Having conquered cat flu, triumphed over tapeworm and braved behavioural quirks, it is time to focus attention on some oft-observed, but little-documented, afflictions of cats.
Symptoms: The affected cat places one side of its head on the ground as though cheek-marking the concrete, carpet etc. After several such manoeuvres, the legs on that side of the cat suddenly collapse, leaving the cat waggling its feet in the air.
Treatment: This involves placing the palm of one hand on the exposed belly and rubbing gently. There are side-effects though - some feline sufferers attack the rubbing hand while others recover spontaneously, often after prolonged treatment. This condition is probably incurable and any cat which requires prolonged treatment after an attack will most likely suffer repeated attacks of collapsible legs throughout its lifetime.
Symptoms: The affected cat repeatedly headbutts any available part of a readily available human and turns its head slightly so that the lips and cheek are rubbed against legs, arms, clothing etc. This condition gets its name from a contraction of the phrase "soggy nudging". Snudging may well be a form of excessive scent-marking. A bad attack can result in soggy clothing.
Treatment: Give the sufferer lavish affection. Most attacks subside between 10 minutes to 1 hour after onset of symptoms. You may need to dry off snudged clothing or skin. Attacks recur frequently, usually when the most readily available human is engrossed in a TV program, book or telephone call.
Symptoms: The cat spreads to take up all available free bed space at night. It then expands a bit more until any human occupants occupy the smallest possible area of bed. It may do this on top or underneath the covers or on the pillow. It is highly contagious - any other cats on the bed will also develop symptoms of bed-hogging.
Treatment: The most obvious solution is to evict the cat from the bed. If this is morally unfeasible, train yourself not to give way as the cat expands. Buying a bigger bed is probably pointless as most affected cats can easily expand to fill standard, queen-sized and king-sized beds. Otherwise, simply train yourself to sleep while hanging precariously off the side of the bed. Attacks of bed-hogging have been known to last up to 23 hours (in one case a 3-day attack was noted by a cat-owner who was confined to bed with flu; the cat thoughtfully kept her company during this time).
NON-SPECIFIC INSECT INFESTATION (also NON-SPECIFIC SPIDER INFESTATION)
Symptoms: A disorder more prevalent among outdoor-going cats and cats with access to conservatories and garden rooms. Symptoms range from minor (the odd greenfly in tail, money-spider on fur) to severe (entire ecosystems of insects living on cat, spider webs spun between ears/whiskers, cat so weighed down with spider webs that it has difficulty walking).
Treatment: Minor symptoms can be treated by simply removing the infesting agent (aphid, ladybug, spider etc) and combing webs out of fur. If the cat suffers recurrent or severe symptoms an exercise regime is highly recommended since highly mobile cats appear to attract fewer greenfly (research into this factor continues).
Symptoms: The cat lowers its nose into water and exhales. This is followed by whiffling, spluttering, sneezing, snorting, head-shaking and a generally confused expression. Bath-foam appears to trigger attacks of fuffling in some cats. It may also be linked to interesting items seen in the water e.g. goldfish, food-crumbs, greeblingz. Fuffling is most common during kittenhood although even quite elderly may suffer an occasional bout.
Treatment: None. Snorkelling apparatus or scuba suits are possibilities, but cats do not readily accept such treatment. Kittenhood fuffling generally subsides as the cat grows older, possibly due to some acquired immunity (or greater common sense).
IRRITABLE LAP SYNDROME
Symptoms: The cat appears unable to settle comfortably on laps, instead treading, kneading, rearranging itself, fidgeting, vocalising, getting up and turning around, falling off lap and getting back on again, attacking magazines, needlework, computer keyboard, telephone etc.
Treatment: Immediate treatment is essential. Drop whatever you are doing (literally if need be) and give 100% attention to the sufferer otherwise symptoms may escalate and become quite distressing to the lap-owner. Only prolonged attention will cure an attack of Irritable Lap Syndrome. Like Collapsible Legs this syndrome is incurable, although attacks may be effectively treated as and when they occur.
LAP FUNGUS DISORDER
Symptoms: Having taken over a human lap, the cat proceeds to 'spread' in all planes. This may be accompanied by secondary symptoms such as high volume purring, dribbling, kneading and snoring. The condition is highly contagious and several 'fungoid' cats may infest a lap simultaneously.
Treatment: Topical treatment with proprietary anti-fungals is ineffective. Prompt treatment (as per Irritable Lap Syndrome) is required to alleviate the worst symptoms although in a number of cats, such treatment actually aggravates the condition. This disorder manifests itself periodically through the affected cat's life and there is no long-term cure.
Symptoms: Varied:- sucking at clothing, owners earlobes/nose/fingers/skin, drooling, glazed expression. Often accompanied by kneading and high volume purring.
Treatment: Ultimately incurable. It is possible to remove smurglable items from around the cat. The ailment may be transmitted to humans in the form of large laundry bills, mis-shapen clothing and chapped skin.
Symptoms: Random dashes through to helter-skelter running through house in pursuit of unseen prey. Greeblingz are believed to be non-visible entities and some authorities have linked them to UFO sightings or feel that they may be diminutive other-dimensional beings. Cats suffering from greeblingz typically have wild-eyed expressions. There is a minor danger of greeblingz attaching themselves to humans; if a cat tackles such greeblingz, injury to humans may result. A very few cats are naturally immune. In some areas, this condition is known as the Flaming Kahooties.
Treatment: None known. Anti-epileptics are ineffective as the condition appears unrelated to other forms of seizure. Avoid getting in the way of a cat engaged in greebling hunting. Attacks usually subside spontaneously, perhaps as greeblingz return to their own dimension. These irritating creatures are not visible to human eyes, but no doubt the superior sight and hearing of cats enables them to see them.
Symptoms: Over a period of time, the paw pads change from tough skin to soft squishy marshmallow paws. The cat shows no sign of distress, however it may exhibit a preference for being carried everywhere. This condition is most often noticed in inactive cats. Afflicted cats may sleep excessively, often in a belly-up position with the marshmallow paws waggling in the air. Possibly, paw softening is due to lack of contact between paw and floor. In technical terms, the paw pads are 'kitten-soft'.
Treatment: Increased paw-to-floor contact is essential. The cat must be encouraged to use its own feet instead of its human's feet. The use of a treadmill, while effective, may lead to SPCA investigations. Many old, inactive cats suffer from irreversible marshmallow paws. If a regime of exercise is adopted, it must be maintained for the rest of the cat's life - marshmallow paws is a recurrent condition.
HAPPY COAT (also HAPPY TONGUE)
Symptoms: Most often noted in sleek-furred cats. The cat proceeds to fluff up its fur in pleasure, starting at the base of the tail and working forward towards the nose. In extreme cases the cheeks and forehead fluff up and the cat is said to have 'purred itself fuzzy'. Happy Tongue is typified by a small part of the tongue protruding from the mouth until the cat remembers to tuck it away again. Happy Coat and Happy Tongue are frequently accompanied by Irritable Lap Syndrome or Smurgling and may be a prelude to an attack of Collapsible Legs.
Treatment: None known. Spontaneous attacks of Happy Coat are most distressing to exhibitors of slinky-haired cats. Happy Tongue in Persians is sometimes misdiagnosed as a malformed mouth. It is, of course, possible to make the cat unhappy, but this is not recommended. Some cats grow out of these conditions.
SEASONALLY AFFECTIVE DOOR INTO SUMMER SYNDROME
Symptoms: This condition was first described by Robert Heinlein in his book of the same name. It manifests at times of inclement weather. The afflicted cat wanders around the house demanding that each external door it comes to be opened. On discovering that the weather there is just as nasty as the weather outside the last door, it resumes its search for a "door into summer". The cat remains convinced that one of the doors will, on the umpteenth time of opening, have a summer's day on the other side of it. This affliction is more prevalent in younger cats of an active disposition and is frequently contagious in multi-cat environments.
Treatment: Immediate treatment of symptoms i.e. opening the selected door has only short term effect and must be repeated. Symptoms abate during summer, but the cat will suffer seasonal relapses. Some owners have reported that application of a localised heat source e.g. a log fire, gas fire or electric fire is effective in reducing frequency of attacks. Though not guaranteed, elderly cats may acquire an immunity to this affliction.
STATIONERY INTOLERANCE (FELINE INFECTIOUS KEYBOARDITIS)
Symptoms: The affected feline reacts adversely to desks, paper, pens, pencils and keyboards. This is most noticeable when the keyboard, pen or pencil is in use. The addition of a cat is detrimental to writing or typing. Papers, photos and objects may be shuffled around a desk. In the latter stages of the reaction, the cat may collapse into a stupor among papers. Feline Infectious Keyboarditis is a specific form of Stationery Intolerance and is reported to be on the increase.
Treatment: It is generally best to keep a susceptible cat away from office materials and keyboards. Though the sudden onset of symptoms suggests an allergy to or intolerance of office materials, in multicat households, these conditions frequently show an infectious component. The only cure is to immediately stop using office materials. The condition is liable to recur every time the cat is exposed to certain office materials.
ATTENTION DEAFNESS DISORDER
Symptoms: An affected cat ignores all attempts to deliberately attract its attention, in particular showing no recognition of its name. This is generally episodic. Triggers have been identified, such as mentioning "vet", "vaccination", "curfew" or "cattery". Curiously, the cat continues to respond to other sounds e.g. a tuna can being opened.
Treatment: When the cat is having an Attention Deafness Disorder attack, avoid using its name(s). Instead, attract attention by pretending you are not interested in it. It will normally come running to find out what is going on and how best to participate.
Symptoms: Several instances of upside-down legs were reported by a cat-owner in Bristol, England. The cat's legs appeared to have been fitted upside down. On further investigation, the cat was found to be suffering from an advanced case of collapsible legs and had become fully inverted.
Treatment: See "Collapsible Legs".
LITTLE KNOWN FELINE PURRSONALITY DISORDERS (Note: Cats may suffer from several purrsonality disorders simultaneously.)
FELINE DEPENDENT DISORDER (FELINE LIMPET SYNDROME)
Symptoms: Sufferers are excessively clingy and follow their owners everywhere. An afflicted cat clings to whichever part is most easily accessible and also exhibits advance Lap Fungus symptoms. When shut out of a room it cries pathetically, convinced it will never see you again. Since it can't survive for long without at least one part of it being in the same room with you so it squeezes a nose or paw beneath the door, waving the paw like a starving man's plea for food.
Treatment: These cats can be trained to be excellent wigs or fur hats. They also make excellent hot water bottles on winter nights as everyone knows that cats can breathe through several layers of blankets or a Tog 13 duvet without the aid of a snorkel.
FELINE INTERMITTENT TRANCE SYNDROME
Symptoms: Intent staring into space or at mundane objects for a length of time. Symptom may last from several seconds to several minutes. The world record was set by a Siamese who unblinkingly studied a pattern in an Turkish rug for 3 hours, 53 minutes, breaking a long-standing record set by a Persian-cross who stared at an exterior brick wall for 3 hours, 42 minutes (the presence of ants on the brick wall led experts to question the validity of this record). A reported time of 3 hours 49 minutes by a domestic shorthair was disqualified when the cat was found to have fallen asleep.
Treatment: Successful attempts to treat a cat suffering from Obscuragaze have involved tuna, catnip, favourite toys and the dinging of a microwave oven. However, the cat may suffer irritability and other withdrawal symptoms which may be more distressing than the original ailment. Note: This syndrome may alternate with attacks of Greeblingz.
FELINE HISTRIONIC DISORDER
Symptoms: Afflicted cats exhibit excessive attention-seeking behaviour such as tormenting prey when you can witness the grand event and sulking if you don't respond gratefully to their gifts of decapitated mice. They have a flair for (melo)drama and over-reaction. Any cat which has ever received an Oscar nomination is an advanced sufferer.
Treatment: The owner of a histrionic cat is the one whose cat story is always one-up on everyone else's cat story. A good script-writer or ghost-writer will allow you to cash in on your cat's purrsonality disorder e.g. "How to Live With a Feline Drama Queen" or "Fur and Loathing in LA". Under no circumstances should you ever attempt to upstage a Histrionic Cat.
Symptoms: An affected cat believes that its litter tray never stinks, that your new sofa is its personal scratching post and that it is entitled to the lion's share of the bed (see Bed-hogging, above). It knows it's irresistible and the only reason you hold a newspaper/knitting in your lap is so that it can rest on it while you gaze adoringly into its eyes. It knows that it is best admired when sitting right in front of the TV screen, obscuring the main action. A common feline disorder among cats, often explained away as "He doesn't know he's a cat."
Treatment: All cats are narcissistic by nature, some more so than others. Occasional bouts of Narcissistic Disorder in a normally undemonstrative cat may be indicative of an underlying problem such as empty foodbowl or full bladder/no room in litter tray. Alleviating these symptoms may provide a temporary respite from the disorder. Try using a music stand when reading newspapers.
FELINE ANTISOCIAL DISORDER (INVISIBLE CAT SYNDROME)
Symptoms: Highly independent and rarely seen, this cat is usually invisible. Only the mysteriously self-emptying food-bowl and used litter tray confirms that it exists. Some owners can go for years without knowing what their cat looks like. If it rubs against your leg it isn't a sign of affection, it means the doorway is narrow. All cats develop this purrsonality disorder at vaccination time.
Treatment: Better to turn this disorder to your advantage e.g. if you plan to keep a cat in a 'pets not encouraged' residence.
FELINE PARANOID DISORDER (SCAREDY CAT SYNDROME)
Symptoms: A true Scaredy-Cat is afraid of its own shadow, your shadow and is afraid of you if you change your appearance. It is also scared of spiders, phobic about ping-pong balls and terrified of strange catfood. Merely getting it a new foodbowl can induce a panic attack. Cleaning the litter tray will leave it in blind panic until its bladder triumphs over its brain. Paranoid cats are not fooled by friendly behaviour - they know that a vet, even a friendly one, is about to ram a cold thermometer somewhere the sun doesn't shine.
Treatment: The ideal companion for someone with the type of obsessive-compulsive disorder which means their routine/haircut/clothing style/diet never varies. Otherwise stick to a few basic rules: don't change hairstyle, don't follow fashion and never, ever change to a new brand of catfood.
FELINE INTERMITTENT HYPERACTIVE DISORDER
Symptoms: (See 'Greeblingz' in main ailments section) These cats are typified by doing the wall of death on your textured wallpaper, being unable to settle in one spot for more than a microsecond and giving the appearance of a cat which has just OD'd on a combination of Sanatogen tonic wine and caffeine. Some people have accused pet food manufacturers of putting amphetamine in cat food. Owners of such cats have wallpaper which looks like Evel Knievel has done several laps round it with metal-studded bike tyres. The intermittent nature of this disorder depends on how long the cat has to pause to catch its breath between attacks.
Treatment: This behaviour is almost continuous during kittenhood, though most cats eventually grow out of it. In adulthood, it is generally restricted to one or two bouts per day. If you can't wait for the cat to grow up, Valium is a possibility. A couple of those and you won't care about shredded wallpaper.
SCHRODINGER'S CAT SYNDROME
Symptoms: The Schrodinger's Cat hypothesis is a quantum mechanics theory whereby a cat in a closed opaque box remains in an unknown or "indeterminate" state until the box is opened. In reality, Schrodinger Cats want to be on both sides of a door simultaneously, often manifested as dithering on the threshold in an undecided state. In advanced cases, the cat may be found inside a room when the owner knows it has been placed outside of the room. The room may have been secured with anti-burglar devices, but somehow the cat still appears inside it. The cat simply enters an indeterminate state until observed to be on the WRONG side of a closed door. Many Schrodinger's Cats are unable to operate cat flaps.
Treatment: None. You can't change the laws of the universe. Hiring a maid whose sole duty is to open doors to let kitty in (or out) of various rooms, cupboards etc may give you a respite.
Copyright © Sarah Hartwell
Copyright © G. Phillips, 1998-2013. All rights reserved.