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What I've Learned from Living with a Senior Cat

I usually write humor, but today I veer toward the serious as I learn to live with an aging cat.

 |  Mar 20th 2014  |   35 Contributions


I usually write humor posts here on Catster; I love to celebrate the lighter side of life, particularly where my cats are concerned. With kitties, there's plenty of material, that's for sure! Over the last year, however, I've been learning how to live with an aging cat, which hasn't always been light or humorous. 

I share my home with three cats: Phoebe is eight, Cosmo is almost 13 and Saffy just turned 14. Although Cosmo and Phoebe appear as spry and healthy as ever, Ms. Saffster seems to be struggling a bit with emotional and physical issues as she's entered her golden years. And I'm learning as I go. As an adult, I've never parented a cat who's lived past age eight. This aging business is all new to me.

Saffy gets extra attention from the family.

It's funny: Many people assume that since I predominately write about cats, I must possess expansive knowledge in the health and behavior department. I do not. I consider myself a humor writer who happens to spend a lot of time writing about cats. In most cases, I know about as much as my readers do when it comes to feline health and behavior topics. I feel grateful for the information I've picked up from cat health and wellness writers and friends like JaneA Kelley. When my readers come to me with those types of questions, I confidently refer them to her blog and her work here on Catster. I can make you laugh, but you don't want me telling you how to deal with diabetic cats. 

Phoebe still isn't keen on Saffy, and makes sure she knows it.

When Phoebe joined our family, she immediately claimed the alpha role among my brood. She was especially hard on Saffy and frequently bullied her. I did what the experts said and made sure Saffy had safe spaces she could call her own, which helped a little bit, but not completely. Over the last couple of years, the anxiety began to take a toll on Saffy, causing bladder inflammation. 

Saffy meticulously maintained her coat when she was a younger cat.

The vet put her on antibiotics and we tried flower essences, Feliway (the plug-in and the collar versions), music ... you name it, we probably tried it. We gave her extra cuddles and spent one-on-one time with her, but Saffy still couldn't shake the anxiety. Her bladder issues became recurrent. Finally, the vet recommended she try on a low dose of Prozac. I was apprehensive, but since we felt like we were at the end of our rope, we tried it. It was a miracle drug. I know some didn't or don't agree with our choice to go with the Prozac, but it worked, and I don't regret choosing it.  

Saffy has always been partial to the guys in the family, especially my husband.

The relaxing effects of the Prozac, along with the natural process of aging, have made Saffy more sedentary. She never really was an active cat, but became more of a couch potato with the medication. We spend cuddle time with her and help her be as active as her range of comfort allows. She eats grain-free, canned food, but still gained a little weight and seems to be having increasing trouble grooming herself. We brush her every day, but sometimes her butt-fur catches stray poo and we intervene with pet-friendly wet wipes.

Last week, she had quite a bit of poo stuck on her bottom, and we needed more than wipes. My husband and I carefully washed her bottom. To say she was "not a fan" of this process is an understatement. The anxiety of the event led to another bladder incident just a few days later. It had been nearly a year since the last infection. We felt terrible.

These days, Saffy spends lots of time relaxing.

In addition to not being able to groom herself as well as she used to, she's getting some dry skin. I also suspect a little arthritis. I help her onto the bed and gave her a little "step" so she doesn't have to make the big jump. I'm learning about fish oil supplements and other natural remedies. The key word is learning. Many of my friends have definite ideas of right and wrong when it comes to cat care. I appreciate the advice and, coupled with the guidance from the vet, do what feels right to me.

I know it sounds trite, but living with an aging cat really has been a journey, and sometimes the route is rocky and my map is blurry, but we're making our way with compassion and lots of learning. Even though caring pet parents may have different ways of addressing the issues of feline aging, I believe we all love our cats and want what's best for them. And we want Saffy to be comfortable and happy for years to come.  

How has aging affected your cat? Tell us in the comments.

Read more on senior cats: 

Read more by Angie Bailey:

About the Author: Angie Bailey is an eternal optimist with an adoration of all things silly. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, thinking about cats doing people things and The Smiths. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, Texts from Mittens (birthed right here on Catster) and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in comedy web series that features sketches and mockumentaries. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.  

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