanket over the red one he lays down. He used to love the red blanket. He’ll just sleep on it whenever he sees it. What’s wrong with my cat!?

  24. My male cat has this disease. He had 2 seizures when he was younger and still sometimes chases his own tail / randomly will start talking to himself. I read somewhere feeding them tuna makes this disorder 10x worse. Since I stopped the tuna, his seizures stopped as well. He still gets that scary glazed look in his eyes (like the Shark from Finding Nemo) where his pupils fully dilate. Calming treats are working wonders for him as well.

  25. In May of 2012 the local SPCA had an open house on kittens and we picked a brother and sister. (One long hair and one short hair) A year or so later we noticed erratic behavior of the male. We live in the mountains over 50 miles from a vet so did our due diligence on the Web. Everything indicated Hyperesthesia. The more we read convinced us we had the right condition. As we live above 3500 feet in the mountains there are no fleas. The cats have been indoor cats since day 1. His seizures are quite regular ,usually 1 or so a day. They do not fall in the severe category and there is no hair pulling. I think that at least for us the fact that his surroundings are quiet has a lot to do with his well being. Best wishes to those of you that have a buddy with this. Lots of love and care have gone a long way for us and ‘no meds needed.

  26. Pingback: Cat Won’t Stop Meowing? 7 Reasons For All That Cat Meowing – Sporty Pets

  27. My cat is four years old now and we have been struggling until just recently to find a vet that knew of or was even willing to treat her for her FHS. She started displaying symptoms at six months. She used to have severe attacks where one second she is fine and the next second there is blood everywhere and her tail is drenched. (As you can guess there were a lot of emergency vet visits.)
    Finally, after four vets, found one that was actually willing to help her. She is currently on phenobarb and gabapentin and her attacks have lessened dramatically.
    I was reading the other comments of a few attacks a year. My cat was having bloody attacks almost every other week before we found a vet that would listen to us. (Funny how the other four didnt care she was ripping herself open and claimed it was a single flea).
    What all has your FHS cats been on medication wise? We are still trying to work out dosages and she is building up a tolerance very quickly to pheno and gaba.

    1. Prozac (fluoxetine) helped my cat w/ FHS. She had been on pheonobarbital for years, then changed to Prozac. This was in the 90’s, though & I don’t remember the reason for the change. Praying for you & your kitty.

  28. My sweet yellow eyed tangerine angel baby Nala :( I noticed a few years ago that she was running around the house acting very strange, I mean usually she does this but I know shes just goofing around but that time she was running and stopping and licking herself very aggressively and panting very hard and breathing hard. Her little nose and ears were bright red and hot. She wasn’t aggressive but she growled at me when I tried to see what was wrong but no hissing or scratching, I think she was confused. This happens a few times a year since then and each time I am worried because I cant help her. She is also almost 8 years old. Ive watched videos of cats with this syndrome and done some research and I am positive this is what she has. I am glad I can put a name to this problem but I am upset as to why she has this. In the summer she ripped a chunk of fur from her paw because of this. If these symptoms resemble this disease, I would greatly appreciate some advice, I love my baby ball Nala with all my heart.

    1. I had a kitten that was diagnosed with hyperethsia at around 8 months old. My vet put her on 10 mg of Amitriptyline 1/5 tablet a day and she has been fine ever since. My vet says there are a lot of meds out there that could treat this but they also have side effects. With the Amitriptyline there isn’t any. I give her a half a tablet at night with her dinner and a little while later she’s napping then awake and ready to go. The pills are very bitter and can be tasted even in the tastiest of treats or wet food; even pill pockets didn’t work. I have to use a pill popper and put it in the back of her throat and then immediately put her food bowl in front of her. She swollows and then starts to eat and never notices it. Hope this helps

  29. My cat is four years old and was rescued ast a 3.5 week old. He was bottle fed with kitten formula ( which we did not know even existed). As a result, our cat never imprinted and learned all cat skills. There have been four major episodes of intensified symptoms of feline hyperesthesia involving self injurious tail biting. In between these episodes, he is experiencing back ripples in the skin,air bites at his tail, and running as if something invisible is chasing him. It has been a long journey since his last major incident in which we realized separation anxiety is the essential trigger. There is an overall of physical and neurological component which is difficult to manage. This poor guy was not living a high quality of life at one point recently and that created major discussions. At one point he had bitten his tail, while we were at work and was so anxious that he had peed in the closet ( which is unheard of for him). Reluctantly, we acknowledged that he needed medicine beyond our homeopathic approach and we rely on the Thunder jacket, which is essentially a cat swaddle. He is on the road to maintaining a healthy life and we long for medicines for pain and anxiety to slowly be phased out. We have found that zyklene ( homeopathic) is a positive factor for Him as well. I have found for all of my research, there is not one thing that will facilitate your cats wellness with feline hyperesthesia and for a bit on our case… giving him the medicine was another anxiety trigger. Good luck all!

    1. My five year old cat has Hyperesthesia. I got a Thunder Shirt for him and a few months later started him on two daily doses of CBD Hemp oil. It is managing his symptoms and I only need to put his Thunder Shirt on him now and then, a few times a week, usually when his morning dose of CBD is late. I began learning about CBD hemp oil on the facebook group CBD OIL for Pets and then on other sources. CBD Hemp oil contains only trace amounts of THC so he is not “stoned” . I much prefer that he takes that rather than the various prescription medications that are prescribed for the condition.

  30. My senior cat has hyperesthesia. The vet prescribed prednisone for a short duration and gave me phenobarbitol to administer if the seizures became more frequent. At the present time, she has intermittent seizures so I have not had to give her any meds. She eats and drinks water, uses the litter box and basically sleeps all day. My only concern is that she has developed mats on her back where she can’t reach and can’t be touched. I may have to resort to taking her to the vet to be sedated so the groomer can remove/shave the mats.

  31. I have a cat with hyperesthesia and was feeling lonely in the feline world. then I opened Catster and ran into this article. Daisy is on phenobarbital and is a much happier kitty for it. She’s not doped up, but relaxed, playful and loving. I think her sister, Lilly, has it too, to a lesser extent and I will soon talk to her Vet about possibly medicating her, too. This disorder made my cat miserable. She wanted to be loved but she was so sensitive to touch it was torture for her – like bitten by a dozen mega-fleas. If you suspect your cat has it, please take her to the vet and have her checked out for other problems as well as a solid diagnosis. St. John’s Wort is actually poisonous to cats.

  32. We once had a cat that I was sure had hyperesthesia. She was not domesticated, but we still fed her and tried to care for her when she was around. There were times when she would run frantically throughout the yard, almost desperate to make the itching and/or pain go away. She would meow-cry at times in discomfort. You could see she would start to get pretty frantic. After much research, I finally got some St. John’s Wort. When I fed her, I would put a teeny drop into the food that she would eat. I repeated this process until it seemed she was no longer ailing. The St. John’s Wort did the trick. It is like it got rid of it completely somehow. I would highly recommend this treatment.

      1. A VERY small drop of the liquid mixed into the canned food…our cat never died, nor did our cat get sick from the minute dosage. Instead, our cat became relaxed and never suffered any other kind of reaction besides relief. When our cat was better, I ceased giving her any more doses; she never had need for more treatment. If St. John’s Wort is really that bad, you would think our cat would have succumbed to that danger…but, we are not experts. So, proceed at your own risk and use caution in dosage to make sure it is very little given at a time. It did not take that long for results…

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