The OAP’S

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As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, Critter Cottage is home to four felines, all of whom are in varying stages of old age, qualifying them for pension status, when/if pensions are ever extended to cats. And with the amount of work they’ve done, over the years, to keep my spirits up in times of sorrow, to comfort me in times of loneliness, and to stand loyally by my side during the worst times of my life, they certainly deserve a pension.

I provide one for them myself, of course, such as it is on a budget, and with a husband who thinks special cat toys/food/beds aren’t necessary. And I’m perfectly happy to continue to do so. But while I’ve had plenty of elderly cats in my care over the years, I’ve never actually had so many at one time. Given the vagaries of declining health, caring for my OAP’s is proving unexpectedly challenging.

The easiest cat to care for, thus far, has been 3-legged Gracie Ellen. For as long as I’ve had her (I rescued her at 6 months, and she’s now 11-years old), her main preoccupation is sleeping. She’s staked out several choice spots around the Cottage, and can reliably be found on one of them at any given time of day. She especially loves to lie on her back, her three leg flopped carelessly about her. When we go on holiday, she’s always the cat that our sitter has the most interaction with: Gracie loves people and happily approaches everyone.

The second most easiest cat is 12-year old Junebug. Junebug’s special hobby is kibble: she loves to beg for it, and she loves to eat it. Nothing satisfies her as much as raiding both food dishes, and she does this multiple times every day. Thankfully, Junebug isn’t showing much in the way of old-age symptoms; she simply sleeps more than she used to. Otherwise, she’s in good health, and happy spirits.

On the other hand, 12-year old Spanky is showing his age, and in a way that I didn’t expect at all: he’s not keeping up grooming the rear half of his body. I don’t just mean his naughty bits, I mean the whole back half of his body. It’s not as though he’s let himself go completely, it’s more as if he runs out of energy before he’s finished his toilette and doesn’t do a very good job on the back half. It took me a while to notice, and then it took me a while to figure out what was going on. The main indication was that, while the front half of his coat was still shiny and clean,  the back half looked dry and dull.

Overall, Spanky appears to be healthy, although his level of neediness seems to have increased in the last year or so. Spanky always was a needy cat, and no matter what I did, it was never enough – he wanted my attention, but when I picked him up to give it to him, he always squirmed away, and the list of things that won’t satisfy him is fairly long: being held, being petted, and being given treats, to name but three. Indeed, the two things that will make him happy both happen to be relatively time-consuming. He likes being groomed (and, as I’ve mentioned with regard to his neglected coat, he requires a goodly amount of grooming), and he likes cuddling.

Naturally, he wants cuddling at the worst possible times, times when I really need to be somewhere else, doing something else. The down side of Spanky’s neediness is that, once he passes on, I’ll feel horribly guilty that I didn’t indulge him more. With that in mind, I’ve tried to fit extra time into my schedule for him. It’s not as if I don’t enjoy the cuddling, I just wish it could be on my schedule once in a while.

Finally, as you may recall from a previous column, my 14-year old cat Buddy is showing signs of dementia. Among other things, he’s developed a rather strange obsession with a wall in the loo. He wanders in multiple times every day and yowls so loudly that I often wonder whether he’s in the midst of a horribly painful death. He never is, he’s just trying to figure out where the hell that wall came from. We discussed it just last night:

Buddy – “Where the hell did that wall come from?”

Me – “It’s been here all along, Bud.”

Buddy – “No, it hasn’t!”

Me – “I assure you that it has, my feline friend.”

Buddy – “Hmmph!”

At which point, he walked away, only to wander back to that very same wall an hour later and yowl the same question yet again. Sadly for his mental state, that wall has actually been there the entire time we’ve lived at Critter Cottage, which is ten years now. Why he’s suddenly fixated on something so random is a mystery to me, but then again, I suppose that’s the way of dementia for anyone: things you’ve understood all your life suddenly, inexplicably, stop making sense. And nothing anyone says to you can change that.

Most often, if I’m in the vicinity of the loo while Bud’s doing his yowling thing, I’ll go pick him up – he’s never liked being picked up – give him kiss and try to distract him from his troublesome wall question. It’s a temporary fix at best.

I’ve read that there are medications to help treat feline dementia, but I haven’t even broached the subject with the hubs. He’s far too cheap, and I can already hear his derisive snort in my head:

“You want me to pay for expensive medicine for a senile cat? No way!” he’d say. At which point, I’d have to chop him into small bits and bury him at the back of the garden. The hubs, obviously, not the cat. So for now, I’ll help Buddy try to make sense of his strange world as best I can. His health seems good otherwise, so I see no reason to put him down. And, I’m hoping that the company of three reasonably sane cats will comfort him when things get frightening. They certainly do that for me!

Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

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