I was thumbing through the newest issue of Cat Fancy in our local bookstore a few days ago when I came across an article that had my angel, Prissy, written all over the subject – “Older Cats.” Our beloved little girl is going on 20 and is really beginning to show her age.She’s still a beauty, of course. There’s always been such a graceful elegance about her. When she was younger, she didn’t walk, she glided. The glide has kind of disappeared over the past two years, though. I think her little bones must ache sometimes because she walks with her back legs kind of spread and it’s closer to a gallop. Adorable? Definitely! But, graceful? Not very.The article was a must read for anyone with an older cat. I recognized Prissy in a few of the areas the author addressed, but she was nowhere to be found in others.
For example, according to the article, a lot of older cats lose their appetite. I think Prissy’s increases with age! She out-eats all three of our other cats, who are all much younger. Sometimes I think she could EAT all three of the other cats….which is why we never let her plate get too empty for too long. Not taking any chances.
The author said that if your older cat isn’t eating, the problem may be that their sense of smell has dulled. They suggested dabbing a little warm water on the food – it’ll help release the aroma. I’ve also heard that garlic powder entices a cat (or dog for that matter) to eat.
Another problem that older cats can face is disorientation. I’ve seen this a little with Prissy. They’ll get in a room and look off into space, as though they aren’t sure where they are. Apparently some cats even get into a corner and just meow until they’re “rescued.” I’ll go on record as saying that’ll completely break my heart if that happens!
I have noticed a few “senile moments” with her, though. When she first wakes up, she looks around as though she isn’t too sure what’s going on. We always talk really softly and sweetly (as always) to her – then she starts purring and we know we have our Prissy back.
The article also touched on something else I’ve noticed. It said that older cats will frequently lose patients for other pets that they once got along with famously. Prissy has done that with Alexa. When Alexa first came along, Prissy was amused by her. It actually wasn’t that long ago that they were playing together. Alexa would get on bookshelves and knock things down for Prissy to scrutinize. When I picked up on the game, I’d “plant” things up high like toy mice, tiny balls, etc. Alexa will still knock things down to Prissy but now she usually just gets hissed at for her efforts!
They also used to run around and sort of mix things up together – then Prissy would go to her favorite bed and Alexa would know the game was over. Now, though, when Alexa tries to get a rousing game going, Prissy hisses and looks at her as though they’d never even met. It makes me sad for both of them.
We’ve tried to spend extra time playing with Alexa lately – especially when she’s especially frisky – it keeps her out of Prissy’s hair and keeps her from getting the “HSSSSSSS” (Though I gotta admit, Prissy’s awfully cute when she’s mad!)
Older cats also tend to have “bathroom” issues. Doctors say that arthritic bones make climbing into and out of litter boxes painful, so they suggest using the flat “pans” that go under a lot of litter boxes instead. They also suggest investing in several litter boxes, so your cat always has one nearby.
A tip I thought was worth its weight in gold was this: Since your older cat may be disoriented and confused, gate off a section of the house – a couple of rooms they prefer. This makes their world much smaller, much safer, and much…well, cozier. Also, try to never let your older pet on stairs. Arthritis can make climbing very, very painful – plus falls are always a threat, mostly for dogs.
Personally, I think it all comes down to three words: TENDER LOVING CARE. As our babies get older, we should give them all the TLC they can handle. We want to make their last years as comfortable, as peaceful, and as enjoyable as possible. If there are any unusual habits or concerns – always take your cat to the vet. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
We’ve always spent a lot of time with our pets – after all, there are five of us, so someone’s almost always here (I even work from home and my youngest daughter, Stephany, is always home as well.). We’ve started giving Prissy EVEN more attention – when she’s awake, that is!
Even though none of us want to talk about it or even think about it, we aren’t naive. We know we won’t have her with us forever. Just typing those words has left me with tears chasing one another down my face! I can’t even imagine what I’ll do with myself when she moves on to Heaven with Carly…. (And, yes, Michael – I fully expect that IS where Carly went!!!!) Well, I do know – I’ve been there before. You live through days that hurt so bad you just want to go to bed. You miss them like crazy (I still miss Carly terribly), and you cherish the pets you have as you cherish the memories of those you no longer have.
One more thing about older cats. Naturally, they begin having vision and hearing problems. I think Prissy has selective hearing. Some things she responds to (can opener, the pantry door opening, Whiskas packets being ripped…), and other things she ignores. Her vision’s not that great – I get the feeling she pretty much sees shapes more than anything. Something we’ve always done, since she was a few weeks old was play a little game of “Nose Beeping.” I fly my finger around in a little circle, then land it on her little nose with a “beep!” About a month ago, though, I noticed that she’d jump right before my finger got to her nose. So, we changed the rules of the game. Now I just hold the finger out in front of her face, and she brings her nose slowly to it…. I whisper, “beep” and she purrs.
Then I tell her what a very good and special girl she is. Because she is. I also tell her how much I love her. Because I most definitely do.