Do Cats Hallucinate? Learning About Feline Hyperesthesia

Posted by Tori Holmes
Cute baby cat playing

As humans age, it's not uncommon for them to experience hallucinations.

These are most often associated with the onset of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, all of which are diseases that scientists believe cats can experience. Studies have found Alzheimer's-like changes in the brains of senior cats, but we don't know for certain that the symptoms of this could display the same as it does in humans.

But what about the younger cats who appear to be displaying symptoms of hallucinations?

Since cats can't speak, they aren't able to tell us they are experiencing hallucinations and they do not have any recognizable ways of communicating it to us, as they do with feelings of hunger or pain.

It's likely that your cat would respond to whatever hallucination they experienced with fairly normal behavior, but perhaps in irregular situations. This is exactly the exhibited behavior of a disease caused Feline Hyperesthesia (FHS).

Funny Scottish cat looking through a hole (isolated on white)

Cats with this disease show sudden and bizarre character changes, often appearing to hallucinate, act manic, or even "possessed." During an episode, cats exhibit a sudden bout of bizarre hyperactive or aggressive behavior paired with large pupils and strange looks in their eyes, which seem to follow the movements of things that are not there.

FHS tends to appear for the first time in mature cats. There are no known causes of FHS, but some possible reasons are irregular electrical activity in areas of the brain, a connection to feline obsessive-compulsive disorder, or an inherited tendency for mania precipitated by stress.

So that leaves us with the question: do cats, especially those in their senior years, experience hallucinations? While we may never know for certain, the evidence seems to point towards yes.

Do you think cats experience hallucinations? Let us know in the comments below!

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Do Cats Hallucinate? Learning About Feline Hyperesthesia