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Recently (within the past 2 weeks or so), touching my cat's hindquarters has resulted in him frantically biting his (FRONT) paws. I noticed it for the first time when I was petting him while he was sitting (he looked like a drinky bird). Also, if he can't reach his paws (I'm in the way or something), he'll bite whatever is in reach.

The biting isn't a problem (he had stomatitis so badly that we had his teeth removed), but I can't figure out what's causing this behavior (and the other 3 cats don't do it). Has anyone ever seen this before?

Update: After a few weeks all of our cats developed this behavior.

  • If I scratch my cat's back just in front of his tail, he will immediately stick out his tongue and lick and bite his front legs and paws. Sometimes he will even lick the air. It is actually comical to watch because he acts like his actions have been taken over by a remote control. He only does this when I scratch a specific place on his back just in front of his tail. He does not have skin problems or any illnesses. – user7789 Aug 10 '16 at 2:15
  • My cat does this to, we brought her to the vet, she said it’s just a skin problem and said “it doesn’t hurt her.” – Courtney Jan 12 at 17:43
5

I think what you're encountering is called Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome but the common name is rolling skin disease. Not all symptoms may manifest, but according to Blackwell's consult, the episodes can range from several seconds to minutes in length and can involve one or more of:

  • twitching skin
  • violent tail swishing
  • vocalizing
  • biting or licking

He may also have dilated pupils and appear further agitated.

There are some medicinal treatments, but one practice is to try and train them out of this if possible (may not be, causes will effect this). However, as the linked article notes, there are other diseases/illnesses that have similar symptoms (e.g. hyperthyroidism), so getting him checked by the vet would be a very good idea regardless.

Some additional information available on the Reno Animal Hospital site as well.

Edit

Evidence for front paw activity from the Cat Channel and on VeterinaryPartner.com. I don't think you should rule this out, it may be a mild case.

  • He has none of the other signs of it (and he's biting his front paws, the articles indicate that he's would bite his back end if that's what was bothering him). The article also says to rule out fungal skin infections, and we have that in the house right now. This cat hasn't shown any signs of it, but the 2 girls have it really bad, and we're treating everyone weekly (the girls are getting more obviously). – Zaralynda Nov 18 '13 at 23:24
  • @Zaralynda - It's not always just hind areas that he would bite, it could also be a form of obsessive grooming that kicks in here, which may move about. At any rate, it's the only thing I could find in my books and online that was close, but I italicized think because I couldn't be sure. So, it may also be just an oddity on his part, I'm not a vet, I just read. :) – John Cavan Nov 18 '13 at 23:42
  • I'm not really ruling it out, but we can't confirm it at this time because of the fungal skin infection. Once that gets cleared up (soon hopefully, we're all tired of the baths) and if it continues I'll talk to my vet about it. Thanks! – Zaralynda Nov 19 '13 at 14:49
  • @Zaralynda - No worries, I agree with your thinking. This issue is often missed by vets, so I wanted to make sure it was in your thoughts to raise. – John Cavan Nov 19 '13 at 14:56
  • @JohnCavan Sorry if I missed it, but I'm still not sure about something. Is the cat in pain when this happens? My cat seems to have this problem, except she only does the excessive/extreme licking, no biting or thrashing of any kind. – gitsitgo Nov 20 '13 at 18:24
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The skin problems that cropped up at about the same time eventually led our general vet to recommend us to a dermatologist.

The veterinarian dermatologist told us that when a cat bites at their front legs while you're touching them, it's an itch response. They nicknamed it "corn cobbing" because it looks like the cat is eating a cob of corn (except instead of corn it's their leg).

Cats can't verbally tell us where they're itching, but signs like "corn cobbing" and hair loss helped the veterinarian dermatologist to find the culprit in our case - the 0.38 mm cheyletiella mite.

2

Cats are sensitive and highly strung, and can sometimes have odd reactions to being over-stimulated. A cat I had would repeatedly pop out her tongue when her back was scratched and would stop when you stopped.

Snapping with the teeth is common reaction in many cats, leading to the 'but I thought he liked it' cry. Usually it is at the hand doing the scratching.

I would just interpret this as a reaction to being over-stimulated and ease off when the biting starts.

1

I have a male tabby, Richard, who is kind of a "thick" cat (not chunky but big) and he also bites his front paws when you scratch his hind quarters. He also makes a drawn out chirping noise that, to me, sounds like he is ticklish. My parents have one of his sisters and she behaves the same way. I also grew up with a Russian Blue who liked to be "spanked" with a rolled up news paper. She would end up shedding it She loved that game. If she saw or heard a paper being rolled up, she would come running. I've heard that cats don't have the "ability" to be ticklish, but it sure seems like it to me.

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