If you have a cat you've probably experienced them lying quietly then suddenly tearing around the room. What causes a cat to all of a sudden start acting like a crazed lunatic?
Sometimes it's just bottled-up energy. Cats spend lots of time sleeping, but it may be they are just burning up energy. Or, it could be other animals either inside or outside the house. It may be they saw a bird, squirrel or another cat outside and because they are territorial they don't cotton to strangers tromping around on their territory. And, if they can't get outside to chase off the intruder, they can get very frustrated.
Or, Heaven forbid, they are reacting to the scent of prey like a mouse in the house. Fleas are another possibility. That sharp little pain that comes with every bite will drive them nuts.
If none of the above seem to apply it’s never a good idea to talk to a cat doctor because there is a bizarre disorder known as Hyperesthesia syndrome. This condition is a mysterious one, but it can cause a cat to act like it's going crazy.
One sign of this disease is that it can cause the skin along the cat's spine to ripple or roll.
Other behaviors the cat can manifest are excessive grooming, licking, biting or scratching itself, racing around the house or chasing her tail. Not much is known about the condition.
The clinical signs occur in brief bursts of odd behavior lasting perhaps only a minute or two at most. Signs are after waking up from dozing the cat tail starts twitching, its eyes are wide open, pupils dilated and it begins scratching itself like crazy with its back paws. Then cat abruptly stops, stretches out and goes back to sleep. Instead of scratching some cats will obsessively lick or bite at their flank, back or tail. Many of these cats will follow up the scratching or grooming behavior with a frantic run.
Other signs may include salivation, alarming vocalization, and uncontrolled urination. Although no one knows what prompts this behavior, some vets believe it's a general obsessive-compulsive group of conditions. Others believe it is a seizure disorder. In any case, the reason remains unknown.
Some of the behavioral manifestations associated with hyperesthesia resemble disorders affecting the nervous system, skin, and muscles. Painful spinal problems that can cause similar signs include arthritis, pinched nerves or slipped disks. Skin disorders include flea or food allergies, fungal infections and mite infestations. Categorically ruling out the presence of such disorders will require a variety of diagnostic steps, including a general physical and neurologic examination, blood chemistry and urine analyses, x-rays and perhaps magnetic resonance imaging.
Other measures may be needed as well. For example, to determine if muscle disease is present, a muscle biopsy must be done.
Recommended treatment for hyperesthesia syndrome is likely to include a behavioral component aimed at reducing any anxiety that the animal might be experiencing. Regularly scheduled feeding times and play periods may help keep an insecure cat be and well exercised. And any type of activity that may irritate or overstimulate the cat, such as scratching its back, must certainly be avoided. A veterinarian may prescribe medications to relax the cat or give it an analgesic.
Generally, Hyperesthesia is a relatively mild condition and there are no known cases where a cat has ever died from it. Once it has established itself, it doesn’t progress very much and the prognosis is pretty good as long as the scratching doesn’t result in a serious infection.