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Feline hyperesthesia, also known as psychomotor epilepsy and twitch-skin syndrome, is one of the most obscure cat disorders resulting in intense licking or biting of the back, pelvic limbs and tail. The skin, neuromuscular and nervous systems are affected. Symptoms might start occurring at any age and can develop in almost any cat breed. Purebred cats, like the Siamese, Burmese, Abyssinians and Himalayans are predisposed to developing this condition.Symptoms
The symptoms of feline hyperesthesia tend to appear in episodes and can last anywhere between seconds to minutes. You cat will behave normally between two episodes and then display aggressive signs of hyperesthesia. The symptoms include twitching skin, repeated licking or biting of the back, pelvic limbs and tail, and violent swishing of his tail. Affected cats appear agitated, tend to have dilated pupils and behave erratically.A physical exam will usually not reveal major abnormalities or neurological problems, apart from damaged follicles and hair that have fallen out due to the violent licking. There have been reports that claim that stimulation of the back muscles might irritate some cats and precipitate an episode.Causes
Since this is a rare condition, the exact cause is not yet known. It might develop due to an underlying behavioral tic or a neurological disorder like seizures. Hyperactive or nervous cats are at a greater risk compared to their more well-adjusted counterparts. Environmental stress might also be a trigger. Many researchers have speculated that there may be multiple factors that cause the symptoms associated with feline hyperesthesia.Diagnosis
As there are not distinct physical causes that lead to the disorder, it is difficult to diagnose the condition. Your vet might make the diagnosis based on your cat’s medical history and by excluding other disease that cause similar symptoms. There are no specific tests that can provide a definitive diagnosis.Other diagnoses which exclude feline hyperesthesia include diseases of the forebrain and skin conditions that can precipitate a behavioral change or a seizure. Imaging techniques like MRI or CT scans can pinpoint to such neurological problems.Treatment
There are no specific cures or medical treatments for feline hyperesthesia. However, your vet might prescribe medication to suppress the frequency of the episodes. In some cases, behavioral modification is effective in alleviating the condition.Living and management
If there are any environmental elements that seem to precipitate an episode, they must be eliminated immediately. If your cat’s self-mutilation has become severe due to excessive licking, a tail bandage or an Elizabethan collar might be necessary for your cat.Prevention
Since there are no know genetic or infectious causes for the disorder, prevention entails removal of stressful elements in your cat’s environment. If you are not able to tell the causative agent of the stress, consult with an animal behaviorist.