Ongoing FHS battle.

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TCS Member
Top Cat
Hello Pam,

I have an 8 year old male cat. About 3 years ago he had fleas for the first time, which freaked him out terribly. The itching made his skin roll, he would thump his leg on the floor and he would run and hide. It took me almost 2 weeks to realize the fleas were causing this. I got him treated right away. 

The problem is ever since then, he still does the twitching, skin rolling, leg thumping, frantic grooming, "phantom eating" (licking the floor after he licks himself) and darting around. I have taken him to the vet and had blood work done, his thyroid, liver, kidneys, etc were all checked. They checked for fleas each time too. Everything came back fine. He is in perfect health, minus his constipation issue which I now have under control too. I also tried to rule out different ingredients which may be causing an allergy and nothings changed. Its like having fleas caused him some kind of emotional trauma.

I should also add that he was on Buspirone for 12 weeks to try and calm these episodes. It worked slightly but didn't totally stop them. I am thinking that this is behavioral since a lot of these episodes are the same time each day, with a few exceptions. For example, when I am getting his breakfast ready, he will lick himself frantically, thump his leg, the whole deal...then as soon as I put his food down, he stops.  This happens every time I prepare his breakfast. Then its roughly the same time in the afternoon and evening as well. I can snap him out of it by distracting him but as soon as I back off, he continues for a moment then relaxes. I can't seem to get him out of this pattern.

3 years I have been watching him go through these fits. While they don't seem to be causing him any physical harm, it is distressing to watch. He also occasionally knocks things down when he is in these panicky state. I just want him to be relaxed and happy like he was before the fleas.

So my question is, are you familiar with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome and if it is behavioral, is there any way for me to help him, or is this something I may just have to live with for the rest of his life?

Thanks in advance and welcome to TCS! 


TCS Member
Young Cat
Yes, I am familiar with hyperesthesia. He may have had it and the flea infestation brought it to a head.

It's often treated with medication in combination with behavior modification. I think he needs more in-depth diagnostics to rule out any other underlying medical concerns. If it is hyperesthesia or some other OCD-type disorder, your veterinarian should refer you to a veterinary behaviorist to handle this.

I'm so sorry your cat is going through this. I know it's heartbreaking to watch, but a veterinary behaviorist, with an in-depth medical and behavioral history, will be able to guide you through the appropriate protocol.

Good luck.

Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC
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