It’s no secret that cats are mysterious. It’s a part of their attraction. Cats continually shock us. As a feline practitioner, I’ve had many cat house owners describe a state of affairs the place their cat, stress-free on a sofa or mattress, abruptly sits up, will get an odd look in his eyes, frantically grooms his flank or tail, then darts throughout the room as if possessed by evil spirits.
It’s tempting to merely consider this as nutty cat conduct, however it could truly be indicators of an enigmatic situation known as feline hyperesthesia syndrome(FHS). The phrase hyperesthesia means excessive sensitivity to the touch. Cats with FHS could present quite a lot of conduct adjustments, a outstanding one being (because the title suggests) a heightened reactivity to being touched, most notably over the decrease again and rump.
Indicators and signs
The behavioral manifestations of FHS can differ extensively. Most affected cats change into fixated on their tails. They might swish their tails forwards and backwards, chase them, compulsively groom them, oreven assault and mutilate them. The pores and skin alongside the again could twitch or ripple. Actually, this dysfunction is usually known as “rolling pores and skin illness.”
Some cats will expertise dramatic temper swings, with sudden bouts of hyperactive, aggressive, shocked or fearful conduct. Throughout a bout of FHS, cats could present dilated pupils or get an odd look to their eyes, maybe behaving as in the event that they’re having hallucinations: seemingly following the motion of a spot or an insect that isn’t there, fleeing from an unseen adversary or staring vacuously into house. A number of cats throughout an episode of FHS willvocalize, crying or meowing loudly. Though these episodes could occur spontaneously, they might be triggered just by touching or stroking a cat alongside the backbone.
In extreme instances, the indicators of FHS can progress to a seizure, with the cat falling over, salivating, his legs paddling. Cats of any age could also be affected, though it’s extra widespread in mature animals. Abyssinians, Burmese, Himalayans and Siamese are predisposed, though any breed could be troubled. Each cat is completely different by way of how often these episodes happen, from as soon as each few days to day-after-day to almost continually all through the day.
The reason for FHS stays elusive. Some folks really feel that it could be some kind of seizure dysfunction, as some cats will expertise a grand mal seizure throughout or following a bout of FHS. The truth that some cats reply to antiseizure medicine helps this notion. Different folks declare that FHS could also be a type of obsessive-compulsive dysfunction (OCD), with the obsession relating primarily to grooming. The compulsive nature of the self-directed flank and/or tail grooming, and the constructive response in some cats to anti-obsessional medicine
helps this faculty of thought.
A doable hereditary tendency for FHS has additionally been instructed, as Oriental breeds are predisposed to the dysfunction. As with many behavioral situations in cats, stress contributes to the signs of FHS.
Analysis and therapy
There is no such thing as a definitive check for FHS. A analysis is made based mostly on the cat’s behavioral indicators and by ruling out different medical problems, particularly pores and skin problems which will trigger itchingand discomfort, and hyperthyroidism, which might trigger hyperactivity, elevated vocalization and different behavioral adjustments.
Therapy of FHS entails minimizing stress within the cat’s atmosphere. Partaking in each day play conduct with the cat is regarded as useful. Actions which are recognized to set off a bout of FHS, resembling petting or scratching on the decrease again or close to the bottom of the tail must be strictly averted.
In instances the place bouts of FHS happen often and spontaneously, or the place the signs are extreme, medical remedy could also be warranted. In my follow, I initially prescribe anti-obsessional medicine, with fluoxetine (Prozac) being my first alternative. I’ve discovered it to be protected, efficient and reasonably priced.
If the cat responds poorly (or under no circumstances), I’ll change to an anti-convulsant drug, my first alternative being phenobarbital, letting house owners know that it could take two or three weeks earlier than phenobarbital reaches efficient ranges within the bloodstream. Gabapentin, an anti-seizure drug that can be efficient at decreasing nerve-associated ache, is a current addition to the arsenal of medication that could be tried when treating FHS.
Happily, most cats with FHS reply properly to environmental and pharmacological remedy, permitting them to as soon as once more lead a standard life. But when all medical remedies and conduct modifications fail to unravel the issue, tail amputation must be thought-about. The cat should still present indicators of obsession with the rear finish and flank space, however amputating the tail will not less than curb the mutilation, which might result in an infection. Whereas I’ve by no means had a cat fully fail to answer therapy, I’ve had some cats that required excessive doses of medicine.
Offering a stimulating atmosphere helps cats with FHS. A boring, monotonous atmosphere is an underappreciated reason behind stress in lots of cats.
Use interactive toys to encourage predatory play, like feather toys on a wand. Though transferring, interactive toys are greatest, an assortment of toys must be supplied. Interactive toys permit cats to “blow off steam,” decreasing any bottled-up prey drive.
Enrich the atmosphere by including perches so the cat can look down on the world from an elevated platform (cats love this), organising a fish tank or getting a window fowl feeder to make the cat’s life extra attention-grabbing.