The Geriatric Set: Accommodating Elderly Cats
By Brian Kohlmeier
Coming to terms with oneâ€™s own mortality is something we all have to face at one time or another during our lives. Iâ€™ve had my own share of introspective moments on life, as I have seen the decline of elderly relativesâ€™ health, and experienced the aches and pains associated with getting on in years (and Iâ€™m only 36-years-old). The aging process forces us to make adjustments to cater to surfacing limitations, whether we like to embrace them or not.
Our pets zip through their lifecycles much faster than we do, and that point when we need to start making special concessions for them can sneak up without warning. I am currently the proud owner of three fuzzy felines, two of which are in the midst of their twilight years. GÃ¶st (15-years-old) and Betty (10-years-old) may revisit moments of their youth by the hyperactiveness that is Otis (8-months-old), but I can see the aging effects when compared to the young spitfire. About a year ago, I started doing things a bit differently to make life easier for them, but it has since spiraled into me spoiling them to the point that they have got to think they hit the kitty lottery by having me for a father.
The first step to easing them into the geriatric state was a food adjustment. I started giving them soft food twice a day, mainly for two reasons: itâ€™s easier on the brittle teeth, and the love it, which means that it will be eaten and they will maintain their weight. Of course, none of this really applies to Otis at this point, so he gets to enjoy the benefit of having older siblings.
Lately, GÃ¶st has been getting thinner despite the fact that he is eating regularly and still has a hearty appetite (heâ€™s the first one to come begging for the afternoon snack). Having seen the decline of a skinny cat last year, Iâ€™m not pulling any punches and giving him just about anything he wants in order to keep his weight up. This means lots of extra kitty treats and saucers of cream when the other two are not looking. He has already surpassed the 12-year life expectancy for his breed (Scottish Fold), and Iâ€™d like to keep him around a bit longer, no matter what it takes.
Betty seems to be going through some type of kitty menopause, as she has got a new fire in her belly and an attitude that rivals the most ornery teenager. She will hiss at the other two if they even look at her funny, let alone dare to walk up next to her. I know this has a lot to do with the kitten, but her hissing is getting a bit out of control. She seems to have rubbed her throat raw and tends to go into hairball-like coughing fits at least once a week. I coddle her to no end, letting her know that she is very loved, despite the fact that she thinks I brought in Otis to torture her. We have our special alone time when I watch television in my recliner chair, which I believe she looks forward to every day.
Iâ€™ve also noticed that GÃ¶st has been derelict in his self-cleaning duties. As an all-white cat, he has always been very pristine and anal about looking his best, but lately he has been a little nappy-looking. It appears that he spends more time bathing the kitten than himself (and the kitten is not so great at reciprocating the favor). I brush him regularly, and that does a good job of picking up the loose hair, but I needed a little something extra. In comes the ionizing brush my mother sent me! I wonâ€™t pretend to fully understand the mechanics (or is it physics?) of ions, but it does seem to be working well. GÃ¶st and Betty have silkier coats and totally enjoy the feeling of being groomed (Otis has not gotten to experience the new brush just yet, as he wants to chew on it any time it gets close to him).
To further cater to the needs of my kitties, I purchased a mini staircase to facilitate the processes of getting on to my bed (their favorite napping destination). I figured this was a necessity, as they were have more difficulty with the jump. A couple of years ago I got a new bed, which included a pillow-top mattress. This mattress is about an inch taller than my old one, so that presented another hurdle (no pun intended) for the elderly twosome. Throw in the bulkiness of a down comforter, and it became quite the daunting task, but they managed.
Over the past couple of months I noticed that something needed to be done to help them out. Betty would make it about three-quarters up, and then claw her way to the top as if she were scrambling for safety at the edge of a cliff â€“ kind of funny to watch, but not fun for her to go through (nor is it good for the condition of my mattress and bedding). GÃ¶st would sit on the floor and try to gauge the trajectory and angle of the jump, contemplating whether or not he could actually get up there. Itâ€™s a pretty pathetic thing to witness, as I can see the frustration in his eyes when he thinks he cannot make it. Sometimes he makes the effort, while other times he simply walks away feeling dejected rather than repositioning himself for an attempt. They took to the stairs almost immediately, and have since grown quite accustomed to itâ€¦ even Otis finds pleasure in it, though he mostly uses it as a jungle gym or a launching pad for attack.
If I had to choose one special thing I do for the cats that might be deemed to be excessive, I would probably have to say itâ€™s that I build fires for them in the winter. When they hear me rattling around the fireplace, they come running knowing that an intense heat-absorbing nap is in store. Of course, I get the benefit of a warm apartment when I have a fire, but I mostly do it because I know the kitties love it, and itâ€™s so damn cute to see them sprawled out in front of it, oblivious to the world around them.
About the Author: When not catering to his cats, Brian Kohlmeier is a co-founder of SwapThing.com, which changes the way people exchange goods and services through the Internet. SwapThing http://www.swapthing.com is a site focused on building a strong swap community online. The ShareThing http://www.swapthing.com/user/Nonprofit.jsp program helps non-profits get access to item & cash donations as well as volunteers and professional services. This article comes with reprint rights. You are free to reprint and distribute as you like. All that we ask is that you do not make any changes, that this resource text is included, and that the links above are intact.
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