Blog Nerves
Blind, Blinkered Bush

Geriatric Cats

Taxi had another seizure last night.  Unfortunately for us, rather than sleeping at the foot of the bed, where we have a towel laid out for her, she was up near our shoulders, lying between us.  By the time her howling roused me, it was too late to get anything under her.  Once again, we had to strip the bed.

She's fine this morning.  Her seizures follow a very specific pattern.  She's asleep when they hit her (of course, these days she's asleep 85% of the time), and she howls while her body shakes and shivers.  One of the first times I observed this, I tried to move her, and got my arms badly shredded.  I know that I just have to wait.  It seems like a long time before the worst of it subsides, but it's probably only twenty or thirty seconds.

Despite the fact that she's been having these for over a decade, her expression when she comes out of it is the same -- "What the hell was that!?"  She breathes heavily for a bit, gulping a little.  Then, she gets up and paces rapidly around the room (she's also quite obese -- although less so as she's gotten older -- and the sight of her pacing rapidly would be amusing if she weren't so clearly in distress), before she remembers that there's only one thing that can comfort her -- food!  She heads for the food dish and inhales as much as she can.   Once she's got a full tummy again, she's back to normal.

I've looked into feline seizures, and there are medications that could be prescribed.  I've hesitated, for the same reason that I never tried to treat her obesity chemically.    She was three years old when she began to grow alarmingly.  I'd adopted her and her sister when I moved into the apartment on Compton & Halliday.  My first wife was a fiber artist.  We both loved cats, but with beads and yarn and whatnot all over the house, we didn't think it was practical.  So when I moved out, I was looking for three things -- cheap rent (since most of my money was still going to support her), good air-conditioning, and cats.  The manager of the third apartment building I looked into had a cat that had just had three kittens.  His girlfriend was claiming one, but he said I could have the other two if I took the apartment.  I named them Merline and the Princess von Taxicab.

At the time that Taxi began her dramatic expansion, I was carefully controlling the cats' diet, so it was clear that this was not an issue of overeating, although on the advice of the vet, I cut back even further and changed to a diet formula catfood.  Made no difference.  But despire her weight gain, and the seizures that began about the same time, she was the most good-natured, pleasant, and all around happiest kitty.  Putting her on a variety of drugs that had the potential to disrupt that didn't seem sensible to me.  Better to keep a close eye on her during what was likely to be a fairly short life and if she ever appeared to be suffering from her ailments, I'd take whatever measures seemed appropriate to keep her comfortable.

Who knew that she'd make it to fifteen, still as charming as ever, and actually trimmer and more agile than she's been in some years?  (These are relative terms, of course -- one would never use the words "trim" or "agile" in describing Taxi in comparison with other cats).  I've given up wondering how long she'll last, just grateful for the fact that she's still around.

It could be awhile.  Housecats generally live longer than those that are allowed outside, and we've always been strict about that.  Lynn's alter ego, Molly, is twenty (?) and, despite increasing decrepitude, shows little signs of giving up her privileged position as grande dame of the house.  We assume that it's primarily because, after spending her life looking after Lynn, she can't imagine leaving her alone with those other four cats, none of whom can be trusted to do the systematic, daily patrols of the house that Molly still makes a part of her regular routine.  She's pretty cranky at this point in her life, and extremely demanding.  She gets a little pill for her thyroid condition twice a day, which Lynn mixes up with babyfood, and by the time I get home in the evening to start fixing supper, she'll be in the kitchen telling me in no uncertain terms that she needs to get her medicine before I waste any time fixing the people food.  Of course she gets what she wants.

We tell ourselves that we have cats because they're self-sufficient and can tolerate our travel schedules in ways that dogs never could.  "Self-sufficient" is a bit of a misnomer -- it's not that they can get along without us -- they're housecats after all.  But they do have us extremely well-trained.




When Taxi has a seizure on our bed in the middle of the night, it is disorienting for every warm-blooded life form in the house. The other cats scatter, coming around after it's all over to sniff at Taxi suspiciously, because the odor she gives off is less than pleasant. Because Taxi doesn't smell like Taxi, sometimes Beaches or Sasha will growl at her...confusing Taxi all the more ("what did I do"?) So Scott and I are trying to play kitty cop while we strip the bed.

The whole changing of the linens routine is a complete nusiance. Scott is not actually awake, so he usually stands in the middle of the bedroom, semi-conscious, while I go off to locate a clean comforter, blanket, sheets, etc. Many of our comforters won't fit into our washing machine, so finding a clean comforter seems to be a perpetual problem. For several weeks now, I have been driving around with one in the back seat of my car until I can find a couple of precious hours to spend at a laudromat with high-capacity washers. In the morning after Taxi has gone through this, I spend at least an hour sending the stuff that will fit through the washer and dryer.

Geriatric cats - each of them is unique. Taxi, unlike her sister Merline, is indeed very sweet and affectionate. She's too big and fat and old to crawl up on Scott's lap anymore. All she hopes for is that someone will pat her on the head and rub her ears...even if it's just with your foot. She loves visitors and houseguests.

Merline, Taxi's sister, is another story. When she moved in with us she had an attitude. She is uncredibly messy in every manner of her aspect, almost completely antisocial, and seems to be in a perpetual scowl. We spend a lot of time cleaning up her messes, and with no thanks from her!

It is very clear to me that Molly feels she has heavy "responsibilities" that we humans just don't understand. When she went missing for several very cold days a couple of years ago, I was beside myself. I just knew she would die of hyperthermia, tangle with another animal, get hit by a car. She was old and not familiar with life on the outside. After days of searching, I finally found her a block or two away, hanging around a neighbor's hot tub. It figures.

Sasha defines 9 lives. She's been lost twice, and she's so sneaky and quick that she's the first one we look for when we find a door that hasn't been firmly closed. One of us will yell "CAT PATROL", and all the humans in the house spring into action. I don't know what magic potion Sasha got into that keeps her spry, svelt, and racing around the house like a banshee at 17. Maybe it's the Siamese on her father's side (she certainly has those big blue eyes). If a side effect is incontinence, then so be it.

Four geriatric cats and one overgrown kitten, Beaches. Marian rescued Beaches 6 years ago from underneath a motel at Gulf Shores when Beaches was about 3 weeks old. We bottle fed her. At first she followed Molly around everywhere (much to Molly's disgust). Now she follows Scott around like a dog, pawing at the door of his study and crying pitiously if he is in there and she is not.

It is now taking me about 30 minutes each time I clean the litter boxes. There are five of them, and the process involves vacuuming or sweeping up the scattered litter and replacing the newspapers placed strategically around them to help with the accidents and near misses. And then there are the accidents that don't make the papers. Our carpet is disgusting and I have plug-in deoderizers in every room for obvious reasons. Every time one of us walks in the door, we check to make sure all of the cats are still with us.

Why do we put up with this? Because pets touch our hearts in places that other humans cannot seem to reach. Pets rely on us for almost everything, yet they can't really explain their needs (as hard as they might try). When Marian's second cat Katie Kitty suddenly died a week or two ago at the tender age of two, she left Marian in a feline free state for the first time in more than twenty years. As Marian said, it just doesn't feel right without cats in the house.


Lynn & Scott -

I can identify with everything you both wrote - geriatric cats, incontinent cats, epileptic pets (mine was a dog), even changing the bed linen in the middle of the night - but I'm always relieved to hear that other people have horrid carpet and an excessive number of room deodorizers! After having cats most of my life, it's only in the last few years, when I became aunt/step-mother to my sister's very emotional male cat that I became aware of what cats could do to carpet. If Simon wasn't the sweetest cat I've ever known, he would be out on the street. But I would miss him terribly, as would my other kitty, so I just keep buying air freshener and stain remover....

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