You would think, since I only have to write this column once a month, that it would be fairly easy to come up with interesting stories. Alas, that is not the case. Just because I think something is interesting doesn’t necessarily mean that you will, too. So I spend 3 weeks and 5 days giving the matter considerable thought, and then I scramble to get the thing written and posted as closely to my deadline as possible. This month, however, I’ve had a great deal of difficulty thinking up something interesting. So, unfortunately for you, I’m going to revisit the one subject that has occupied my mind more than any other, and that is Buddy, my senile cat.
I’ve mentioned him in previous articles. He’s the one who’s been showing signs of dementia, the past few months. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as feline dementia until I started noticing certain behaviors that were uncharacteristic of Buddy. I poked around online and found that feline dementia is, indeed, a thing. I’ve dealt with a number of feline illnesses, over the decades. I’ve had cats with liver failure, diabetes, asthma, congestive heart failure – you name it, I’ve probably seen it – but it never occurred to me that something in the brain could go wrong, rather than in the body. I must say, this dementia thing really has me flummoxed.
The main symptom of Bud’s mental difficulties is his fixation with a wall in the loo. Not just any wall, but the same one every single day. He’ll walk into the loo numerous times, stand in the same corner, and wail loudly 5 or 6 times. It’s as if every time he looks at that wall, it’s the first time he’s seeing it. When I walk in and pet him, he seems reassured, and he wanders away to take a nap.
Buddy’s also much more affectionate than he ever was before. He spent 13+ years being a hands-off kind of cat. He’d briefly tolerate petting, then he’d get up and move away. Now, he actually seeks me out for attention, and there have been many mornings when, upon waking, I’ll find him curled up on the hubs’s pillow, staring at me like he’s been waiting for me to notice him. At other times, he’ll curl up against my arm and take a short nap. All of which is entirely unprecedented.
It’s not that I mind these things. Getting extra cuddle time with any of my cats is a real joy. It’s just that they serve to remind me that Buddy’s changing, and that I have no idea how much more changing he’ll do. It’s one thing to be able to assuage physical discomfort. But how in the world do you do the same for a cat who’s clearly confused about simple everyday things like walls in a loo? At least he still recognizes me. But for how long? Will he reach a point where he has no idea who I am? Alas, only time will tell.
My other 3 cats don’t seem to be aware that there’s a problem. Even the hubs doesn’t seem to understand that things have changed, although he has informed me that if Bud ever becomes incontinent (a common symptom of dementia), that we will “have to do something.” What he means is that I will have to put Bud down. The hubs doesn’t realize how tempting it is to consider putting him down instead. Buddy and I will determine when the time has come. If the hubs doesn’t like it, he can go live in the shed at the back of the garden. Honestly!
I’ve euthanized plenty of pets in my time, so it’s not a matter of being squeamish in that regard. It’s more a matter of quality of life. And if Bud still thinks he has quality of life – momentary confusion with loo walls notwithstanding – then that’s good enough for me. Hell, I exhibit more signs of dementia than Buddy does!
This is not my first go-round with dementia. My beloved step-father suffered from Alzheimer’s. Interestingly, he still seemed pretty with-it right up until he died at the age of 98. Indeed, the very last thing he said to me was that he was glad the hubs and I had found each other. The poor man was in hospice, his organs were shutting down, and yet he wanted to leave me with that lovely sentiment. Just goes to show you that even in the midst of confusion, a little clarity is still possible.
So I’ll hang in there as long as Buddy wants to. As a rule, I let my pets decide when they’ve had enough. They’ve put up with me and my idiosyncrasies, after all; it’s only right that I do the same with them. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted.