(Annals of Pard, X)
Do cats bite their nails? I mean, do cats other than Pard bite their nails?
After breakfast, Pard washes his face. Sometimes the soft swipe across the jowl with the spit-dampened front paw turns into something else: he holds that paw pad-first to to his mouth, gets a claw between his teeth, and tugs it. He tugs repeatedly, and hard enough to make a not wholly agreeable tooth-on-claw noise.
In the afternoon, when he is doing All-over Spitbath and Yoga Grooming, he lies comfortably on the lower end of his backbone, seizes one hind leg with one front paw, gets a hind claw between his teeth, and tugs it at the same way. He must be using his felines (surely they aren’t called canines in a cat?) because his other teeth don’t look capable of a grip like that.
I never had a cat before that did this. Sometimes I think he’s cleaning his claws, as we clean our fingernails. Sometimes I think he’s getting off the little shells that claws discard as they grow out. Sometimes I wonder if he’s so bored he bites his nails.
Does anybody know?
Do cats have panic attacks?
One night last month Pard stayed up in the uninhabited part of the attic all night long. In the morning he didn’t come and walk around on me and purr till I got up. He didn’t come and walk all over everything in the bathroom purring with his tail in the air while I got dressed. He didn’t gallop down the stairs ahead of me and stand around purring extremely loudly with the tip of his tail between his ears while I put his kibbles in his bowl.
He didn’t come down at all till I called him with his food call, prrrt-ticky-ticky! and rattled the kibble-can. And I had to come clear upstairs with it. Then he ventured down the attic stairs — stair by stair, paw by paw — eyes like searchlights, ears back, mouth tense, tail low: textbook illustration of Very Anxious Cat. It took him forever to get all the way down to the kitchen, and then he was too anxious to eat — the first time ever that he didn’t clean his bowl industriously and immediately. He’d nibble, and then freak out again and crouch, or run back upstairs. He never did finish that breakfast.
He was that way all day. He wanted to be with me, but was not sociable and couldn’t relax. He led me once up to the attic, and we walked all around in it. I wondered if maybe something like a raccoon or big rat had got in there and given him a scare. But there was no sign of that, and no particular place that spooked him, there or elsewhere. He was just totally, globally spooked. It was very spooky.
It really is not the kind of attic that has ghosts.
I did think of Strange Animal Behavior Before Earthquakes that I used to read about in newspaper supplements in 1938.
The only thing besides earthquakes I could think of that seemed a possible cause for such a panic was my overnight bag, which I’d set out the day before. He’d sniffed it then, with no alarm whatever, and got into it, because it is his privilege and duty to enter all enterable spaces and explore them. He has explored that bag twenty times. He got out again, and thereafter ignored the bag. I wasn’t going to travel till the next day, and anyhow wasn’t in the state I’m sometimes in before a trip; though he’s definitely sensitive to stress and high tension, I don’t think he was picking up my travel nerves. Anyhow, his way of acting out my tensions is to do The Forbidden Things — leap up to the mantelpiece, attack the embroidery on the Morris chair, disintegrate the sofa leg, etc. — and then go hide in plain sight in my armchair, exactly like a wicked three-year-old.
He remained unhappy all day, licking his lips often, tail held low, unable to settle down and sleep — barely distracted from his anxiety for a moment by crunchy Greenies, usually the delight of life.
I wasn’t happy about leaving him, wondering if some physical ailment was making him act this way, though he didn’t move or act as if in pain. He hid out somewhere again all night, but he did come in and walk around on me at six-thirty. He was still tail-down and purrless, but behaving more normally. So I went on my trip.
When I called home, Charles reported that Pard was doing better. Next day when I got home he was pretty well back to normal and the day after that he was fine.
He’s not what I’d call a spooky cat. He’s shy with people, mostly because he sees so few. Sudden noises can scare him (though sometimes he obviously just wants an excuse to race upstairs with a lot of hysterical scrabbling and a huge black bottlebrush tail. After which he saunters back down. Noise? What noise?) And he still generally prefers looking out the window to going out the door. When he does go out onto our second-story verandah, he’d rather one of us was with him; he’s tense and cautious, tail down, the whole time he’s out. Often he doesn’t even go all the way down the stairs to the garden. But mostly, usually, basically, he is a cheerful little body, tail high, purring me awake in the morning, devouring his breakfast and dinner, racing joyously after Greenies, in full control of his household and its routine.
What was that awful night and day of fear? Do cats have panic attacks out of the blue? Does anybody know?
If you know about Nail Biting Cats or Cat Panics, you can tell me in the Comments. I will read all reports with interest and gratitude.