Many of us know how hard it is to be a caregiver to a human; but being one to a pet is twice as hard. There is no way to make the pet understand that having continuous accidents on the floor, carpet and/or bed, takes its toll on the one who has to clean it up. There is no way for them to know how overwhelmingly exhausting it is to give medication to them several times per day and still have to make sure they eat, when you know without you coaxing them, they won’t. It is a thankless job but one that we do because we love them. When they reach the age where they are technically over 100, they can no longer control themselves and it’s really not their fault. Yet it’s still very hard on us, there’s no denying that. You can only pretend for so long that it’s not disgusting to pick up diarrhea three or four times per day. Why won’t they just go in the box? Because there is a big difference between a human having IBD and a cat having it. A cat just doesn’t have the control that we do. I’ve heard of people going so far as to cover their floors or carpets with plastic to make the cleanup easier.
But all of this aside, one thing is certain; these diseases wreck havoc on everyone. There are only so many medications to treat these symptoms in pets and they don’t always work. When they do work, it’s only for awhile until their bodies get used to it. Basically it’s hell to go through this with your pet and although Alex didn't have these particular symptoms with her IBD, I am currently caring for a senior kitty that does. It’s difficult to say how to handle this when I’m going through it myself. After Alex died I thought I’d have many more years before dealing with a senior kitty with special needs. But it is what it is and as I said, because we love them, we do it. That doesn’t mean however that we don’t have the right to have our moments. We may be loving parents but we are not perfect and we do need to vent once in awhile.
It’s easy to say “take some time for yourself, do something for you, or don’t let the stress get to you.” That’s all well and good but there aren’t any days we can tell the kitty, “okay I want today off, you’re on your own”. There are no vacations and no sick days for us. One thing I will say is to find a good peer group to talk to. There are so many of them online and it’s never tough to find someone who is going through the same thing. Be aware also when dealing with another pet parent who is crashing that they need the kind of love and support that they are offering you. Telling them to “be strong because their kitties need them” is counter-productive and just feels like more pressure. While good intentioned, it’s not something anyone wants to hear. They want to know that it’s about them and they have your full attention. Tell them you understand and that you’re either going through the same thing now or you’ve also been through it before. They need to know they aren’t alone, not be reminded of what they already know. Just listen with an open heart and mind, that’s all most people need, want and appreciate. If you know someone who’s suffering from caregiver exhaustion, let them know you care.