Diagnosing the Cat


Jeter chilling on my parents’ fridge. No worse for the wear.

Patrick, Jeter and I had an interesting adventure this weekend.

Jeter came home with us, which is not that out of the ordinary.  He is a strangely road-trip friendly cat.

The weird comes in when he had this weird fit getting out of his cage at my parents’ house that I chalked up to being freaked out because his foot was caught.  Then, he did it again on our way to his grandfather’s house.  This time, Patrick thought he was having a seizure.

But, it wasn’t a seizure.

Nonetheless, he hissed at us (something Jeter has never done), so we thought there might really be something wrong. Patrick more than me.  But I have had the fear response beaten out of me.  We bickered about this.  That I claimed our cat just has some autistic type traits (in the end I was kind of right… Not autistic, but OCD, nonetheless something in the DSM.).

So, we took Jeter for his first “emergency room” visit.

We wound up seeing a really nice vet who happened to be in the office tending to a cat who was hit by a car and was subsequently having a much worse day than Jeter.

Jeter by this point was back to his curious self and repeatedly tried to leap off the table to explore the office and get up as high as humanly possible.

While I pinned down our now 6kg cat (apparently this is okay given his giant frame), the vet poked him over, asked us questions and declared him perfectly healthy.

Well, not perfectly.

Apparently, Jeter has a relatively rare and ill-defined syndrome called Feline Hyeresthesia Syndrome or Twitchy Cat Syndrome or Rolling Skin Syndrome.

The fact that he has weird back twitches (that I always thought were normal) and now these more intense “fits” (where he spasms from his head to his back legs) puts it together.  The stress of being in a carrier and being bounced around being carried across the yard on top of the road trip and such made him have worsened spasms.  Or at least that is the theory given the fact he never had ones that severe that we ever paid attention before.

We learned that basically it is some sort of fusion of an OCD type picture.  Anxiety worsens the twitching, the twitching makes the cat thing something is attacking him, he freaks out.  And repeat.  Apparently, it is also kind of neurologic because it seems to start in one dermatome and work its way down.

The good part is that it is generally not severe and often does not require medication or anything like that.  If things do get bad, there are options.  The biggest concern is that he could start self-harming if the twitches are frequent.  He hasn’t shown a sign of that.

Basically, like having a kid with OCD or autism, we have to have him with a consistent routine, make sure he gets lots of exercise and eats well and minimize triggers.  It can be brought on or worsened by stress.

We learned that the carrier seems to be a big issue, even though he is fine with it in the car, he seems to run into trouble when it is more jostled.  So, we tried carrying him to the car and out of the car.  No big fits.

The other tidbit the vet suggested was to keep him safe when the episodes are intense, but don’t interfere too much or he might think you are involved.  That explains the hissing at me. when he is usually so jolly.

Jeter my Mom and Grandmother all visiting one another.

Jeter my Mom and Grandmother all visiting one another.

Since that day, he hasn’t had another “fit,” but I have started noticing his back twitching and that he intermittently bolts for no good reason like something is chasing him (although it is tough to discern whether that is related to the Twitchy Cat or just his general hyperactivity).  We are a bit anxious about traveling with him again, but really, he seems to be otherwise okay, so I am sure we will, so long as we are sure things aren’t getting worse.

So, yes… We learned that our cat is basically weirder than we originally suspected.  And he is strangely well adjusted despite that.   At least now we can explain a bit of the crazy.

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