How to Care for A Senior Pet
Smokey, My Aging Cat
I met Smokey in 2002 when I was volunteering with Pals for Paws. She was part of a feral cat colony that lived in the woods somewhere behind a business on Oaks Road in New Bern. There were a handful of cats of various ages, sizes, and colors living there. Several volunteers took turns feeding them morning and evening. We’d park behind the business and hike a trail in the woods to their spot.
We spread out about five cans of wet food and fill up bowls of fresh water and watched them dine. When it was my turn, I would talk to them and try to win their trust. The youngest of them was Smokey – a gray cat with a white spot on her chest. She would follow me down the trail when I was leaving – talking the whole time. We bonded before she even let me pet her.
By summer I dreaded hiking in the woods because it was so hot and full of mosquitoes. It dawned on me that I could take Smokey home and feed her in my air-conditioned house. The other volunteers thought this was a splendid idea.
We ended up trapping the whole group, taking them all to the vet, made sure they were all spayed and neutered and healthy and found homes for them all. Smokey came to live with me and fit in harmoniously with the rest of my pet household. I now had a balanced “petfolio” of three cats and three dogs. Smokey is the only pet left from that original group. The others have passed on. It’s tough watching her struggle with illness and the effects of old age.
She is smaller and lighter than she used to be. She no longer jumps up to the heights she could easily soar to in her youth. Arthritis keeps her slow and close to the ground. I leave some soft bedding in various rooms so she can rest more comfortably. I lift her onto my bed each night. Smokey was diagnosed with a thyroid condition a few years ago and can only eat special food. I try to vary her food a little even though it’s basically the same formulation. I may add water one day or heat the food in the microwave on another.
I place her dish on something to lift it a few inches off the floor so it’s easier on her neck when she bends over to eat. I groom her every day as she needs a little help. Her coat has dandruff so I brush her with a soft brush and wipe her down with a wet cloth being careful not to brush her spine.
After noticing a few accidents, I changed her litter box recently to one that is shallower with lower sides so she can get in and out with ease. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t hear me anymore either. So I move carefully near her so she isn’t startled. We visit the vet’s office more frequently for nail trims and wellness checks. Her numbers are good – for now.
Love & Comfort
I plan to keep her comfortable and well-cared for in her senior years. She still follows me around, enjoys resting in sun spots, loves to eat, and cuddles with me each night before bedtime. I wonder if I am doing enough. I hope so. I love her.
I have clients with older cats that seem healthier and more agile. Maybe Smokey’s mother was too young and stressed when she gave birth. Perhaps Smokey is missing some early comfort, love, nutrition, and safety that is influencing her aging process now. I do know that this once little cat from the woods fills a big space in my heart.