What causes feline hyperesthesia (hyperaesthesia)? The veterinarians and scientists don’t know. They speculate. I’d like to speculate too.
Perhaps the symptoms of feline hyperesthesia might provide a clue. Also the fact that the cause is mysterious and unknown even by experts might help us to decide.
The symptoms are skin rolling or twitching, compulsive self-grooming and biting or attacking the tail. The skin twitches and their tails whip. They don’t want to be touched as if the skin is very sensitive and pupils are dilated. It is not clear if the problem is behavioural or neurological. The experts are at a dead loss as to the cause. Although some say it is epilepsy or a behavioural disorder caused by trauma.
Chemicals in carpets
What about chemical pollution in the atmosphere of the home? There are at least two known sources of chemical pollution in many homes: fire retardants in soft furnishings and the chemical treatment of carpets.
“The majority of industrially produced carpets contain a range of chemical additives. Chemicals are impregnated during the manufacture of the carpet fiber or are introduced externally as topical treatments on the final product.”
The proposed purpose of some of these chemicals is to protect against dust mites, bacteria, moulds and fungi. However, the addition of chemicals to carpets results in potential human exposure to hazardous chemicals in the home and other indoor environments.” – Greenpeace Research Labs
I have written about cats and carpets before but I’ll list the possible chemicals in carpets below – note: there might some overlap in the list.
- flame retardants (underlay)
- Peristent organic pollutants
- brominated flame retardants
- volatile organic compounds (VCOs)
- 4-phenylcyclohexane (4-PC)
So why don’t cat guardians with cats suffering from this mysterious disease take up their carpets and see if there is an improvement? I’d always recommend a non-carpeted home for cat owners. It just makes sense on a number of levels including eliminating fleas if they are a problem.
The classic treatment for feline hyperesthesia is to expose the cat to yet more chemicals! These include anti-seizure meds and steroids. It does not make sense to me. I think ‘poor cats’.
Chemicals in furniture
I have mentioned flame or fire retardants in the list above. They are also present in sofas etc.. There are new rules on their use in many countries and in the USA on a state-by-state basis. The restrictions are due to the toxic nature of these chemicals.
For me the law is confusing and flame retardants are likely to still exist in many millions of items of furniture in Western countries. These chemicals are nasty. The restrictions are designed to protect people but what about cats and dogs – second class citizens. The most commonly detected fire retardant, known as TDCPP, has been shown in animal studies to cause cancer.
When buying new furniture cat owners should ensure that the item does not contain poisons that might harm their cat.
A 2008 study found that dogs and cats in the USA were polluted with flame retardants at levels higher than for people.
Both for carpets and sofas pets are more exposed because they are nearer the chemicals and because they lick the chemicals off themselves and ingest them. The chemicals are in the dust flying around the home.
I feel quite strongly that sofas and carpets could be seriously harming some pets. We need a study urgently. What causes feline hyperesthesia? Maybe its chemicals in the home. We need to know and clarify.