We have a cat (maybe 2 years old, adopted) who has suddenly started chewing (not just licking) a spot bald from biting herself. She's clearly hurting herself (she cries when she does it) but we're baffled.

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I've taken her to the vet who had us try both a cortizone shot, an antibiotic, steroid pills, and some soy-based food, but she continues to do this without any signs it's working (almost 2 weeks). If anything, she's getting worse, not better (seems more lethargic as well). None of the other cats have any issues, nor do we have fleas. I'm trying to avoid getting a second opinion from another vet since the first one was expensive.

  • 3
    If shes hurting herself you definitely need to get a second opinion, preferably by a dermatologist if your regular dvm cannot figure it out. Sep 8, 2017 at 21:33
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    hm - steroids are always a last resort in my books (when they can't find the cause). Sounds like she needs some blood work done, given the lethargy. I totally understand the expense side of it. I'll have a look later to see what I can dig up that may be helpful
    – user6796
    Sep 9, 2017 at 1:33
  • take her to another vet,one uses cortizone if there is an illness making your cat licking herself not the other way round. Sep 9, 2017 at 7:51
  • Were there any changes in her social environment? Could it be stress? Sep 14, 2017 at 13:21
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    Is there a chance this is caused by anxiety of some kind, and that it NOT itchy, it's just compulsive or is being done subconsciously? If that's the case steroids, diet change AND antibiotics won't work. I agree with @ Rebecca RVT that a second opinion from a professional may turn up a different diagnosis and outcome; if you go with a second opinion suggest the anxiety as something to look into and treat? Does she have sores elsewhere?
    – Christy B.
    Oct 6, 2017 at 2:21

4 Answers 4


So I think we've finally found something that fits the symptoms. Unfortunately, it's a poorly understood condition called Feline hyperesthesia. The start of this video is pretty indicative of what our cat has been doing.

We've got her in a cone (which has limited how much damage she can do) but the diet change hasn't stopped the ticking or attempts at self-mutilation. Still, it's good to know what this is, in some fashion. Thanks for all the comments.

  • I'd love to see the diet you are trying. this is fascinating. Have you tried catnip?
    – user6796
    Oct 10, 2017 at 17:26
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    I'm sorry to report our cat never really recovered from this and we had to put her down. I hope someone else finds an answer that eluded us :(
    – Machavity
    Feb 9, 2019 at 5:34

Our cat had this problem with pulling, biting and licking his back. We had steroid injections, anti-inflammatories, etc. Nothing worked. He’s 16 and his mobility has been getting worse, but we put this down to old age. A few days ago one of his back legs started kicking out. I took him to the vet and they checked his blood sugar among other things. Turns out he’s diabetic. He’s been on insulin for a few days and has vastly improved. One of the early signs of this is twitching and pulling/licking of the back along the spinal cord. Wish we had known this earlier. I’m posting in case it may help someone else.


Just going to add a few words to the Feline Hyperesthesia

My cat has this problem since I know her (about 10 weeks old). When she got 6 months old she started showing symptoms of back twitches. She would look at me as if I am doing something to her back.. then run around the house to get rid of something on her back (imagination). Then after 1-2 min sit somewhere and start licking her belly. She would chew spots around her nipples (probably higher sensitivity) and damage her skin.

I have tried, changing food, changing behavior, feline calming diffusers sprays, topical skin care agents, anti allergy medication. I am not yet certain about using steroids and psychotropic agents. I am trained in medicine and I think that it is not at that point yet.

About the cones that you mentioned. I tried using a cone on my kitty and the poor soul was more stressed and unhappy with the cone compared to the pain of actual licking herself raw. SO just make sure that you are not stressing the 12 lb soul even further. Usually these things dont create too much of an issue. They come and go in phases of damaging and healing.

here is a peaceful kitty with the problem

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    I'm sorry to report we had to put our cat down. The cone didn't work for us either, nor diet. The meds (anti-spasm) mostly made her sleep more, but she would still mow when awake and shoving pills down her throat 3 times a day was stressful for both her and us. I hope you find something we didn't
    – Machavity
    Sep 1, 2018 at 16:39
  • I am sorry to hear that. Did the chewing get too serious for her health? Usually animals stop on their own after a little biting. Did it get infected or something?
    – Mandar
    Sep 1, 2018 at 18:20
  • It was perpetually infected. Even if we found something that would stop it for a bit, she would get into a "cat fight" with herself when she would tar the scabs off
    – Machavity
    Sep 1, 2018 at 19:41

I'm having same problem. It is dry skin, dandruff. Try cocoa butter lotion or vaseline, it's the only thing that worked! She was itching, scratching off fur and bitting off her nipples. Please try it because your cat's condition is concerning me and it's sad.

  • I believe ours was neurological, not skin (she's been put down because nothing we tried worked and she was miserable). I am glad you found something that works, but it may not be the same thing we faced.
    – Machavity
    Apr 18, 2019 at 13:41

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