This is also referred to as rolling skin disease. It’s a condition that typically affects younger cats. The cause of hyperesthesia syndrome is unknown but some experts describe it as a neurotransmitter malfunction in the brain during periods of anxiety. It’s not a common disorder but if your cat is experiencing the disorder, it’s a very frightening experience for everyone in the home.
Hyperesthesia causes the cat to feel intensely sensitive to being touched. The parts of the body that are most vulnerable are the spine and along the tail.
Signs of Hyperesthesia Syndrome
With hyperesthesia you’ll usually notice that the cat engages in an excessive amount of self-grooming. Typically, the area the cat focuses on will be the spine and tail. It can sometimes continue to the point of self-mutilation. Other physical signs include tail lashing and skin twitching or rippling. Often, the cat will exhibit sudden bursts of activity and this can escalate into aggressive behavior. The cat may attack other pets in the home or even display aggression toward human family members. The cat may appear perfectly fine and then react aggressively as if a switch has been flipped. The cat even display seizure-like behavior.
In addition to the behaviors mentioned above, other signs may include dilated pupils, biting at the tail and an increase in vocalization.
Cats most at risk are usually those living in ongoing stressful environments.
Treating Hyperesthesia Syndrome
When diagnosing hyperesthesia other underlying conditions must be ruled out first, such as epilepsy, arthritis, abscesses, cancer, spinal problems, injuries and other skin conditions.
Hyperesthesia is usually controlled by the administration of antianxiety, anti-seizure or antidepressant medication. Environmental factors must also be addressed as well by reducing the cat’s exposure to anxiety triggers. Increasing positive stimulation and providing a more enriching environment will also benefit the cat.
Need More Information?
If you suspect that your cat is displaying behavior that resembles hyperesthesia, contact your veterinarian. A thorough examination and full work-up will need to be done.
Note: This article is not intended as a medical diagnosis. If your cat is displaying a change in behavior, consult your veterinarian.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.