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Senior Cat Makes a Complaint that Changes Everything

Updated on July 2, 2020
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Shelley Frost has worked and volunteered for animal protection organizations for 30 years. She currently volunteers at Homeless Cat Network.

Stevie Lounging on a Desk at Work.

Stevie lounging on a desk during the workday.
Stevie lounging on a desk during the workday.

Stevie Leaves a Gift

I had been on the road for over two hours and had only covered fifty miles. The traffic, even during the times of the pandemic, was as clogged as the pre-virus days. Getting across the San Francisco Bay Bridge was stop and go all the way to Berkeley. The chime of my cellphone ringing was a welcome relief. Brake lights and horns honking would be preferable though, to the news my 26-year-old son Bret had to relay. Our 15-year-old cat Stevie, had left a stinky present for him in the guest bathroom. Since I was heading in the opposite direction from home and was in no position to tackle the mess, that chore was inherited by Bret who had no idea how to approach toxic waste. Patiently, I did my best to be accurate and thorough in the how-tos of disposing of a cat poop:

Cat Poop Clean-Up Instructions:

  1. Using a big dollop of toilet paper, pick up the poop and flush it down the toilet
  2. Remove the bathroom rug upon which the turd had been deposited, and transport it to the laundry room.
  3. Using warm water from the laundry room sink, remove the remaining remnants BEFORE placing the rug into the washing machine.

We ended the phone call, Bret squeamish, me worried. Hmm, I wondered. What did it all mean? Our cat had never left such a calling card before. He had full access to a crystal clean litterbox. Did this behavior also tie in with his recent caterwauling? Those strange and unnerving wailings he was prone to when he found himself all alone? Physically Stevie was in fine shape. Eating, drinking, sleeping all like a normal feline. But he had recently celebrated his fifteenth birthday which is about 76 in human years.

Senior Cat Health and Behavior

Just like humans, cats share many of the same aging downfalls that we do. Immune systems become less robust; the ability to remain hydrated deteriorates; nails become brittle and thickened; senility can alter a cat’s personality; hearing and vision could diminish; dental disease can cause pain and reduced appetite. One of the most common diseases our senior cats face is kidney failure.

As for Stevie’s gift in the bathroom not much appreciated by Bret, experts say that older cats are very sensitive to environmental changes and can express their confusion or stress by pooping somewhere other than their litterbox. I suspect Stevie noticed that I and our senior dog had left, and this was enough to send him over the edge.

Portrait of Stevie.
Portrait of Stevie.

Stevie's Happy Place

Keeping Stevie happy was one obvious solution. But just to be on the safe side, as soon as I got to my destination, I phoned Stevie’s veterinarian and scheduled an appointment. In the coming days, we added a few extra clean litterboxes with a variety of litters to see if perhaps Stevie needed a change of scenery. Another bit of advice I learned that goes to the heart of a cat’s happiness is giving him a variety of water sources. To combat dehydration in an older cat and to stimulate their natural curiosity, I learned that we should provide Stevie with a number of water sources. He has always used his own “glass of water” perched on the edge of our kitchen sink, but we added another glass in the bathroom along with a fresh bowl of water a few feet away from his litterbox.

To help older cats find their happy place, they need calm, stability, and familiarity. Stevie is literally a “social animal.” He loves nothing more than to have a human lie in the prone position so that he can stand on said human’s chest, paws digging into ribs like fence posts, then begin the busy job of kneading biscuits right beneath the human’s chin. This activity always quiets him down leading to a much-deserved nap – for the cat, not the human (although Stevie sleeping and not meowing is a blessing in our house).

My brow furrows visualizing how I will bundle a very unhappy Stevie into his cat crate for the upcoming trip to the vet. This experience will be anything but calm, stable, and familiar. But once his vet visit is over, I relax a little as I plan for him a date with my ribcage.


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