Aging Cat Issues
The Matriarchal Cat
Owning Cats Who Get Old
I lived in a household which included three cats. The busiest and newest was a male rescue cat named Skeeter, whose antics provide plenty for me to record. Also, we had Sammy, a plump and loving fellow. The first to arrive was The Goddess, the sole female.
We did not know The Goddess’s age because she was a stray who truly broke into the house and was allowed to stay. The landlord has lived with her for over 11 years. Some cats get gray in the muzzle the way dogs do in their sunset years. However, The Goddess is not changing fur color. Nonetheless, we think she is “mature” or “advanced” in euphemistic human terms. Really, she’s an old biddy and a cranky one at that!
The landlord has old school beliefs about pets. He feels that a family that takes the responsibility for an animal should shelter, feed, and love it.
However, he says he does not agree with taking extraordinary or expensive measures to maintain the health of a pet (sorry, Betty White.) I guess he would hang a DNR – “Do Not Resuscitate” – sign on the collars of all his pets. Therefore, taking a pet cat for hip replacement, chemotherapy, or a cardiac pacemaker is neither in his plans nor budget. In theory, that is. This is his philosophical position. In practice, I suspect it will be tested.
Health and Behavior Changes
I am worried about The Goddess. In the last couple months, she has changed. It started with a 24-hour vomiting bug. Sometimes the difference between hairball expulsion and puking can be a fine line. However, I feel it was an intestinal germ causing the emissions. Since it abated after one day, we did not take her to the veterinarian. After (or due to) that episode The Goddess noticeably lost weight. She has always been a petite yet gymnastically muscular gal – sort of a feline version of Olympic gymnast Simone Biles crossed with Guardian of the Galaxy, Rocket Raccoon. Now, sadly, her back haunches are hollowed out where she formerly had meat. When I pick her up, she feels so light. That’s the other thing. Her behavior is changing.
For all her prior time, The Goddess had been the quintessential aloof cat. She reeked of independence and strength. No one could bribe The Goddess to sit with a human. She never wanted to do that. Now, though, she leaps to the arm of the chair every time a human calls to her. This is very pleasant, but also very unusual. In my motherly worrying brain, I wonder if The Goddess knows her days are limited and thus deigns to show us affection? Furthermore, she permits me to hold her, kind of. Formerly, The Goddess led me on quite a chase if I ever wanted to hold her. Now, she has either slowed down sufficiently enough that my cat-catching average has improved or maybe she even wants to be caught so that her tired, achy little body can share warmth from the human holding her. Obviously, I worry about such things and ponder these events in my heart.
Cat Resting on Chair Arm
In my very amateur cat-mom status, I have long suspected that The Goddess has arthritis. I could be totally wrong, I know. Sometimes she seems to move her back legs awkwardly when going up or down stairs. Yet other times, all seems honky dory. Quite recently, when The Goddess hopped up to the arm of the couch (about 32 inches), her back legs missed. I remember an article discussing that sort of behavior as a symptom of cat arthritis.
Several of my cat-owning human friends have made accomodations to ease the difficulties of aging cats. Two purchased foam stairs or ramps to help their beloved cats get from floor to bed when a leap of 3 feet became impossible for their elder felines. One family kept a heating pad in their 22-year-old cat's bed.
In my own household, when Skeeter started showing decreased energy I took him to the vet. Skeeter is 8 years old now. We started him on a food supplement for joints and a mild weight loss program. These measures have improved him wonderfully!
Unlike me, though, my former landlord did not start any medical treatment for The Goddess, which is his call.
One must respect the landlord’s position. In the world of pet aging issues, he feels que sera, sera. Before I became a cat-owning mom, I generally agreed with that philosophy. However, my love for Skeeter and Cincinnatus already have shown me I am not as black-and-white rigid on the matter. They are my dear family members who run to the front door to greet me every time I come home. They are gifts from God. How much will I do for them? Time will tell.
© 2012 Maren Elizabeth Morgan