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Sensitive at tail base.

Species: Cat
Breed: Calico
Age: 5-8 years
My cat is 7 years old. She is the only suvivor of her litteer. All of the kittens suffered from Panleukopenia.
My concern is that when I touch the end of her spine near her tail she purrs but her head and neck twitch violently. She also bites and licks herself as her head is twitching.
I have had her at the vet and they can only surmise that she pulled a muscle and that it will get better.
I should tell you that my cat is overweight.....20 lbs. She is not a big eater. She is on prescription formula food for weight loss (satiety formula). She has been on this formula for approximately 6 months without any weight loss. She eats 95 grams daily in which we measure daily.
Should I be worried?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I've seen cats do exactly what you are talking about. While most cats are a little sensitive in this area, it sounds like Callie reacts stronger than most cats when her back near her tail is touched.

I can think of four possible reasons for this.

Is she on a good flea prevention? (i.e. a prescription strength one.) If not, even if she is an indoor cat, a few fleas can cause this type of reaction. Often, it can be extremely difficult to find any fleas. If she has any hair loss at all in this area then this would support this theory. Cats with fleas will often be super sensitive in this area and when you scratch them they are so itchy that they make grooming motions with their mouth even though. Here's an example of a cat doing this. (Skip to 0:30 to see what I mean):

The next possibility is something called feline hyperesthesia syndrome. You can read about this here. This condition can often be treated with medication.

Third, it's possible that she has something called lumbosacral syndrome. This is a condition where a cat gets arthritis pain at the point where the back meets the tail. This can sometimes be diagnosed with xrays. Cats with this condition can often be treated with an antiinflammatory medication such as Metacam.

And finally, it may just be normal. I have seen some cats that do this and there is no medical reason for it. However, if this is a new behavior for her then there is probably a medical reason.

I hope that helps!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank You Dr. Marie.
The video you posted is exactly what she is doing but my cat's movements are a little more exaggerated. She has no hair loss and she is an indoor cat exposed to no other animals. Do you think it could still be fleas? She purrs when you touch this area so I don't think it's painful.
Should I have a vet check her for lumbosacral syndrome? She seems fine otherwise....not in any kind of pain.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Jenn, is this a new behavior for her, or has she done this all of her life? If it's new, how long would you say it has been happening for?

Customer reply:

I would say it started about 8 months ago. I took her to the vet in May and they said she may have pulled a muscle and is sensitive in this area. This is definitely a behavior that started 7 or 8 months ago. The video is a milder version of her....but it is exactly what she does with her mouth and head. She will purr when I touch the area. Sometimes she seems to want to bite herself a the biting she does when she clean between her toes.

Again I thank you. You are the first person who knows what I am talking about when I say her head twitches.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

If I had a case like this, here are some things that I would likely do:

First, I would try a dose of a prescription strength flea medicine such as Revolution. (Don't try a pet store product - they don't work.) Even though fleas are not common on indoor cats, they can happen. You can bring fleas home in your pantleg and they can jump on to the cat. I have had many cases where I couldn't see fleas at all even after 10 minutes of inspection, but when we applied Revolution, later that day the owner found dead fleas on the cat afterwards.) So, I'd apply Revolution and then see if the problem goes away. If so, then you need to treat for another 2 months. (For more explanation on fleas, see here: Your pet has fleas.

If, after 7-10 days, there has been no improvement then I would likely take an xray to look for signs of lumbosacral syndrome. If I had any suspicion of this then I would do a trial of some antiinflammatory medication to see how that works.

If that didn't work then we're likely dealing with hyperesthesia syndrome. Many cats with this problem will improve with an anti-anxiety drug (even if they are not overtly anxious) such as Reconcile.

Your vet will likely be happy to dispense Revolution for you, so you could give them a call and see if they could do that.

Just so you know, I'll be heading offline soon (bedtime here), but I'll be back on tomorrow to check on your question.

Dr. Marie.

Customer reply:

Thanks again!
Have a good night!

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.