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Unread 05-06-2015   #1 (permalink)
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Default Hyperesthesia, Anxiety, Other OCD - Please, PLEASE Help!!

In November or 2012, I adopted a rescue, estimated to be about 3 months old at the time. He's a black smoke Asian breed. He had a history of Feline Upper Respiratory Infection which we immediately took care of. After an initial outbreak when we first took him home, he's only had one other bout of it. He has been neutered, lives in a one-cat home (which was recommended by the association where we adopted him) and has lots of toys, a cat tower/scratching post and is home alone infrequently. We love him to pieces, but his behavioral issues are driving us to the brink, and we're at a loss now of what to do.

He wakes us up at 4 or 5 in the morning, meowing loudly and wandering around the house. He has several areas of the house that he seems to be obsessed with. It isn't as if he goes just anywhere, but seems to gravitate compulsively to certain spots. First he'll meow loudly, and then start scratching at the particular area. One spot is my husband's desk area. Another spot is the shelving under our bedroom tv. Another is the bedroom window or living room window. Another is the bathroom door. These areas are covered in scratch marks. He runs around and will take flying leaps at walls to jump on. He's run so fast that he actually runs into walls and has hit his head. He also can be very aggressive. He doesn't seem to show signs of wanting to be actually aggressive (no hissing, no hair standing up). It's like he's wanting to play, or get attention. We can't stand in one spot for long usually, because he will meow strangely and jump on us while biting and/or scratching. Often when we try to pet him, he wraps his arms and legs around our hand or arm and gnaws on us. But he doesn't seem to be upset with us. I can't figure it out. He's very interactive with us. Whatever room we are in, he's there. He follows us around the house. I think he likes or loves us, but just has these issues that cause him to act out in ways that stress everyone out.

He seems to go through spells where he is worse than at other times, but at no point has it ever completely abated. If we could even just get him to the point where it was just less extreme/frequent, and could be tolerated, that would be great. We attributed a lot of his behavior to being a kitten at first, and then to just having excess energy. But no amount of new stimulation and play time seems to be effective. At his last vet visit, he was diagnosed with Feline Hyperesthesia, or "Twitchy Cat Syndrome". We know this probably is the cause of some of his behavioral issues, but it seems to be more than that maybe. His vet does not want to have him take any medication, such as a benzo short term or an SSRI long term. But we have tried everything else, apart from hiring an actual behavioralist. We're a young couple and just can't afford that :/ We also have not tried pheromone therapy, and I'm wondering if maybe someone can recommend a brand and vehicle for it (collar, spray, diffuser) that is known to work well. Or perhaps his issues are just too severe for this sort of thing alone?

Often when hes really acting out, we'll try to distract him with a toy. We play for hours at a time. This is not an exaggeration. Nothing seems to lessen his compulsiveness and/or anxiety. Our vet told us to try giving him "time-outs" but this hasn't seems to be a good option. It seems to not be very effective, and also has caused him to scratch even more at the door/floor/etc. We're at a loss and are hoping someone might have something we can do to help him. We don't want to get rid of him, but we also can't keep living like this. Thank you.
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Unread 05-06-2015   #2 (permalink)
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How long have you lived in your home? I'm wondering if there were other cats living there before you. Some cats really stress about other cat smells.

What are you feeding him? Diet plays a much larger role in behavior than many people (or vets) realize)

Feliway diffusers may help reduce stress, worth a try I think.

Rescue Remedy for pets can help also. It's a safe alternative to medication, effective for some cats. I have had good luck with both (feliway and rescue remedy) for one of my cats who has extreme aggression issues when going to the vet. My vet wants me to sedate her before visits, but I refuse to drug my cat for vet visits.

However medicating for FHS is a different story. A few months on amitriptyline to break up certain behaviors that may have become habit by now, might be useful. After six months if there is improvement you could start to wean him off.

Some cats are just born with a...wrong wire...somewhere. In breeding, or poor nutrition (or something toxic) while the mother was carrying are possible reasons for cats having problems like this.

I can tell you love him very much and want to help him.

I'll be thinking about it some more in case I think of anything else.

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Unread 01-19-2016   #3 (permalink)
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We don't have any first-hand experience with FSH but from what I understand, it's thought to be a type of seizure disorder, and kitties with the condition can benefit from anti-epileptic medications as well as the ones that treat anxiety. For stress relief, you can definitely try pheromone products like Feliway or Comfort Zone. You can also try some flower essence calming products like Bach's Rescue Remedy or Spirit Essences.
Good luck.
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