Being a cat-parent is exhausting — all that running around, cleaning up puke and poop, and rarely getting a moment to myself.
I can empathize with you who are parents to humans, and I’m getting a taste of what you must go through daily with my senior pet.
My cat Yoshi is 18 years old or older — I don’t know, as I try to keep his age a secret from myself. I said he was 18 last year, but if I do the math from when I got him until now, I think he’s just turning 18.
That’s approximately 126 in people years.
Since we live a few miles away from Hollywood, Yoshi looks deceptively young. It must be his 24/7 staff that caters to his every need that helps him to look youthful.
His fluffy grey fur hasn’t lost any of its shine, his eyes are bright, and he’s not super smelly all the time — just when he passes gas or has indigestion.
Yoshi can’t jump the way he used to because of his arthritis, but every now, when other people are there to witness, he’ll jump from the cat tree to the dining room table. Jumping takes a lot of energy for him, but it does show he’s got a little kitten in him.
Senior pets take a lot more care than other pets.
One of the great things about cats is that when they’re no longer a kitten and have settled down a bit, they don’t need constant care. As long as they’re fed, watered, their litterbox is clean, and they get a little affection — they’re good.
But when they get to their senior years, they become a combination of an elderly human and a small child; they’re super-needy, need constant supervision, and don’t always have the best instincts.
I’m not saying that old pets are more work than kids, but as a woman who’s childless, having a senior pet gives me some insight into what moms and dads must go through.
Some ways in which caring for a senior pet looks a lot like caring for a small child.
Both need constant attention:
Anti-cat people often say that dogs are much more loving than cats. That cats are aloof and that they don’t care if they ever get any affection. I’ve found that many cats have a definite need for love, tenderness, and devotion.
Throughout the day, our cats will come to us for petting, neck-scratching, and holding, especially Yoshi. At night, he has to have an affection-session before I go to bed, or he’ll pace the house the whole night with his signature caterwauling.
Some cats may need more emotional support as they age, and others may prefer to be left alone. They may become more dependent on relationships and require more attention — Richard Goldstein, DVM
Silence isn’t golden; it’s nonexistent.
Yoshi needs a lot of attention, and when he’s not getting the amount of care and affection he desires, he’s very vocal about it. He yowls at all hours of the day and night, he complains when he doesn’t get dinner on time, and he meows instructions on how to feed him — as if we don’t know how to do it.
When you don’t have a large vocabulary or any words, you’re going to have to do what you can to express yourself. Much like purring (which can mean everything from I’m content to I’m scared), crying has many meanings. A child may cry when they’re tired, sad, or frustrated, and the same is true with an animal.
Both older pets and young kids are curious.
They need to check everything out — even if they’ve seen it countless times beforehand. With kids, there’s the wonder of the world that they’ve yet to discover, and with senior pets, they’ve forgotten much of what they used to know, and everything is new again to them. Also, senior pets, like senior adults, don’t always trust their memories and need to do a lot of double-checking.
It’s necessary to “proof” your house.
When you have a child in the house, you need to make sure that their living environment is safe. Some of the ways that you can childproof your home is by putting covers over electrical outlets, making sure that heavy objects are securely mounted, and putting up safety gates. These same safety precautions also can work for a senior pet.
Also, with senior pets, you have to make sure they have stools to help them get up onto beds, don’t have access to poisonous materials, and that anything breakable is out of paws reach.
Both cats and toddlers deal in the currency of poop.
Toddlers wear diapers, and some senior pets do too. You can toilet train a toddler, but a senior pet may require pee-pads, extra litterbox cleaning, and random areas that have been turned into spur-of-the-moment toilets.
Senior pets and toddlers are all about themselves.
Neither toddlers nor pets care if you’re exhausted, sick, or are going through a tough time. If either a toddler or a senior pet needs attention and you’ve got a stomach ache, they’re still going to jump on you or paw at you until you give them your focus.
They eat anything that they see.
The idea that cats have such fantastic instincts that they’d never eat anything harmful for them is an absolute lie. My cat knows that plastic is terrible for him, but we still have to be diligent to keep it out of reach so that he won’t eat it.
Small children think nothing of sticking a rock they found in their mouth or some of the dog food that didn’t make the bowl. Kids live by the two-second rule — only since they can tell time, something could have fallen on the floor hours before, and it’s still considered yummy.
They both have bursts of energy after going number two.
After Yoshi uses the litter box, he runs like a speed demon from the bathroom to the opposite end of the house. I’ve seen more than one child laugh hysterically after they’ve filled their diaper — knowing full well the joke is on whoever is on diaper-duty.
They don’t like to get cleaned up, but they can’t do it themselves.
With senior cats, it’s commonplace for things like poop balls to get stuck in the fur around their butt or for them to step in that pile of dinner that they just vomited up. However, they squirm and sometimes lash out when we attempt to clean them up.
Kids are the same way. Try wiping them down after they’ve dumped their ice-cream on top of themselves — it’s a physical challenge. They get wiggly when you try to wipe off a spot on their face with an old tissue the way your grandma used to do.
They’re not aware of their limitations.
It’s lovely the way kids and senior pets don’t know fear or remember the causes of pain. Nothing holds them back, which is why both parents and caregivers must be watchful. They can’t be responsible for themselves, so it’s up to us to take care of them and make sure that they’re protected and safe at all times.
There’s joy in taking care of others, whether they’re human or animals, and it’s a privilege to be able to give back and to do something for someone else.