My cat has been having an issue where she is clearly agitated and looks like she is trying to run away from her own fur. It will start with appearing very agitated, meowing, and twitching her tail and her back just in front of her tail. She will begin to run around like she is frantically trying to get away from it. She doesn't have fleas or any other topical irritant that we can identify, and the other cat in the house has no similar issues.

It is dry in the house being winter in a northern climate and we thought it may have been a static issue. We have tried wetting her fur, which irritates her in the short term but ultimately seems to calm her down. We do have humidifiers running in the house, so we're not sure what the issue may be. We don't believe it is feline hyperesthesia as she doesn't self mutilate, but she is clearly unhappy about something.

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    What is the frequency per day, if you could guess? Have you checked for any kinks or oddities in the tail/spine? Perhaps there's a pinched nerve or something of the like.
    – Gwendolyn
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 16:46
  • What does your vet say?
    – Mawg
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 13:55

3 Answers 3


First of all, I would take your cat to the vet to see if there is an obvious diagnosis. Take video of your cat during an episode, and show it to your vet also. It could be helpful for diagnosing your cat.

That said, if no other specific cause can be found, your cat could very likely have feline hyperesthesia. While severe cases could lead the cat to self-mutilation, that is not the case for the less severe or more average case. You may see frantic licking, scratching, or biting without actually being at the level of self harm. Or it could be as mild as getting suddenly twitchy, especially the skin on the lower back, and jumping up and running, just like you describe your cat doing.

As quoted from https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2018/03/25/feline-hyperesthesia.aspx

In kitties with hyperesthesia, the skin on the back ripples from the shoulders all the way to the tail, and sometimes up the tail to the tip. The movement is clearly visible in some cats, but more difficult to see in others.

What many pet parents notice instead is the kitty suddenly jumping and turning toward her tail as though something back there is bothering her. This can even happen during sleep. The cat might also try to lick or bite at the area. Kitties with hyperesthesia also have muscle spasms and twitches, and tail twitching.

And as regarding self-mutilation:

In severe cases of feline hyperesthesia, cats will self-mutilate by biting, licking, chewing and pulling out hair. These poor kitties suffer not only hair loss, but often severe skin lesions and secondary infections from trying to get relief from the uncomfortable sensations they experience.

Since if your cat does have hyperesthesia, it appears to be a mild or average case, I think it's more likely your vet will just tell you to try to prevent the cat from having episodes rather than resorting to drugs, although I should note that I am not a vet, so you should take their word above mine.

Hyperesthesia is made worse by stress, so minimizing stress will help. Episodes can also be triggered sometimes by touching the cat in certain areas, especially the lower back, so if you observe these episodes are happening after you touch some area of the cat, refrain from touching that area.


From my personal experience with the disease I would not rule out feline hypersensitivity syndrome/FHS/hyperesthesia because she doesn’t self-mutilate.

My cat several years ago developed the rolling back skin thing and although she seemed bothered by it I ignored the problem for months because it wasn’t causing any problems at the time. However one morning I woke up to a huge bloody mess because she had chewed up the base of her tail completely out of the blue. I of course took her to the vet but the problem with FHS is that it is not always obvious what they are sensitive to. My poor kitty did suffer quite a bit during this ordeal, things got so bad that she had to wear a cone and baby clothes 24/7 because she was so neurotic and was even having seizures. The vet said that flea bites are usually the cause but it can be literally any environmental variable that could be triggering the neurological syndrome. I highly recommend the seresto collars to eliminate he possibility of flea bites (the only flea treatment I have found 100% success with my cats). My poor kitty wasn’t sensitive to fleas though, we ended up discovering that she has severe food allergies and putting her on a special diet solved all of her symptoms and has made a full recovery.

I would keep a close eye on her and not rule out the possibility of this disease. I cannot recommend enough getting a full allergy panel done if her symptoms get worse and you are 100% sure it is not fleas. I delayed getting the blood work on my kitty done because I didn’t have very much money at the time but I really wish I had it done sooner because she really suffered from it.

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    It's worth noting that Seresto (and any other flea medication) are either very effective or very ineffective based on the flea immunities in your area - Fleas in your area might be resistant to Frontline and vulnerable to Seresto, or vice versa. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 20:37

I went through these episodes as well with my pet, lasting over a year. I approached multiple vets. In aggregate they presented three likely possibilities, in order of probability:

  • Presence of fleas or mites + hypersensitivity = erratic behavior, excessive scratching and licking
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Food allergies

After 5+ vet visits, no veterinarian was able to locate a single flea using flea combs. I had also tried multiple times to no avail. All vets were clear though that some cats would aggressively eat and destroy fully grown fleas, but without medication their lifecycle would rarely end on its own. In addition, most skin mites are only visible microscopically and there aren't many commercial prescriptions that can kill them (we attempted some safe but natural alternatives).

One vet suggested the possibility of allergic reactions to the environment or food, and prescribed cortisone shots as a way of testing for the presence of irritating allergies. In the end, for us I believe he was spot-on assessing the conditions as due to food allergies.

You don't mention this in your post but our cat would have temporary rashes and scaly skin near his tail combined with the above symptoms of twitching, sensitivity and erratic behavior. After treating for fleas and mites and exposing the cat to cortisone shots our problems never really disappeared. We recently totally adjusted our cat's diet to be virtually devoid of commercial ingredients and we have not observed any skin conditions or irritations since. Best of luck to you.

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