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feline hyperesthesia (aka rolling skin)

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
i was just wondering if anyone here has a cat that was diagnosed with this. bela was diagnosed today with it. she has episodes of her arms and legs twitching and you can see 'waves' of back spasms sometimes that drive her to lick her back and arms. i took some video and showed the vet and she said it looked like a 'classic case' - unfortunately there is not much information out there on this uncommon disorder. they are not sure what causes it and whether or not it is skin related, behavior related, neurological, or what.

its going to be a trial and error approach to treatment, but luckily my vet has been working with other vets to try to figure this disorder out. we started with a cortisone treatment today to see if it responds to being treated as a skin disorder. ive read that cats are also treated with anti depressants or anti convulsants.....i just hope i dont need to go that route.

if anyone else is going through this, what course of action has your vet recommended?
has anything worked yet?
what do you do during an episode? i just try to make her feel comfortable and talk calmly to her and pet her through it. luckily she does not get aggressive like some cats do when they have episodes.

thank you~debbie
post #2 of 5
I'm so sorry you are going through this. I went through this with one of my cats and it is extremely hard to figure out.

First, you need to keep a journal detailing the 'episodes' of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS). Basically you are trying to determine which symptoms she is showing and try to find out what sets them off.

Some symptoms include: Dilated pupils, twitching tail, biting at the tip of the tail, sometimes to the point of mutilation, sensitive to touch around the tail, persistent, loud meowing, rippling skin on back, dashing off madly around the house etc. In your journal, mark down which symptoms she is showing and if they are increasing or decreasing.

Also keep track of the following: How long have these episodes been happening? Does she do this right before or after eating? Does she eat from plastic feeding bowls? What time of day does it happen? Who is in the room or what does she do right before she has an episode? Does it happen more during a specific season? How many episodes does she have in a day? Do they increase at a specific time? Do you let her outside or is she in indoor cat only? Has she fallen recently and therefore might indicate a spinal/nerve issue?

When we were trying to figure this out we looked at household pollutants first (was new carpet/flooring installed? new cleaning products? scented candles or air fresheners used etc.). Has your recently been vaccinated or given flea treatment? For some cats, these episodes are the result of toxic overload in the system. Remember, even the smallest dose can set off a cat that is allergic since they are at ground level and more sensitive. You really have to go through everything in detail.

If it's not something in the household, it could be something taking place in the cats own system. You need a full physical and blood workup on the cat to make sure it's not something internal. We also looked at food allergies. We did various food trials (which easily last 8-12 weeks each).

It could also be behavioural. Has anything changed in your household? New guests, new animals, any renovation work? Have you changed your daily schedule? Is she seeing or hearing any new cats/animal walking past your house outside the window? Many cats get worked up by just seeing the presence of another animal outside.

Is your cat an only cat? Is she bored and needs more mental stimulation? At one point, my vet was suggesting to bring another cat into the household so she would have more physical activity.

Also, remember that this can be a pain response, as well. One friend had the same symptoms, but her cat actually had dental issues. Once the dental issues were cleared up the rolling back/licking/manic episodes disapeared.

Also, it's very important to deal with this behaviour right at the beginning since this can become a learned response and keep cycling.

Personally, after all my reading I would try all the above first before introducing the drugs. Drugs add a whole different issue to the cat and may only cover up the symptoms rather than solve them. You have to try your best to find the underlying issue, not cover them up! It also helps if you can find a feline only vet to consult with since they will probably have more experience.

I did a huge amount of research 2 years ago when I was trying to determine why my cat was acting this way. If you need it, I have all the links saved on my other computer so can get them for you. Just send me a message if you're interested. Also, feel free to message me for any other questions since I don't get much time on the boards these days and may miss your post.

Unfortunately, my cat Nakita passed away (from another health issue) before we were able to solve it. Good luck!
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
i cannot thank you enough for taking the time to respond. nakita sure was a gorgeous cat! i'll bet she's looking down and smiling now.

thank you

right now i am trying to play detective per your awesome advice. this is the hardest part. keeping track of when the episodes happen (what precedes them? what time of day? any patterns?) and looking at anything that is different in her life. i started a notebook - that's how much i want to try to figure this thing out.
one thing that you made me think of was....
we did just get a water filter installed on our kitchen sink 2 weeks before this started. that is something different. my boyfriend said that maybe she is allergic to something in the filtration (charcoal?) so i stopped giving her the filtered water. (the funny thing is that everytime i filled her water bowl i would say 'what a spoiled cat getting filtered water!')
we'll see if that changes anything.

i also changed her bowls from plastic to glass today.

i did notice for about the past 3 weeks she has been meowing by the door more. i have a hard time believing that my cat would twitch and look all confused as a way to deal with wanting to go outside, but i am willing to try to learn more about this. we got her as an outdoor stray LAST december, so we've had her for over a year. the weather changed from chilly to summery (thats when she started meowing more by the door) but now its gotten a bit chilly again. (well, high of 60s as opposed to 80s) i dont get the behavioral theories behind FHS, but im so willing to explore and learn about them.

thank you again so much. i will keep you all posted on any changes and what i try.

i want to introduce salmon oil to her, but i am going to wait a week or 2 to see if the water change helps. its like a science experiment - im trying not to take away / add TOO many variables at once...until i can see what works and what doesnt - if that makes sense
post #4 of 5
Beavis was diagnosed with FHS shortly after we got him. Its behavioral in him and the vets seem to think anti depressants/anti anxiety drugs would help.
Beavis lived for 13 years in a 2 person elderly household with my MIL staying at home and moving very little (she was terminal and bedridden the last few years). When my FIL suddenly passed away, no one wanted Beavis. We took him and he then entered a 3 dog (2 german shepherd, 1 chinese crested) 1 cat (peanut butter was a kitten) and 2 young kids (7 mo old & 4 yr old) and two active adults that worked outside the home.

Beavis started off walking around the house during the night screaming incessantly. Then he started with the fur rippling and then would be sitting down or laying on furniture and then suddenly jump up and run away, stop and look back at what he was laying on like it bit him or something. When we moved to TX shortly in Jan 05, Beavis began chasing my son and cornering him screaming bloody murder (both beavis and my son were screaming) Now that we are in a bigger house, Beavis screams all night long and carries clothes and stuffed animals around the house screaming. He has almost daily episodes of the skin rippling and "being bitten" episodes. As I speak now, he is walking around the living room screaming.

The vets we have seen regarding the FHS seem to think that its because of all the changes Beavis went through in such a short period of time and that he will truely never adjust. They pretty much have said there isnt much that can be done other than to either put him to sleep or deal with it. We are dealing with it.

If i could actually pill the cat without getting bitten to the bone, he would be medicated. I already have scars on my arms and hands from him biting me for trying to treat ear mites and trying to give him sub Q fluids for his renal failure.

Good luck with your kitty -- hope the treatments work.
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
even though beavis sure sounds like a handful, i am so glad that you decided to deal with it and give him a chance. luckily bela has no screaming or crying at all during her episodes. hopefully that does not change.

good luck with beavis - he sure is lucky to have you
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