Although I didn’t say the words out loud that‘s exactly what I thought all those years ago when my beloved Miss P was being examined by the vet. I struggled to paste a smile on my face as I gazed into the blue eyes of my sassy Lynx Point feline. Granted, she was 10 years old but she still looked like the sassy little kitten I’d first met. The kitten who began life as “Puddy” but let me know in no uncertain terms that she required a more dignified moniker and soon became known as Miss P.
Miss P was with me for nine more wonderful years and during that time I began to learn to not only accept the geriatric time of her life but to embrace and enjoy it. She’s been gone for five years now and I am happy to say every memory I have of her is a joyful one.
A year and a half ago my world was rocked when 17-year old Jasmine was diagnosed with kidney disease. I immediately went to the worst case scenario, my heart was broken and tears flowed so fast couldn’t concentrate on the lesson the vet tech was attempting to give me in administering subcutaneous fluids. Then, something the vet tech said permeated my fog of sorrow.
“Anita, we’ve had so many kitties live many good years with this diagnosis on sub-Q fluids.”
I grabbed a tissue, blew my nose and said hopefully, “Really?”
Their Senior Years Are Only A New Stage
That was the moment I turned the corner and began to embrace the reality of my cat’s senior days. I thought through Jasmine’s treatment and felt that no matter how hard it would be for me to give her the fluids, she deserved much better than being terrified by a vet trip every other day. I screwed up my courage and learned how to administer the fluids myself. We discussed what Jasmine needed and how to monitor her health. I left the vets that day with prescription food, sub-Q fluids and a hopeful heart.
It took a few weeks to get Jasmine stable. We made one more vet trip when she seemed to be in distress but we managed to get her back on track. I monitor her weight, give her fluids religiously (although she has some issues with this as seen in this short video) and make sure she’s hydrated and her diet is low in phosphates. Instead of bemoaning the fact that she’s a senior I take the time to create new rituals and fun times together. Now, while I give her fluids, she also gets an Inaba Churu Grain-Free Chicken lickable treat and despite her meows to the contrary, she enjoys the new addition to the treatment.
It’s natural to want our felines to remain kittens forever but if we don’t embrace all their stages of life we miss so much. Tucker, Jasmines brother, Jasmine and I have developed routines and ways of living together over these 17 years that are a constant blessing to me. Yes, there are adjustments. Tucker can no longer come out on the deck with me and sit on the railing as his poor depth perception has made him more tentative in gauging how much space he has on that ledge. There is a 35 foot drop into the woods from that ledge that he already misjudged a number of years ago so now he and all the cats enjoy the great outdoors in their pop up catio.
Jasmine went through a stressful time of bullying and, as a result, she now lives in the bedroom suite. I tried to reintegrate her into the rest of the house for several years but I finally had to respect her wishes to have her own space. Since the arrival of my “foster failures” Alberto and Oliver, she does have periodic visitors and enjoys bossing them around. I constantly look for other ways to enrich her environment as well.
Tucker’ has always been a rather “laid back” fellow which is only enhanced in his senior years. Still, there are things he does that delight and often amaze me. He likes to jump up on the stools at the kitchen counter and then hop up on the counter to “snoopervise” the goings on in the kitchen (he is a cat that lives to eat and this proclivity for eating seems to have been enhanced over the years). I would never dream of chasing him off the counter. If the old guy can make it up there, he deserves to stay there. Any visitors to my house have to deal with the fact that the counter is religiously cleaned with cat-friendly disinfectant and is often decorated by a rather large, cross-eyed feline. He has also been known to enjoy box sitting sessions and giving the “young ones” the occasional whacky paw when he deems them to be annoying. Tucker makes sure he never misses an opportunity to roll in some nip as well..
Granted, life and routines change over time but that doesn’t mean the changes are bad. Many are quite enjoyable. As you navigate the senior years of your cat, consider these five lessons for living with and loving geriatric felines that I’ve learned.
The Five Rules For Your Cats Geriatric Years
- Plan financially for your cat’s senior years. As they age, cats will require more veterinary visits than they did as young felines. Think about getting pet insurance when they’re young or, start a savings plan for their medical needs. I have a line item in my budget for “Cat Medical”. Whatever I don’t use in a month, I put in savings as insurance.
- Make sure you begin a habit of yearly wellness exams for your cats. Wellness exams help your vet identify and treat potential problems at their earliest stages.
- Have a first class pet sitter. If I have to leave home, I need more than someone who will come in and feed twice a day. Both Tucker and Jasmine have medical needs that must be addressed and medications that need to be dispensed. My sitter needs to know what to look for if the cats are not feeling well and when to take them to the vet. I always make arrangements with my vet before I leave in case my cats need medical attention.
- Just because they aren’t as active as they used to be doesn’t mean they don’t need environmental enrichment. Tucker enjoys box sitting and catnip is still a favorite.Jasmine has an assortment of toys and enjoys the occasional roll in the nip too.
- Love them and enjoy them and be thankful for every day you have with them.
Charles Dickens said, “What greater gift than the love of a cat?” and if we can receive that love for 19, 20 or more years, what a wonderful gift that is.