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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Caring for a Senior Kitty


Caring for a senior kitty is no easy task. Most kitties these days are able to live well into their teens, barring any unforeseen problems. Alex was only 11 when she died but she of course had numerous health issues that eventually took her life. My cat before her, Patches, lived to be 20. She had a few urinary tract infections in her older years but was otherwise very healthy; which is ironic considering the awful diet we fed her (I was oblivious to pet food issues then). She eventually succumbed to CRF. By the time we discovered her condition it was too late, treatment did not help. So we said our goodbyes to a long life, well lived.

It doesn’t matter how long you have them for, it’s always devastating to say goodbye. When I took Alex in, I wrongly assumed I’d have her as long as I had Patches. And of course, I did not. Now I care for my sister’s elderly cat, Midnight who most likely has IBD and CRF. She’s estimated to be around 17 or 18 years old and has been on a rollercoaster this year. Taking care of an elderly human is stressful but a senior kitty who needs daily sub-q fluids, pills, appetite stimulants to eat, etc.; some days I am beyond tired running up and down the stairs. I never know how her day will be when I get up. One day she’s fine, the next she is throwing up and won’t eat. At her age it’s imperative that she keep eating so on occasion I syringe feed her when she’s on a hunger strike.

I never had a break after Alex died. Shortly after she passed away my sister moved back home with her then two elderly kitties; Moufasa and Midnight. Mouffey was a flame point Siamese with a large personality and a big mouth to match, LOL. He could practically form works and knew how to say hello. Right away I could see I would have to take over their care as Moufasa had severe diarrhea. I put him on a raw diet and voila! Diarrhea gone, just like that! Things went well until almost two years later, Mouffey began losing weight. He had a mass in his stomach and he was growing weaker by the day. I came home one day to find it was time to let him go. I still miss him very much, he was so funny! But I have had no time to rest as Midnight became sick afterwards. His symptoms were much easier to handle as she is a tough case. She reminds me a lot of how Alex was except Midnight has diarrhea and Alex didn’t. Truth be told I have wondered why I am the designated kitty caretaker. But that’s exhaustion talking because I do know why. Because of my experience with Alex, Mouffey and Midnight would most likely not have lived as long or have had this quality of life.

It’s not easy; we all know it and its okay to admit it. We get frustrated, upset and emotional about it. But I also would not change one day of caring for them. I love and adore them and they know it. Even with all the things I do to her, pills, needles, etc., she still runs to me and wants kisses. A friend recently stated that she is lost without her routine of doing her kitty’s meds. She is heartbroken to have lost her senior kitty but part of her is relieved and that’s how I felt after Alex died. It’s so hard not to be able to go anywhere for long periods of time, having to spend all of your money on medications and fluids, etc. And it’s okay that you feel that way. It in no way makes you a bad parent! On the contrary, it makes you human. You are NOT a superhuman who can do everything for everyone all the time and never feel compelled to run away from your reality.

What makes you a great pet parent is doing all you do for them, feeling those feelings and knowing in your heart of hearts, you wouldn’t make a different choice. It’s not in you - your love for them comes first and why not? They deserve it. But know this; once in awhile…it’s okay to exhale. Just breathe!!! They’re okay with that…really! And when it’s time to say goodbye to your long time furry love, know that it’s okay to feel so many different things, including relieved, for you and for them. It’s normal and part of the grieving process. When it’s Midnight’s time to go, I will be crushed. She is as sweet and loving as they come. But I also know I will have done everything for her that I possibly could and then some. And then, maybe…I will be able to exhale.

12 comments:

Bam teach said...

You don't realize how much time and effort you are doing until they are gone. Those last years with Natasha were tiring but she was such a sweetie that it was worth it until the last week. To know when it is time is hard but I felt that it was her time. To keep her until the last second would have been
selfish. ....I am sorry that you haven't had time to just enjoy them without the worry. I am enjoying my time watching Alex and Juliette play, wrestle, and groom each other. I don't take it for granted at all. You have been such a good cat nurse. You have helped so many.....Thank you...

Evangeline said...

This should be very comforting for everyone taking care of elderly kitties. Excellent advice~Yes it really is OK to exhale!

IBDKitties said...

Thank you so much. I do wish I had time to just enjoy my healthy ones. But I also know that someday that time will come and I will miss Midnight with all of my heart. I try to remember that when I am tired. Glad your kitties are doing so well!

IBDKitties said...

I thought it important to let people give themselves permission to feel the way they do. I know sometimes people just don't want to admit how little energy they really have after caring for their babies.

Artie's mom said...

I've heard some people talk about "survivor's guilt" after a loved one (with an illness) dies. I think many pet owners experience this sorrow tinged with relief and guilt after a pet with a long illness dies. I certainly experienced this after my senior cat died after battling heart failure. I know I will experience these same feelings when Elvin dies. It is a relief to know that others also experience these same emotions. You are correct--it doesn't make us bad pet parents to feel these emotions.

IBDKitties said...

That's exactly what I was saying. that's how I felt after Alex died. Guilt and relief, sorrow, sadness, you name it! There's so much overloaded on us and when it's over, it all comes spilling out.

Anonymous said...

it is true - when my Aunt was very ill, I did what I had to do, but at one point she was no longer even aware of anything, and I prayed for it to be her time. Not because I wanted to let her go, but it was time & she would not have wanted it that way. In a sense, I feel better that at least you can release your beloved pet and not have to watch them suffer. It is a relief though when you are able to sit back & say I did all I could & now they are at peace. Lisa you are awesome! Tig, Maizy, SMitty & Felix's momma

IBDKitties said...

That must have been so very hard. It is really tough to watch someone you love suffer. And it's true, at least we can let our pets go humanely and know we did the right thing for them. I think praying for the suffering to end is compassionate. There comes a point where you know that person would want it that way.

Peg Keeley said...

Cared for Cookie till she was 19. As she had always been kinda of mentally slow she never knew she was getting old and would play like a kitten up until the last few months. Her old age came on very quickly then. We were in the midst of Miranda's care at the time and I sometime hope I did not miss something developing with Cookie because Miranda required so much attention. My sweet Cookie went from my arms to the bridge. We were blessed by Dr. Lisa coming to the house instead of taking her to the office. Now walking the path with aging human parents and hospice. That black cloud feeling that something is going to happen but I don't know when is the same.

Michele said...

I'm just learning the challenges of caring for an elderly cat and it is nice to learn that I am not alone in the days of frustration and roller coaster emotions. We just went through a terrible weekend of food refusal which also meant medication refusal (fortunately no seizures thank heaven, but some severe discomfort). Then, as quickly as the not eating began, she decided to eat again. The relief of seeing her acting like her "normal" self is WONDERFUL, but at the same time it's hard because what if the next time she begins to refuse food it's because things are shutting down and her biological clock is telling her it's that time. However, NOTHING brings me more joy than her midnight purring, or her morning vocalizations when it's time for me to get up and prepare her breakfast.

Tucker The Crestie said...

Great post, Lisa!

IBDKitties said...

Michele you definitely are in that challenging situation. Ugh, I remember those awful feelings of never knowing what's going to happen. I still have them now with Midnight. It's really hard but try to relax a little and do something special for you. Listen to some soft music or go for a walk and get away. If you have some water by you, like a lake or river, maybe take a bit and sit by the water to relax.