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What Is Feline Hyperesthesia

Learn Everything You Need to Know About Feline Hyperesthesia

By Madeleine Burry. November 07, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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Cat With Diolated Pupils Looking Anxious

Feline hyperesthesia is one of those health conditions that's hard to diagnose and even more difficult to treat because of the strange symptoms that come a long with it. Learn more here.

Feline hyperesthesia is a mysterious condition, with bizarre symptoms and no known treatment. Even diagnosis is tricky, since the symptoms can mimic other conditions, and there is no simple diagnostic exam available. Hyperesthesia is also known as “skin rolling disease.” Hyperesthesia means increased sensitivity to touch, particularly along the spine, where skin can roll and ripple in response to touch. Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for cats with this condition.

Causes of Feline Hyperesthesia

The causes of rolling skin disease, or hyperesthesia, are unknown. It’s more common for older cats to have hyperesthesia. Since cats can have seizure-like symptoms as a result, it’s possible that it’s related to epilepsy. Similarly, the disease is associated with obsessive compulsive disorder, since cats may display obsessive tendencies and fixations. Finally, it’s possibly that stressful conditions and a cat’s anxiety can be contributing factors to the development of hyperesthesia.

Symptoms of Hyperesthesia

Cats with this condition can have a wide range of symptoms. Very commonly, a cat with hyperesthesia will be fixated and obsessed with their tail, chasing, biting, and twitching it very frequently. The cat’s skin will be incredibly sensitive, particularly if you touch them along the back, from neck to tail -- the cat’s skin may appear to ripple and roll over the entire length of their body.

It’s also possible that your cat will be very hyperactive and moody, and may also appear to be having hallucinations. Dilated pupils are a very common symptom, and it’s very likely that your cat will meow loudly and for a protracted period.

Treating the Condition

It’s very challenging to diagnose feline hyperesthesia -- there is no blood test or physical symptom that can be pinpointed and identified to reveal the diagnosis. Instead, veterinarians will typically rule out diseases like flea allergy dermatitis or hyperthyroidism, which can have similar characteristics.

If your veterinarian pinpoints hyperesthesia as the cause of your cat’s symptoms, there is unfortunately no straight-forward solution available to alleviate the symptoms. Your vet will likely recommend these lifestyle changes:

  • Create a stress-free environment: Give your cat food consistently, so they don’t worry about when it will appear next. Provide a space that’s just for them and is free of other pets, and keep the litter box clean (again, on a schedule).
  • Increase your cat’s exercise: Provide your cat with a daily time for exercise with various toys.

It’s also possible that your veterinarian will prescribe anti-anxiety medications, like SSRIs, which can potentially ease symptoms. Anticonvulsant medications may also be prescribed if one of your cat’s symptoms is a seizure-like behavior.

More on Cat Health

Brain Health and Neurological Disorders in Cats
Cat Depression Signs and Solutions
Separation Anxiety in Cats

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Feline Hyperesthesia at a glance

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  • 1The causes of this mysterious condition are unknown, although stress may play a role.
  • 2Symptoms can range from obsessive behavior, like continuous tail chasing, to hallucinations.
  • 3An increased sensitivity to touch, and rolling skin along a cat’s spine, are common.
  • 4It's a challenge to diagnose, and treatments can range from medication to stress-reducing practices.