Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome Treatment

Feline hyperesthesia, also known as cat schizophrenia, is a disorder that causes dramatic changes in character, strange and even aggressive behavior. Vets aren't sure what causes FHS, but they have a few theories. Here's what you should know about the symptoms, possible causes and treatment of feline hyperesthesia.

Symptoms of Hyperesthesia in Cats

Cats with feline hyperesthesia may exhibit such bizarre and dramatic changes in character and behavior that they seem to be possessed. While all cats may occasionally display sudden bouts of hyperactivity or odd behavior, the behaviors displayed by cats with hyperesthesia are extreme, and they're accompanied by certain physical symptoms. 

Cats suffering feline hyperesthesia may suddenly become inexplicably and intensely hyperactive, and even aggressive. They may have extremely large pupils and vocalize loudly and often. They may have frequent, sudden mood swings and may appear to hallucinate by chasing things that aren't there or running away when they're not being pursued. Other symptoms include:

  • Excessive self grooming on the sides and tail
  • Tail chasing, attacking the tail, swishing the tail excessively or otherwise appearing obsessed with the tail
  • Rippling or rolling skin
  • Sensitivity to touch along the spine. Cats with feline hyperesthesia may experience bouts of the illness after being petted or stroked along the spine.
  • Seizures

Bouts of feline hyperesthesia may occur every few days, or your cat may appear to be suffering from the disease almost continuously for days on end.

Theories About Feline Hyperesthesia

Vets don't know what causes feline hyperesthesia, but they have a few theories. Some vets believe feline hyperesthesia may be a form of epilepsy, caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Others think it may be a form of feline obsessive compulsive disorder. Others feel that FHS results from the combination of a genetic tendency toward manic behavior triggered by excessive stress.

Oriental breeds are most often affected by FHS. Stress seems to make the condition worse.

Diagnosing FHS

Your vet will diagnose feline hyperesthesia based on your cat's symptoms and medical history. There's no conclusive test for the diagnosis of FHS, so your vet will want to rule out other conditions which may cause similar symptoms, including brain tumors and infections, brain injury, allergies, hyperthyroidism, exposure to toxins, nutritional deficiency and parasitic skin infections.

Treating Feline Hyperesthesia

Your vet may prescribe antidepressant, anti-obsessional or anti-convulsant drugs to manage and control your cat's hyperesthesia symptoms. You can help ease the symptoms of feline hyperesthesia by giving your cat a stress free environment; as much as possible, try to eliminate sources of stress from your cat's life. Because your cat's hyperesthesia may be the result of a feline obsessive compulsive disorder, your cat may be experiencing unusually high levels of stress for reasons that wouldn't be obvious to you. Minimize stress by:

  • Feeding your cat on a strict schedule
  • Addressing any aggression between your cat and other pets or members of the household
  • Spend quality time with your cat
  • Provide for your cat's entertainment with a fish tank, a window bird feeder and cat toys
  • Play with your cat to help him blow off steam and get exercise

Some cats with hyperesthesia benefit from having another, friendly cat in the home. If you decide to get a companion cat, arrange a trial period to see if the two cats will get along before bringing him home for good.