7 Causes Of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome In Cats

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome in cats, also known as FHS, rolling skin syndrome, and many other names, is a medical condition that results in hypersensitivity.

If you suspect your cat may have FHS, it is natural to be worried at first, but there are many things you can do to manage this condition.

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome causes the afflicted cat to experience hypersensitivity, often along the back and base of the tail. Cats with this condition may start twitching, biting, or running around suddenly as they experience an uncomfortable episode. This condition can be managed with medication, but can never be fully cured.

If you have a cat with FHS or suspect your cat might be suffering from FHS, do not be too distressed!

This condition may be incurable, but it does not lead to death, and uncomfortable symptoms can be managed so your cat can still have a wonderful quality of life.

Read on to find out what you can do for your cat with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

It is normal for cats to twitch while they are dreaming, but if you want to know why is my cat twitching while awake, Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome could be the culprit.

However, it can take a while to officially get a diagnosis for this condition.

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome in cats causes hypersensitivity.

Cats with this condition are typically sensitive on their back and tail. Being touched, petted, or picked up can result in anything from a tickling sensation to serious pain.

This condition usually makes itself known between the ages of 1 and 5 years old.

Cats with FHS can become very distressed by normal behaviors such as grooming or rubbing against people or objects.

Typically, cats with this disorder experience one to several episodes a day, which can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

When a cat experiences symptoms of FHS, it can react in a lot of different ways.

Many cats start compulsively licking or biting themselves, while others flinch, twitch, and try to run away.

They may begin yowling or making distressed vocalizations, their pupils often dilate, and they may even react in odd ways such as:

  • Urinating
  • Drooling

In extreme cases, some cats with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome can even experience a seizure after being petted.

Unfortunately, this condition can be difficult to diagnose, as many other factors must be ruled out first.

Since cats with this condition appear to experience pain and itching, your veterinarian will first have to determine if your cat is suffering from an:

  • Allergy
  • Infection
  • Injury
  • Parasite
  • Other Problem

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome has many different names.

Here are the most common nicknames for this condition (source 1,2):

  • FHS
  • Twitchy cat syndrome
  • Rippling skin syndrome
  • Rolling skin syndrome

7 Causes Of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome In Cats

If your cat is suffering from FHS, you are probably wondering, how do cats get Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome in the first place.

The root cause of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome is still unknown.

It is a very complicated disorder that some researchers believe to be caused by:

  • Anxiety
  • Behavioral Problems
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Tendencies

While it is impossible to know for sure what exactly causes this condition, there are many theories as well as links with other conditions.

Here are the 7 potential causes of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, as we understand it today:


Certain breeds of cats, particularly oriental breeds, seem to be at a higher risk for Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, which suggests a genetic factor.

Persian, Burmese, Siamese, and Abyssinian cats are at the highest risk for Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, but it can occur in any cat.

Previous Injury Or Disease

Traumatic injury to the tail is one common factor found in some cats with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.

Since cats with this condition are typically most sensitive on their backs and tails, it could make sense that traumatic injuries in these areas might cause this condition.

Muscular and spinal diseases are also potential causes that researchers have considered.


Epilepsy is a neurological condition that results in seizures.

Epilepsy appears to be more common in cats with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.

In more severe cases, some cats even experience seizures after being petted or touched in a certain way.

Learn more about Maine Coon epilepsy in this article.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, also known as OCD, is a debilitating neurological disorder.

This condition results in extreme anxiety.

Humans with OCD suffer from different “themes,” typically relating to childhood trauma.

One of the most well-known themes of OCD is contamination, where a person becomes anxious that they have been infected by something or someone they have interacted with.

Harm OCD causes a person to become anxious that they might hurt someone they love.

Religious OCD can cause a person to fear that they have committed blasphemy.

Overall, OCD is a disorder based on fear.

People with OCD obsess over certain fears and enact compulsions (such as washing their hands, praying, or checking in with themselves over and over again to make sure their thoughts are “pure”) to assuage these fears.

Some researchers think that Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome may have an obsessive-compulsive element, as cats often lick or bite at their paws after an episode, even though this does nothing to stop the sensation.

In more extreme cases, cats with FHS have to groom themselves excessively to the point of fur loss and irritation, and some cats even self-mutilate when they experience an FHS episode.


Since OCD is also a neurological disorder, as is epilepsy, Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome may be in some way related to neurodiversity.

For example, Autism Spectrum Disorder is another neurological condition that also results in abnormal sensory processing.

People with ASD are often hyper or hypo sensitive to:

  • Touch
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Sight
  • Sound

Neurological disorders are complex, and symptoms often worsen due to external factors like stress or overstimulation, which is something that has been observed in Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.


Some researchers think that FHS could be due to underlying stress.

It is known that stress can increase these symptoms, as there are many Feline Hyperesthesia triggers such as open windows or unwanted contact with other animals.

Other Causes

There are lots of different causes that have been observed in various cats with FHS.

For example, one cat’s FHS stopped entirely after switching to a new diet.

Some believe that immune system problems or dermatological problems can cause FHS.

On the other hand, displacement behaviors and attention-seeking behaviors have also been associated with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.

Overall, there is no singular known cause for Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.

Its causes and presentation are so varied that treatment depends on the individual, and finding a treatment that your cat responds well to is more helpful than finding the underlying cause of the condition (source 1).

Twitchy Cat Syndrome Symptoms

Symptoms of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome are varied and differ depending on severity.

Here are the common symptoms of twitchy cat syndrome:

1. Twitching Skin

As its many nicknames such as rolling skin, twitching skin, and rippling skin syndrome imply, the skin of cats with this disorder often twitches during an episode.

The skin on their back and tail might shiver or suddenly convulse.

2. Aggressive Behavior

Your cat may lash out at you or nearby animals during an episode, particularly if the episode was triggered by being touched.

Even if you did not touch your cat, though, it might still lash out at you as a displacement behavior.

3. Itching

Your cat may itch, bite, or scratch at the affected areas in an attempt to alleviate the uncomfortable sensation.

4. Tail Chasing

If your cat starts suddenly chasing its tail, it could be FHS rather than a play behavior, particularly if your cat seems distressed or frustrated.

5. Sudden Running

During an episode, the affected cat may suddenly jump or start running, possibly in surprise or as an attempt to escape from the sensation.

6. Self-Mutilation

If the cat’s discomfort is more extreme, your cat may start attacking its own body in an attempt to stop the sensation from occurring.

This can be dangerous, as your cat may injure its back or even its tail.

7. Over-Grooming

Your cat may lick and groom itself excessively, to the point that the skin becomes red and irritated, and bald patches may even start to form.

8. Compulsive Licking And Biting

Sometimes, cats with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome lick or bite at their paws during an episode, even though that is not the area that is causing them discomfort.

9. Dilated Pupils

During an episode, your cat’s pupils might widen significantly.

10. Seizures

In more severe cases, cats with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome might experience a seizure, particularly after being touched or petted in a certain way.

Cats experiencing a seizure might:

  • Stare off into space
  • Start drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Convulse uncontrollably
  • Experience sudden mood changes.

11. Vocalization

A cat with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome might start meowing or yowling loudly and unusually during an episode.

12. Urination

Some cats urinate after being touched in a way that triggers an FHS episode.

How To Treat Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome In Cats

If your cat is suffering from FHS, you probably want to know, is Feline Hyperesthesia curable?

Sadly, Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome cannot be cured completely, but there are many ways this condition can be managed.

Veterinarians usually try multiple treatment options, as a combined treatment approach is typically the most effective.

What works for one cat may not work for another, so there is a lot of trial and error involved.

Overall, the focus of treatment for Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome is to alleviate discomfort as much as possible, while also reducing the frequency and duration of FHS episodes.


One of the most important parts of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome treatment is to be patient.

Since FHS is so complex and varies so much based on the individual, it can take a long time to find treatment options that alleviate your cat’s symptoms.

Typically, several different treatment methods are used before the affected cat shows any signs of improvement.

It is also important to be patient with your cat. While we all love to snuggle our pets, this can be difficult for cats with FHS.

In some cases, cats with this condition might become aggressive and even bite their owners after being touched.

Please keep in mind that it is not your cat’s fault, and any aggressive behavior is simply an attempt to defend themselves from the discomfort they are experiencing.

Dermatological Treatment

An important step in twitchy cat syndrome treatment often includes treating the skin.

Since lots of cats with this condition engage in compulsive grooming behaviors, they often have irritated and itchy skin, which only makes symptoms of FHS worse.

Your vet may prescribe ointments and topical treatments that can alleviate itching and discomfort.

Seizure Management

If your cat experiences seizures, then your vet will probably want to provide medication to treat seizures, typically Gabapentin or Phenobarbital.

Gabapentin has proved especially helpful for cats with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, as it can also decrease sensitivity.


Sometimes, veterinarians prescribe antidepressants to cats with this condition.

A common Feline Hyperesthesia medication is Fluoxetine, which is often used in humans with OCD and other neurological disorders.

These medications can also reduce stress, which often alleviates symptoms to some degree.

Stress Management

Since some believe that stress can be an underlying cause of FHS, and since stress management often reduces symptoms, it is important to find ways you can decrease your cat’s stress.

This may include:

  • Keeping curtains closed
  • Separating your cat from other animals in the house
  • Decreasing over-stimulating playtime
  • Giving your cat more space and privacy


Sometimes, adding more enrichment to your cat’s environment can reduce symptoms of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.

Providing cat trees and places to climb and scratch, as well as giving your cat lots of toys and playtime can all help treat your cat’s symptoms.


During episodes where a cat begins aggressively grooming or biting itself, you may be able to redirect your cat using toys.

This allows your cat to get out some of that pent-up energy without harming itself.

Diet Changes

In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend some changes to your cat’s diet.

Increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce sensitivity.

Sometimes, switching to a new kind of food completely can have a huge impact on your cat’s FHS, though it is not known exactly why.

Feline Hyperesthesia Life Expectancy

While Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome can be scary and stressful to both you and your cat, the twitchy cat syndrome life expectancy is the same as any other cat!

Cats with FHS can live long and happy lives, and are not at risk of injury or death due to this condition except in cases of severe seizures.

Can Feline Hyperesthesia Cause Death?

If your cat has recently been diagnosed with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, or you are worried your cat may have it, you might be wondering, can cats die from Feline Hyperesthesia?

Thankfully, the answer to that question is no.

While Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome is incurable and oftentimes uncomfortable, it is not deadly.

It is more likely to be a neurological or psychological condition than anything else, and cats with this disorder can live long, happy lives just like any other cat.

Is Hyperesthesia In Cats Painful?

Sadly, Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome is both uncomfortable and painful.

Cats suffering from this condition can experience sensations such as:

  • Tickling
  • Itching
  • Discomfort
  • Serious Pain

It is important to respect your cat’s boundaries and refrain from touching your cat during an episode.

Keep track of your cat’s episodes so you can identify triggers, such as being touched in a certain way, so you can prevent your cat from experiencing discomfort when possible.

Cats with Feline Hyperesthesia are much more sensitive, usually on their tail and back.

They experience the most pain and discomfort during an episode, which can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Cats with untreated FHS may experience multiple episodes a day, but cats undergoing treatment can go much longer without an episode.

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome Video

If you think your cat could have Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, then you are probably curious about what it looks like.

You can watch a twitchy cat syndrome video in this Youtube video where you can see characteristic symptoms of FHS in a cat named Lenny.

As Lenny’s owner explains in the video, his Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome will never fully go away, but his symptoms are much better than they used to be.

If you have noticed behaviors similar to Lenny’s in your cat, then you may want to consider asking your vet about Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.


Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (twitchy cat disease) is an uncomfortable and often painful condition that causes a cat to be extra sensitive, particularly on the back and tail.

While there is no cure for Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome in cats, there are many treatment options available.

Seizure medications and antidepressants have been shown to help in many cases, and reducing stress and even changing your cat’s diet can have an impact on the frequency and severity of their symptoms.

Related Questions

Rolling Skin Syndrome In Cats

Rolling Skin Syndrome is a nickname for Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, which causes a cat to become extra sensitive. Their skin usually rolls or twitches during an episode.

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