Senior Cats Rule: Let Us Count the Ways


Yesterday, writer Brittany Shoot penned a sweet article, “Fighting Ageism: Why I Adopt Senior Pets,” on our sister site, xoJane. I totally applaud her for her choice, because so many wonderful elderkitties who find themselves in shelters don’t get a chance to find a forever home to spend their golden years.

I think a lot of people are afraid to adopt older cats because of the fear that the cats will die soon. Part of this is due to misguided notions about exactly what constitutes a “senior” cat, and part of it is due to the fact that a lot of people don’t know just how long a well-cared-for indoor cat can live.

Veterinarians and shelters do a disservice to cats by labeling those felines seven years of age or older as “seniors,” particularly when many cats can live to be at least 15, if not quite a bit older. In my own family, we’ve had two cats survive to the age of 18 and one to 21. Our current feline crop includes my two senior cats, Siouxsie, 16, and Thomas, 11.

At age 16, Siouxsie is the equivalent of an 80-year-old person. But apparently she didn’t get the memo: She pelts around the house with the same wild abandon she did when she was a kitten, her fur is sleek and shiny, her teeth are good, and her eyes are clear. When I moved a few years ago, I took Siouxsie to a new veterinarian, who examined her and shook his head as he said, “If I didn’t see it in her chart, I wouldn’t believe she’s that old.”

I like to think Siouxsie’s vitality and health is due not only to good genes but to the fact that I’ve taken the best care of her that I could ever since I adopted her as a kitten.

That’s not to say that Siouxsie doesn’t have her moments. On cold, damp days she moves more stiffly than she used to. I help her out by giving her glucosamine and chondroitin supplements — and MSM on those days when she’s feeling extra-creaky. Let me point out here that my vet knows this and not only is he fine with the glucosamine,chondroitin, he actually recommended the MSM as a first step before trying steroids or using NSAIDs like meloxicam (an off-label treatment when used in cats) when she was having a particularly bad episode last winter.

Every once in a while she slips when she tries to jump onto a high surface, but that doesn’t stop her from trying … and succeeding most of the time.

Siouxsie’s age hasn’t caused her to put aside the silliness of youth, either. Almost every day she does something that makes me laugh with delight. She hides in boxes and ambushes her feline roommate. She struts through my apartment “meowling” with pride as she carries her favorite toy in her mouth, then deposits it on my lap or in the chair where I was just sitting with that “Look, I brought you a mousie!” expression on her face.

When I’m in bed, she shoves her nose under the covers and digs down to her favorite snoozing spot with her head next to my armpit and her body stretched along my side.

Siouxsie has long since earned the title of Top Cat and Queen of All Eastern Cats, and she’s not afraid to dish out her royal discipline when it’s needed — even if I’m the one who offended her sensibilities.

Siouxsie even likes to go out for walks on a leash and harness. Yes, she does like it: trust me, Siouxsie is not a cat who would put up with shenanigans for the sake of humoring her person. I’m sure we’ve almost caused a couple of accidents when people stared in disbelief as they saw me walking my cat around the yard. Check out this video of our quick trip outdoors on a snowy January day.

(In a reader? Watch the video here.)

I’m amazed and grateful to have shared 16 years with my beloved Siouxsie. I don’t know when the time will come for her to transition out of her body, but I’m too busy enjoying every minute I have with her to worry about that right now.

She may be geriatric in years, but she’s anything but geriatric in her attitude. I only hope I’m that healthy when I’m 80!

Do yourself and a wonderful elderkitty a favor, and consider adopting a senior cat the next time you’ve got space in your family for another feline friend. If you’ve already got senior cats, please share the stories of your wise feline friends. If you’re thinking about adopting a senior cat but you have questions, ask here — maybe your fellow Catster readers will be able to give you tips on keeping older cats healthy and helping them adjust to new homes.

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