The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Helping Cat With Hyperesthesia

DEAR DR. FOX: My old cat is suffering from hyperesthesia syndrome. Are there any home remedies that I can try for him? -- M.K., St. Louis

DEAR M.K.: Hyperesthesia syndrome is as yet a condition of unknown cause, and is not uncommon in cats. It is associated with agitation and anxiety, with the skin rippling and the cat becoming hypersensitive to touch during an episode.

In all cases, I would advise the veterinarian to check first for hyperactive thyroid, which can bring on somewhat similar symptoms -- especially when the cat pulls on its fur and engages in self-mutilation.

Wrapping the cat in a towel while comforting and cradling it can help during an episode. Some people have found that giving the cat dried catnip herb can also have a calming effect. An approximate dose of 1/4 teaspoon of dried catnip in the morning and early evening may help, although some cats don't respond to catnip.

At bedtime, I would also give 1 to 3 mg of melatonin. If you have difficulty pilling your cat, crush the tablet in a little canned sardine.

Your veterinarian may wish to prescribe Prozac, which can help alleviate anxiety, or low-dose gabapentin. Also discuss a nutraceutical supplement to increase brain serotonin, such as tryptophan or L-theanine.

I would also strongly advise feeding your cat a good-quality canned, frozen or freeze-dried cat food that's free of corn and other cereals and of additives, especially coloring agents and preservatives. Or try my home-prepared cat food recipe, found on my website (, which has helped improve the health of countless cats over the years.


China is reportedly banning the trade and consumption of wildlife, on the speculation that the new coronavirus probably came from bats, then spread to an intermediary species, then to people at a meat market featuring many animals, wild and domestic. China’s wildlife-farming industry is estimated at $74 billion, and the wild-meat industry value is $7.1 billion. Wildlife policy researcher Zhao-Min Zhou, in considering the scope of these industries’ profitability and political influence, says that government enforcement of any such ban is “untenable.” (Business Insider, Feb. 25)

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