Wednesday, March 23, 2011

For the Love of a Geriatric Cat

B.C. is almost 16 years old.  We've had him since he was 9 months old, a shelter kitty who got himself adopted by virtue of his friendliness.  Some soul with a marginal sense of humor had named him "Satan" at the animal shelter (simply because he's all black), but that name was totally wrong for him.  He's the most loving, friendly cat I've ever known - we call him "Puppy Cat" because of his friendliness, and habit of licking people he likes.  But, he's also the first cat I've owned for long enough for it to reach a ripe old age, and be going down the path to decline and passing.  My parents have been down this road several times with their cats in the past 10 years, and I remember going through it with both of our family dogs when I was younger.  It's the worst part of pet ownership, when a beloved animal family member loses their health and their faculties and has increasing difficulty with everyday things.

B.C. has developed kidney trouble, and behavior issues relating to that.  Long story short, it's not medically treatable, but he's not in any pain or discomfort.  But the behavior he's developed (marking in inappropriate places) has become a real issue.  We've tried repellent sprays, we've tried dietary changes, we've tried everything we can think of.  This week we decided to try keeping him in a large cage at night and while we had to be out of the house, to prevent him from leaving messes - he can be out while we're watching him.  Last night was his first night in the cage.  I fixed it up with a litter box, food and water, and some soft towels for him to sleep on.  I put him in last night right before I went to bed, and he seemed to be okay with the situation - puzzled, but not anxious our upset.  I came down this morning to find this:

He had destroyed the inside of the cage, and pulled over a container of soil I was sprouting seeds in (that I had thought was out of his reach).  He was crusted with what looked like damp cement, bedraggled and unhappy.  I let him out, and he ran off and left a trail of gray footprints all the way into the kitchen (time to mop again).  I caught up with him and washed off his paws, tail and legs with damp paper towels, a process he didn't seem to mind at all - it's not the first time he's walked through something and needed a washing (the most memorable occasion being when he walked through a paint can lid and left white paw prints all over the wood floor in the hallway of our old house - that time I just held him under the faucet to wash his paws, and he let me - remarkable).  Then, damp and spiky with half-dried ick in his fur, he marched back to one of his illicit marking spots (a spot protected by a plastic bag - we're not stupid), stared right at me, and marked again.  His displeasure and disdain for his treatement were glaringly obvious. 

So, I've cleaned up the floor, and vacuumed out the cage.  I'll wash out the cage with the hose later.  I have to wipe down the walls, which are a mess in spite of the protective plastic barrier I so carefully contrived to prevent "accidental" messes.  We don't have many options left.  Putting him down is not one of them (although a couple people have suggested it, I can't do it for behavioral reasons - I just can't).  We've decided that we'll have to create a bigger enclosure for him in the basement, using a small dog run cage, and that he'll have to spend most of his time there.  I find that so sad, but I don't know what else to do to give him a decent quality of life and still keep our house from being wrecked.  I feel guilty to realize that it would be easier overall if B.C. weren't here any more, even as my heart breaks to think that he's at the end of his life.  Love is hard, even when it's for an old pet instead of people.

There aren't any good solutions for the last decline of an older pet, but I'm open to ideas if you have them.  

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