Fur Twitching, Panic and Wild Romp – Rolling Skin Syndrome

A shock effect is like out of a horror film: the cat twitches, jumps, screams and tries wildly to scratch its back and bite its tail. All attempts to speak to or calm the animal are in vain. The skin on the back twitches, the ears move rapidly in different directions, and the cat’s gaze becomes fixed. Just as suddenly as it happened, it’s over and the cat acts as nothing happened. What looks like the animal has just suffered a fit of rage is a symptom of a disease that has not yet been researched well: Rolling Skin Syndrome.

What is Rolling Skin Syndrome?

The house tiger’s supposed “obsession” has a scientific name: Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, but more commonly known as RSS or “skin roll disease.” The term denotes extreme physical sensitivity. Any touch is (temporarily) perceived by the cat as extremely painful. Hypersensitivity has dramatic effects on animals: some cats act like wild furies from one moment to the next, others appear hypnotized or hallucinating and chase invisible prey. In the event of an attack, the velvet paw rushes back and forth through the apartment for no apparent reason. Sometimes the animals also urinate spontaneously. The cats’ pupils are greatly dilated, their eyes glaze over, the animals appear frightened and do not react to their humans.

It is striking that many cats show aggression towards their own tails – this can go as far as self-mutilation in extreme cases. In all cases, there is also the mysterious twitching of the skin in the back area. Each seizure lasts from a few seconds to about two minutes. In this respect, the Rolling Skin Syndrome differs from the well-known “great five minutes”, which every cat owner is certainly familiar with from his pet. If such “tantrums” occur noticeably often, you should visit the vet to be on the safe side to clarify whether your cat is ill or just temperamental. This happens without any stress for your house cat in an online consultation with Dr. food bowl. You can calmly describe your observations to our veterinarians via video chat. In this way, you can get expert advice without having to drive or transport yourself to the local practice.

What are the symptoms of Rolling Skin Syndrome?

Itchy skin and increased scratching usually initially indicate a parasite infestation or an allergy. Rolling skin syndrome, on the other hand, is a nerve disease that can be triggered by various factors and can be aggravated by damage to the spinal muscles. The root cause of Rolling Skin Syndrome is surprisingly simple: stress. Cats are extremely sensitive to any change or disturbance in their environment. Be it a new, dominant species in the house, strangers or a baby in the family, a change in the daily routine in the household, a change of location due to moving, as well as grief and losses can throw sensitive velvet paws mentally off track.

In addition, stress is often a side effect of physical pain. Last but not least, cats can suffer from epilepsy: the rolling skin syndrome can be a side effect of the neural disease. Some researchers even suspect that it is a special subtype of epilepsy or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Incidentally, the Rolling Skin Syndrome can also promote organic complications: Excessive cleaning and scratching damages the cat’s skin and promotes inflammation and skin problems.

Is there a Rolling Skin Syndrome treatment?

To help a cat suffering from Rolling Skin Syndrome, first have a veterinarian determine whether an organic or neutral factor is causing the symptoms, for example, an undetected disease, epilepsy, or food intolerance. In such cases, the cause should first be treated medically. In some cases, even switching to a special food is effective. If there are no clinical reasons, try to find out what the stressor might be, eliminate it if possible, or try to relieve the cat’s excitement with special attention. The cat should be spared a restless environment, lots of strangers coming in and out, or noise.

The approaches for a successful treatment differ according to the nature of the cat: With one velvet paw, special cuddling units or measures such as the Tellington touch therapy (a special massage technique) can already help. Avoid touching the cat’s back or tail too hard. Other cases can be successfully treated with antidepressants: these also exist for pet needs. In particularly complicated cases, you should consider seeing an animal therapist.

Does Rolling Skin Syndrome reduce life expectancy?

The Rolling Skin Syndrome has not yet been fully researched and fortunately, it is also a comparatively rare disease. A therapy for healing is not yet known, the treatment is mainly based on drug suppression and the avoidance of potential triggers as well as strict routines in cat life. Rolling Skin Syndrome occurs primarily in young cats between the ages of one and four years. Certain cat breeds, such as Siamese or Burmese cats, are affected more often.

If the stress can be minimized and other triggers eliminated, the Rolling Skin Syndrome has no impact on a cat’s life expectancy according to current knowledge: With good care and otherwise stable health, a cat with Rolling Skin Syndrome can live just as long as a conspecific without this disease. However, the stress syndrome itself can have a negative effect on the general condition of the cat.

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