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Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

November 15, 2022

Feline hyperesthesia syndrome—which is also called rolling skin syndrome and twitchy cat disease—is a rather unique issue that we occasionally see in our feline friends. The condition is characterized by hypersensitivity of the skin, usually on the back. A local vet offers some information in this article.


Fluffy can’t tell you what is going on with her, so it’s good to know what to look for. You may see twitching or rippling skin on your pet’s back. Other red flags include dilated pupils, jumping and running frantically, excessive and/or unusual meowing, drooling, scratching, tail chasing, and excessive sleepiness. Your kitty may also bite or lick herself, particularly on her flanks, lower back, rear paws, bottom, and/or tail. She may also seem to feel pain or discomfort when being petted or held. Contact your vet if you notice any of these issues in your feline buddy.


There are actually several potential causes of feline hyperesthesia syndrome. Skin problems, such as allergies, are one of the common ones. However, it can also be caused by neurological issues, such as seizures or nerve pain. It may be sometimes a psychological issue, as it has been linked to anxiety, stress, compulsive behavior, and even attention seeking. Food sensitivity is another potential culprit.


Feline hyperesthesia is most common in cats that are under seven. However, the average age at onset is just one year old. Breed may also play a role. For instance, Burmese, Persian, Abyssinian, and Siamese kitties are particularly prone to this condition.


Feline hyperesthesia syndrome isn’t fatal, but it can impact Fluffy’s quality of life. If you know or suspect that your kitty is afflicted, contact your vet immediately. A mild case can be scheduled as an appointment. However, severe episodes would warrant immediate emergency care.

The good news is that there are treatments available. Your vet will need to run some tests to determine if Fluffy does have feline hyperesthesia syndrome. It’s also important to identify or rule out other issues, as several medical conditions can cause similar problems. These include spinal arthritis, intervertebral disc extrusions, skin problems, parasites, allergies, and fungal infections. As far as treatment, medication is often successful, though some cats respond differently than others. Your vet may also recommend behavioral counseling and/or environmental changes.

Our Advice on Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome in 2024

What is Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome?

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS), also known as rolling skin syndrome or twitchy cat disease, is a complex neurological disorder affecting cats. Characterized by extreme skin sensitivity, especially along the back, cats with FHS may exhibit skin twitching, erratic behavior, vocalizations, and self-directed aggression like biting or licking their fur excessively. The exact cause remains unclear, but it’s thought to be related to neurological, psychological, or skin-related issues. Diagnosis typically involves ruling out other conditions through comprehensive examinations. Treatment may include medications, behavioral modifications, and environmental adjustments to manage symptoms and improve the cat’s quality of life.

What are the characteristic signs of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome in cats?

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS) manifests through distinct signs in cats, including skin twitching or rippling along the back, sudden frantic behavior, vocalizations like excessive meowing, and heightened sensitivity to touch. Cats may also display self-directed aggression, such as biting or licking at their flanks, lower back, and tail. Other behaviors include dilated pupils, tail chasing, and apparent episodes of hallucination. These symptoms often lead to noticeable distress in affected felines. Recognizing these signs is crucial for timely consultation with a veterinarian to manage the condition and improve the cat’s well-being.

What are the potential causes of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome in cats?

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS) in cats is believed to stem from a multifaceted mix of causes with no single identified origin. Potential triggers include neurological disorders, such as seizures or nerve damage; psychological factors like stress, anxiety, or compulsive behaviors; and dermatological issues, including allergies or skin infections. Food sensitivities may also play a role in some cases. The complexity of FHS means it often requires a comprehensive approach to diagnosis, looking at the cat’s environment, behavior, and medical history to pinpoint the underlying causes and tailor an effective treatment plan.

At what age is Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome most commonly observed?

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS) is most commonly observed in young adult cats, with the typical onset occurring around 1 to 4 years of age. However, it’s important to note that FHS can manifest in cats of any age, but the prevalence is significantly higher in this younger adult demographic. This age-specific tendency suggests a link between the syndrome’s development and the maturation stage of a cat’s neurological and physiological systems. Early detection and intervention are vital in managing the condition and ensuring a good quality of life for affected felines.

What treatment options are available for cats diagnosed with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome?

For cats diagnosed with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS), treatment focuses on managing symptoms and improving quality of life. Options include anti-seizure medications for neurological symptoms, pain relievers for discomfort, and antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs to address behavioral issues. Additionally, environmental modifications to reduce stress, such as creating a calm, enriched living space, can be beneficial. Behavioral therapy may also help in managing compulsive behaviors. Each treatment plan is tailored to the individual cat’s symptoms and response to therapy, often involving a combination of medical and supportive care strategies.

Do you have questions about your kitty’s health or care? Contact us, your local animal clinic in Hudson Valley, NY today!