Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Things Nobody Tells You About Owning a Geriatric Cat

In my household we had three cats: Moku, a tortoiseshell; Connie, a ginger tabby; and Cyrus, a gray tabby.

Moku died several years ago.  It was probably renal failure.  We took her to her final vet appointment and had her put down. I wouldn't have cried, but my wife did, so I couldn't help a few tears.

Cyrus died a couple of years ago.  He had a massively enlarged heart, was subject to weird fits, and pooped everywhere except the litter box.  I cried when we had to have him put down, too.  He was a very nice little cat and loved everybody.

Connie is still alive.  He's 14 years old, 21 lbs, and has both diabetes and a thyroid condition.  In addition to being a massive cat, he's also a massive pain in the ass.  I suspect that his issues aren't terribly unusual for a cat his age, so I will list some of his idiosyncrasies so you understand what your cat might be in for once he or she reaches a certain age.
  • Cleanliness: Connie has decided that washing himself is for lesser beings.  He made this decision a couple of years ago and hasn't looked back since.  So if we don't brush him on a semi-regular basis he just leaves clumps of orange fur everywhere he goes.  It's not unusual to see a cat tumbleweed of fur rolling down the hall, drifting on the air conditioner breeze.  I pick the tumbleweeds up when I see them.
  • Sleepiness: Connie doesn't like to do much of anything except eat, sleep, visit the litter box, demand wet food, demand momentary affection, and take showers.  95% of his time is spent sleeping on our bed.  This is a problem when he doesn't wash himself because clumps of his fur stick to the covers.  And occasional litter grains.  Yuck.
  • Thirstiness: Connie's had a lifelong fascination with water.  This has been exacerbated by his recently-diagnosed diabetes, which makes him thirsty all the time, and his thyroid condition, which makes him hungry and thirsty all the time.  We got him an electric water fountain, but no matter how clean I keep it he doesn't really drink from it: just puts his head under the stream.  He really likes showers, and that's where he gets most of his water.  If either of us stirs in the wee hours to pee or read or something, he figures we're up and loudly demands that we turn on the shower for him.  I haven't had a shower to myself in months: he's always in there, getting soaking wet.  
  • Litter Issues: Connie's litter box habits aren't as exacting as they were when he was a younger cat.  He sometimes misses entirely.  He sometimes doesn't bury his poop.  If we leave the bath mats on the floor in our bathroom long enough he'll pee on them.  I don't know why.  I just know that when we're done getting ready in the morning we have to hang up the bath mats or he'll pee on one of them.  This is upsetting, but at least he's not peeing on a rug or something we can't throw in the washing machine.  Yes, we've done the vinegar and baking soda thing. Many times.
  • Get Me Mah Medicine: Connie needs medication: an insulin shot twice a day and a thyroid pill twice a day.  These medications are not cheap, especially the insulin.  The insulin's easy to administer: pull up some skin, inject the juice, and you're done.  The pill's more challenging: some wrestling is required.  Don't forget that he's usually wet from a shower during this process, at least for his morning pill.  About a third of the time when I do it, he secretes the pill in his mouth until I've left and then spits it onto the bed or in his food dish.  
  • Mah Teef: Tooth decay, a not uncommon condition for ginger cats, has required several extractions, leaving him mostly toothless.  He still eats dry food, but just gums and swallows it. When he eats wet food, he just licks up the gravy and leaves the bits behind.  Also, he's got some weird fluid-filled cysts on his head and face that we haven't addressed because they don't seem to bother him and the vet doesn't think they're serious.  So he's got that going for him.
  • Weird Fears: Houses in Florida tend to have ceiling fans in most rooms.  Connie is terrified of ceiling fans, especially when they're running.  So we have to keep most of them off, including the one in our bedroom, or he'll stay under the bed and vomit and piss himself in terror.
  • One Weird Trick: Connie's worst trick is to trot out of the bathroom after a shower, use the litter box, and walk back to jump up onto the bed and sleep.  So you've got a big fat wet cat who doesn't wash himself, feet covered in litter, on your bed.  Double yuck.  We wash our bedding often.
So that's our Connie.  I'll probably cry when he dies, too, but there will be a little bit of relief as well.  My little boy vacillates between wanting a new kitty (no new cats until Connie's gone) and hoping Connie lives forever.  

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