Creature Comforts

When I was asked recently if I still have cats at home, it occurred to me that I haven’t written about my two feline friends in quite some time. My main reason for this is that they have ceased to do anything interesting or naughty for the last several years. As kittens, their shenanigans provided much in the way of teaching points and pure entertainment, but once cats reach adulthood, they sleep 80 percent of the time, not leaving much room for strange and interesting behaviors to relate to anybody. Sleep, eat, litterbox, sleep, eat, repeat. They behave in a more dignified, mature and most boring way, now that they’re all grown up.

Not that my two aren’t amiable companions – they spend much of their awake time hanging about, usually on an end table by the couch or from some safe perch observing us or seeking the comfort of a warm lap. Wyatt has been known to sit on my lap snuggled amongst the almost ever-present dog or two, if he must. He uses all of his considerable mass to carve out a spot for himself, and then kneads my abdomen, purring loudly, (checking me for internal weaknesses?) until I tell him to quit it and he settles in for a serious snuggle. While he may nap, I would guess it’s not a restful sort of thing, as I can’t help but stroke his fur and kiss his forehead at intervals. Wyatt doesn’t seem to mind.

Meanwhile, I can feel all tension unwinding itself from my body – fur therapy’s the best. And the way I see it, with that many bodies on my lap at 102 F each, I can lower the thermostat setting a couple of degrees, saving heating costs!

Mine are two of the most laid-back cats on earth, and put up with being roughly molested by dogs half their size (Wyatt-tipping is a favorite sport amongst the younger dachshund set) at intervals throughout the day, should they dare to skulk past an alert dog and foolishly make eye contact. Virgil’s a bit of a dim bulb, seeming surprised each and every time a dog begins to run in his direction. As this has been a repeating process more than once a day for the last 7 years, I’d say he is not likely to wise up anytime soon.

I have gotten used to them simply being around and perhaps taken them for granted of late. The fact that they no longer knock over lamps while stalking flying insects or steal plastic straws from the drainboard next to the sink or perch on top of the refrigerator and nearly fall on my head when I unsuspectingly open it is probably contributing to my jadedness at their constant presence.

They do still sit on stuff. Important, delicate stuff, usually. Or stuff you’d rather not be covered in cat hair. While my children and my husband and I are used to this, we sometimes are caught by surprise at how quickly the cats appear in situations where we’d rather they would stay away. For example, my daughter and I picked out a piece of black felt for her school project. I admonished her to keep it safely sealed in its plastic package until she gets it to school. Because otherwise, it would most certainly become the best sleeping spot for two mostly white cats in the whole wide world. The only thing that would trump a piece of black felt would be perhaps black wool, or velvet – or a box of cupcakes.

Wyatt enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons with my husband and his friends. OK, well recline like an ogre on top of anything important to the game is more his style, but for some reason, the guys don’t appreciate his efforts to spice up the action. And for all his efforts to ingratiate himself with the players, he rarely scores even a crumb of cheese or whatnot as a reward. It usually ends in Wyatt being unceremoniously ejected from the room, at which time, he walks off in a huff and binges on whatever is left in his food bowl. He’s a stress-eater, like me.

Since Virgil chewed off all the cords for every mini-blind in our home, I have replaced all with cordless blinds. Now that he can’t die of a string foreign body or strangulation, it has freed up a lot of time for him to stare out the window. His favorite window being in our dank, unfinished basement, we don’t see much of Virgil during the daytime. He prefers to be undisturbed on his wobbly shelf for hours at a time.

On the rare occasions when there are no dogs at home, the cat welcoming committee enthusiastically greets any and all at the door, slathering on their exceedingly unctuous charm. They make a particular effort to become especially chummy with cat-haters and the violently allergic. They have been known to assist these people, in particular, with unpacking their belongings – something not all of our visitors seem to appreciate, for some reason.

Both cats still become most amorous toward humans who are attempting to take care of business, whether it be typing on the computer, writing a check, doing homework, or using the bathroom. I list these in increasing order of affection.

In my musings about my cats and how we have come to accept them in their peculiarities, and perhaps take their company for granted, I have come to a startling realization: they are 9 years old. We, in the veterinary community, consider any dog or cat over the age of 7 to be a senior citizen. My once naughty kittens are not only all grown up – they are already into their geriatric years! My, how time flies.

While my two mini-lions are getting older, they have been healthy all these years, so we have been lucky, so far. But there are things we do to continue to observe what might be flying below the radar, medically speaking, so we can act quickly to treat or prevent illnesses that become more common with advancing age.

Whether you call them “seniors,” or “mature adults,” or “geriatric,” or just old, the fact remains: animals age rapidly, and there are things we can and should be doing to ease them into their dotage. Early detection often means early intervention, treatment and better quality of life. Tune in next time for some advice on seeing pets comfortably through their senior years – so the fur therapy doesn’t have to end prematurely.

Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital.