Saturday, April 05, 2014

Molly's illness

Our cat Molly has led me on a mystery this past month.  I started finding blood spots on my bed sheets.  Then I tied the blood to the cat when it started showing up in other favorite spots of hers.  The blood got worse, smears on the stairs, drips across the floor.  But in every other way she was perfectly normal.  Happy, diet and elimination all normal.  No signs of illness, no visible wounds.  It always appeared in the morning, so I never caught her bleeding.  A complete mystery.

I suspected a UTI.  Instead of taking her to the vet right away, since she seemed ok, we switched up her diet and gave her supplements.  After a week it hadn't improved.  I also noticed the blood was whole, not diluted like you would expect with a UTI (and I would know - I've cleaned up a LOT of blood in my old line of work ;-) 

I begrudgingly took her to the vet.  Everything checked out normal again.  The vet was stumped.  When the urinalysis came back normal she said without more data, all we can assume is that she had a UTI that she cleared up, assisted by our diet changes.  She gave me a plan for if we wanted to search further, but I didn't feel like it was worth the expense (I just spent $101 for a check-up and UA that was all within normal limits, felt like a waste of money).

The blood stopped after that.  I hoped she was better.  I suspected it was a nosebleed, after talking with Andy, because that fit the pattern and explained the lack of wound.  Then last week I heard Molly yowl up on my bed.  She ran downstairs and licked her tail furiously on the stairs.  Then she flopped in front of Jem, showing off her belly, then casually settled on the couch under the window.  When I got up I found these and many other spots:

I called Ben over and we examined her.  The tip of her tail was totally bloody!  I called the vet and she was relieved to know we discovered the source of bleeding.  She recommended some bitter apple spray and agreed after our discussion that it's probably due to stress.

After further research online, here's what I deduced:  Molly has feline hyperesthesia syndrome, or FHS.  It's a somewhat rare illness, sometimes called skin rolling disease.  The cat has extra-sensative skin that twitches.  It can be worsened by stress.  The cats react by licking, running away, biting, and scratching the skin.  Here's a video of another cat with it.

Molly has always had twitchiness like shown in these videos.  She licks herself when it happens and sometimes scratches.  The last 6 months she has been chasing her tail more often, and sometimes getting angry at it.   She definitely does the running away suddenly thing too.  I always thought it was general cat weirdness.  I mean, come on, cats do really weird things.  But Amanda said her cat never does anything twitchy like that, and I don't remember Scruffy being that way. 

FHS often manifests in older cats (check), cats fed exclusively dry food (check), and in response to stress (check).  For that last one, the first blood appeared after I hosted a big party and we did some furniture rearranging.  Things calmed down.  This last bloody episode happened right after we had some more visitors, and we had a stair railing installed. 

It sounds like they don't know a lot about FHS, but they think it's either an OCD type behavior in response to "neural-dermatitis" or it's a form of epilepsy.  The treatment ranges from playing with your cat, keeping a regular schedule, and adding wet food, to medicating with phenobarbital, gabapentin, and SSRIs.  Uhhhh, we are starting with the easy treatment.  She doesn't seem as bad as some videos online.  We are adding wet food, and if we anticipate visitors or house changes we can spray her with bitter apple to prevent biting.  Like when we paint the house in a couple weeks.

Poor kitty.  I hope she gets better.  She's had this behavior for years as far as I can remember.  In fact, for several years when we first got her she had bloody scabs on her head from scratching her ears.  I wonder if it was the same issue.  

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