Cat Chat

  • Was That a Limp?

    Watching Out For My Elder Kitty


    “We, who accept into our lives those whose lives are naturally shorter than ours, set ourselves up for the heartbreak of losing our pets.”

    As our big boy turns 15, I have become almost obsessed with watching over Shadow for any signs of trouble. I know in my heart that he is aging, but his physical signs show little of the sort. Shadow is a large, long cat, and has always been playful, yet reserved. There is very little “slow down” visible in his lifestyle as he ages. His veterinarian checkups go very well and other than being a bit pudgy and learning to eat low-fat food, he has had no health issues to date. His switch to low-fat food and fixed-amount meals have helped him lose weight and gain energy. 

    Even though he seems healthy and happy, I fear for the day I see him limp with arthritis, or cough with something more than a hairball. He jumps high to places I never expect he can, and has even made it to the third level of our new four-story cat tower. He plays like a kitten when enticed with a toy and some catnip. Shadow is just not an old cat, yet.

    Shadow’s coat is soft and shiny and just recently flecks of white have begun peeping out of all that black fur. Our veterinarian reminded me that one of the first signs of aging or illness in a cat is when their fur loses its luster. Shadow’s beautiful coat has only gained more shine with age; but I know the day will come when it begins to fade.

    Our youngest daughter really raised Shadow after we found him and his brother, Navy, in a flower pot as tiny kittens. He and our daughter both had to come to grips with loneliness when she moved out of our home and into a dormitory. She went to a university in our city, so we and Shadow saw her often. Each time she would leave to go back to her college world, there were hugs and kisses and an extra bit of attention devoted to her Shadow.

    She graduated this spring and moved back into our home. It's obvious she is happy to be reunited with her Shadow and he enjoys being with his girl. Shadow now spends most of his time in her room when she is here, just as he always has. Our daughter asked about taking Shadow with her when she moves to an apartment. I told her it is best for Shadow to live here with his brother kitties so he will never be alone. She agreed with my response and Shadow will stay with us.


    I know in my heart that gut-wrenching decisions may have to be made in the future if Shadow’s health goes bad. He has been such a wonderful family member and it will be hard to see him decline in age and health. I read once that we, who accept into our lives those whose lives are naturally shorter than ours, set ourselves up for the heartbreak of losing our pets. But we choose to live this life surrounded by our pets, and I would never trade the time I have with my animals for anything. Having a pet with a natural lifespan that pales in comparison to a human's is a lesson in mortality for all of us. Our pets live, we care for them, and we eventually lose them. It is the time we spend with them that matters -- for us and for them.

    As Shadow ages, I make sure to tell him I love him every single night and morning. And I take more photos and video of him than I used to. His purr is like a lawnmower and I have tried to capture it many times so I can remember his song. Watching for those signs of aging is what we all do as our pets age. A limp, a cough, or a lackluster coat can turn our world upside down. How do you care for your aging cats? Are they on a special diet, taking medications for pain and arthritis? We would like to know your cat family’s story and how you take care of your aging cats.

  • Cat Group Dynamics Always a Puzzle

    Cat Sleeping Patterns Are Never Just Black and White

    We have three cats and three cat beds. As each cat was added to the home, we gave each his own cushy, comfy cat bed along with assorted catnip toys and scratching posts. The beds have been replaced when needed, and each time, I carefully choose the selections based on the size of cat, his personality and where the individual cat spends much of his day napping.

    But my choices do not ever seem to be so black and white. Black and gray is more like it when it comes to how the cat beds are utilized each day. While the couch and beds are by far the most-used cat-napping spaces, the beds are rarely seen without two cats curled inside the space made for one. The two older cats are almost always seen napping together, squished inside one little round bed.

    I noticed from his very first days with us that Orange Tabby, Nico -- who was a feral and injured infant kitten when we brought him home -- and our eldest, almost 15-year-old black cat, Shadow, buddied up quickly when it came to napping on furniture or people beds. This left my gray-flannel-pajamas Russian Blue, Oliver, on his own. Shadow took on a father/mother role with kitten Nico, grooming him and sleeping with the tiny tot tucked to his belly. But this happened only up high on furniture, or actually on the floor -- never in the cat beds.

    When it comes to the kitty beds, it’s all flip-flopped. Shadow and Oliver always share a bed. Baby Nico gets left to curl up on his own. I have read about feline hierarchy, and this bed-sharing situation seems a slight on mother nature. Is this truly survival of the fittest, the strongest share the bed, leaving the little, puny kitten to find warmth on his own?

    Oliver never made the father/mother connection with Nico and my sweet, gray beauty became Demon Kitty overnight toward the new orange Tabby infant. For two years, I NEVER saw Oliver and Nico napping together. Now, the gray beauty and the kitty who reminds me of an orange-colored tater tot barely tolerate each other. They nap close to each other; but never do they cuddle. The baby Nico always tries to nudge against his older gray brother, as if asking for permission to get closer.

    As Shadow is nearing 15, I know one day these two young cats will be alone together. I am curious how they will act once they are more dependent on each other for warmth and comfort.

    Only a few times last winter did I see all three kitties snuggled up together for warmth. I caught this photo and shared it with my family because they did not believe all three kitties were ever in the same spot! Shadow and Nico were napping, then along came Oliver and I was witness to a beautiful moment of three-cat-cuddling.

    Cat behavior keeps me puzzled. No matter what the experts say, there will always be another question about how cat “group dynamics” really work.

    I would enjoy hearing about your own cats and how you view their world. Do your cats buddy up in a different way based on the location -- furniture vs. cat beds? Have you ever had an adult male cat take on a true “mothering” role with a new kitten?