What Is Twitchy Cat Syndrome?

Cats are unique creatures. Your feline’s physiology is distinctive, as are her nutritional requirements. Even the way her body is built — her incredible physical flexibility — is also different from most other creatures. Apart from mental illness, cats can get the physical illness, one of them is Twitchy Cat Syndrome!

Another thing that is extraordinarily rare about cats is their tendency to develop a weird disorder called feline hyperesthesia. This is a medical term for what is more usually referred to as “twitchy cat syndrome.” Other technical names for such conditions include neuritis and atypical neurodermatitis or rolling skin disease.

Although the cause of the condition is not well comprehended, it is believed to be a neurological disorder similar to epilepsy or a type of compulsive disorder. Cats of mature age, as well as breeds including Himalayans, Burmese, Abyssinian, and Siamese, are especially prone to this disorder

Symptoms of Twitchy Cat Syndrome 

A cat with twitch-skin syndrome usually has an episode lasting for approximately 20-30 seconds as though something back there is bothering her before abruptly returning to normal behavior. Not all cats show the same or all symptoms related to twitchy cat syndrome, but your feline can exhibit any of the following:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Twitching tail
  • Rolling of the skin
  • Frantic, uncontrollable movements
  • Panting
  • Excessive licking, scratching or biting itself
  • Alarmed vocalizing
  • Frantic running
  • Uncontrollable defecation or urination
  • Salivation
  • Panting
  • Muscle spasms

Causes of Twitch-Skin Syndrome in Cats

One of the first things that should be done immediately when your cat is having symptoms of hyperesthesia is rule out other causes. 

It’s crucial that you rule out flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) as a cause. In pets with a serious flea allergy, the bite from a single flea can cause a severe, long-term itching and skin irritation. In some cases dry, itchy skin can induce or aggravate a hyperesthesia condition. This tends to be more common in felines with a dry food diet.

Another cause of the condition that should be taken in to consideration is seizures. Or more precisely, feline hyperesthesia appears to be a type of seizure disorder. 

It may also be a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, with the obsession being fearfulness and/or grooming and/or aggression. Furthermore, seizure activity leads to obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Certain breeds are believed to be predisposed to develop mania as a result of stress. Oriental breeds seem to be more prone to hyperesthesia than others, and stress and anxiety are also considered to trigger for these cats.

Kitties with the condition are reported to have lesions in the muscles of their spine. It’s possible the lesions lead or contribute to the sensations and symptoms that are a feature of hyperesthesia.

Diagnosis of Twitchy Cat Syndrome 

Until now there is no diagnostic tool for detecting twitch-skin syndrome in cats and is usually performed by eliminating other conditions that cause similar symptoms and behavior. The vet will perform a physical exam on your cat, review her medical record and disease and drug history. The veterinarian then explains what happens to your cat during an episode in great detail. Important information to reach a diagnosis includes:

  • What happens just before an episode? Do you note a stimulus trigger?
  • What behavior does your cat exhibit during an episode?
  • How long does your cat exhibit this behavior?
  • Does she always have an episode in the same location or time of day?
  • What happens after the abnormal behavior? Does she return to her normal behavior? Does she go to sleep, eat, etc.?

Your veterinarian may also order a complete blood count to rule out hyperthyroidism and a nutritional deficiency. Skin tests are also performed to rule out skin infections, external parasites, and allergies. X-rays or an MRI, and T4 (thyroid) hormone level test may also be taken to rule out the possibility of trauma to any of her vital organs or skeletal/muscle structure.

Treatment of Twitchy Cat Syndrome

If your feline is diagnosed with twitch-skin syndrome, the recommended treatment involves reducing factors that contribute to your cat’s condition: stress, anxiety and sudden change. Discuss with your veterinarian about suitable therapeutic treatment options such as massage or acupuncture therapy. He or she may also recommend an antianxiety drug to cats with severe cases of the condition, but there is no known treatment method for hyperesthesia.

Recovery of Twitchy Cat Syndrome

Since this syndrome is incurable, but your veterinarian may advise a few arrangements around living environment of your cat to prevent the number of occurrences. The following tips may be helpful to avoid twitch-skin syndrome:

  • Let your cat have a place of his own to climb, scratch, rest and hide.
  • Avoid out of blue adjustment to feeding and eating habits.
  • Provide healthy stimuli like cat toys to prevent aggression and boredom.
  • Avoid moving your cat’s litter box around the house.


Twitch-skin syndrome is defined as an unusual feline disorder with an abnormally sensitive reaction to the skin. The sensitivity appears in the lumbar region of a cat’s back, just in front of the pelvis. Pet owners notice abnormal tail twitching and widened eyes in combination with the uncontrollable urge to manipulate the skin. We hope this information will be helpful for you and your cats! Thanks for reading. See you in the next article of Pet Unique!

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