If you've never heard of hyperesthesia, don't be surprised: unless you've ever been the pet parent of a Siamese, Himalayan, or Oriental cat, you'd probably have no reason to know about this disorder. Not all cats of these species have hyperesthesia, either, but for those who do, the symptoms can range from mild to massive and leave your cat irritated or downright panicked. If your cat is one of the aforementioned breeds and acts strangely when it's petted, grooms itself, or at random, your cat may have hyperesthesia.
Hyperesthesia is a disorder that cats of Siamese, Himalayan, and Oriental breeds or origin are especially prone to. This disorder causes your cat's skin and nerve endings in their lower back, tail, or hindquarters to be hyper-sensitive. While many kitties enjoy a good petting or scratching near their tail, kitties with this disorder tend to react badly to it.
Its Possible Causes
No one's entirely sure what the root cause of this disorder is, or why certain breeds are more predisposed to it than others. Some vets think that stress may be the culprit, or that it could be triggered by skin irritation like dermatitis or itchy flea bites, or the reactions could even be a form of seizure.
Symptoms and reactions to this disorder range wildly, depending on the severity of the illness. Many kitties can live normal, happy lives with the disorder, while others will need special care. From mild to severe, some of the most common symptoms are:
- Irritation During Petting - Kitties with this disorder may not want to be petted in the affected areas. Their skin may also visibly ripple if you touch them in one of the affected areas. If your cat cries, paws at you, or tries to bite you when you pet them near their tail, it might be an indication of hyperesthesia.
- Random Reactions - Cats who have a more moderate form of the disorder may suddenly react as though something has bitten their tail or hindquarters when nothing has even touched them. They may be calm one moment, then jerk into action, biting or grooming their hindquarters in the same way you'd frantically scratch a bug bite. This may or may not be accompanied by muscle twitches in the affected areas.
- Fear - In severe cases, just the normal motion of a cat's tail may be enough to trigger the disorder, sending them into a panic. Your cat may fearfully bolt across the house out of the blue, acting like they're trying to get away from something. Sadly, they're trying to get away from their own butt or tail, which isn't possible.
Treatment for this disorder is dependent upon the severity of your cat's symptoms. In any case, you should go to a veterinary clinic to get your cat checked and make sure that it's not some other problem.
If it turns out to be hyperesthesia and your cat's only issue is that she or he doesn't like being touched in certain spots, you'll have to teach yourself not to pet your cat there. Even if other kitties don't mind or enjoy it, your cat has boundaries that shouldn't be crossed. Once you've trained yourself to not touch your cat in those regions, they'll be fine.
For more moderate and severe cases, some veterinarians prescribe sedatives or tranquilizers to calm the mania that comes with the disorder. Unfortunately, there's no treatment to calm the actual sensitivity, but if your cat has a secondary skin condition, treating it may help to reduce the overall irritation.
Thankfully, for many cats, this disorder is mild and only requires a little understanding from you for your cat to live a happy life. While this disorder can be frightening and irritating for your cat, it won't put your cat's life or overall health at risk. Just try to be understanding of your feline friend's situation and support them with the help of your vet.