Friday, 27 August 2010

The Blessing of Older Cats

Warning: This entry is full of cats.  It may in fact trigger an allergic reaction.  It’s just that fuzzy.
Merle.  He was big.

Anyone who knows me knows I have cats.  I have three cats, and my roommate has two.  Yes, I’m aware that makes five, and I’m also aware that it’s insane.   But we’re still within by-law limits!

We had two cats each when we first moved in together, and none of them were young.  The youngest amongst them, Merle (a fat, loud, generally angry and cuddly legendary cat) died very suddenly more than a year ago.  Like, really suddenly.  He didn’t eat one meal, fell over, I brought him to the vet and he was dead at midnight. To clarify things, Merle didn't ever not eat (double negative!).  He once needed six teeth removed because they had rotted through (he had an immune-deficiency disease), and I had no clue because it certainly didn't slow down his eating.  So he died, suddenly, even though at his size and with his disease (and lack of brains), none of us has expected him to live even that long.  That was a memorable solstice, especially since I had a show the next day and decided to tell a story of his death (feel my pain!)
Bart.  Happy tabby.

Anyway… so Merle passed away and it was hard to get beyond it.  He was loud, cuddly and always around.  And I’d lived alone with him and my other tabby, Bart, for almost a decade (with various roommates here and there).  And the crux of my problem was (and still is) that Bart was dying.  We think it’s a brain tumour, and he suffers from random seizures.  It's bad, but not yet bad enough to justify putting him down.  He's still quite a happy kitty (especially when beating on kittens).  He’ll either pass away from a seizure he can’t snap out of, or the tumour will grow and affect his lifestyle too much, and I’ll have him put down.  He’s a smart cat, too, so it’s doubly sad on that level.
Pamplemousse.  Pamplo, for short.

So more than a year ago, Merle died, and Bart was dying.  Then my neighbour’s cat had eight kittens, many of which are polydactyl (extra toes!)

Of course I adopted two of them, Pamplo and Pantoufle.  They’re cute and therefore impossible to resist.
Pantoufle.  Extra toes!

Okay, young cats are cute, but a pain.  They harass  older cats, get into everything, and it’s a good thing they’re cute since they have a taste for My Little Pony toys, which my roomy collects.  They stole one of her precious customs from a box which happened to be closed and on a bookshelf.  That’s when we discovered they could climb and had a taste for plastic.  That they’re still alive speaks to my roomy’s compassionate soul.  Or rather it speaks to the fact that she likes the extra toes a lot.

That’s a lot of cats.  But wait, there are more!
Cosmo.  Beware the soccer ball.

My roommate has two cats – a psychotic soccer ball-shaped cat named Cosmo, and a laid-back tabby named Buster.  They’re also old, though not as old as Bart.

Earlier this year, Kerri and I realized that Buster was losing weight.  This was great, since he was fat, but it was too quick and there were no dietary reasons for it.  So we brought him to the vet, and turns out he’d developed diabetes, a side-effect of a drug he was taking for an eye condition.

Buster.  Not always a cadeau.
Anyone with a diabetic cat knows how much work they are and how much of a commitment they represent.  They have to receive insulin twice a day, as close to 12 hours apart as possible.  And that’s only after getting it under control.  For a few weeks we had to bring him to the vet in the morning and pick him up at night so he could get his glucose curve, until the vet thought we had it under control.  (A diabetic cat also requires good friends willing to break into your house to administer insulin.)

So, if you’ve managed to keep track of this entry (gold star for you!), so far we have one diabetic cat, one seizure-ridden cat, one psychotic soccer ball-shaped cat (though that’s just his personality), and two kittens.  Right now you’re thinking, or at least should be: "So where the heck is the blessing of older cats?”

Good question.  And here is my answer.  Or my desperate justification.  Whatever.
Rare case of patient Cosmo.

I’m not a homebody.  My roommate is, but I’m not.  Except that now I have to be more of a homebody.  If she wants to go out for an evening, which let’s face it, is only good for both our mental health,  then I’m staying in (depending on time, event, etc…)  If my tabby is having a bad time, then I’m staying in.  If possible, I won’t have someone else put him down. My cat, my responsibility.

I’m getting more home time, which results in more writing time, more reading time, and just generally more ‘me’ time. 
Kitten boys.  All grown up.

And Bart and Buster became much more affectionate when they became ill, so staying home often includes a warm fuzzy body on your lap, resting and absorbing body heat.  That forces me to slow down, and to listen to that purr and enjoy it while it lasts.

Kittens are cute, but they’re work.  Older cats are also work, but in a different way.  They need more care and consideration.  And for me to slow down to their time, which is considerably slower than what I’m used to.

And that’s where they became a blessing instead of a burden.  At times they force you to slow down enough to notice their breath and yours, to take in the small sounds of your house, the comfort of your couch (I really love my couch), the feel of a book in your hands, the peace of focusing on only this moment and not the next, because this may be all there is, and it’s beautiful.  And fuzzy.

And totally worth missing a few nights out for.