A Day in the Life of a Senior Kitty and Her Mom

Another article in celebration of Peaches’ 100th Birthday.

cat peaking over blanket

The usual awakening.

Peaches didn’t awaken me this morning. All the black cats were on me or on my bed and Cookie was curled in the position of honor on my left against my ribs where she could feel my heart beat against her back. Kelly was having a bath on the sunny windowsill in hall and Dickie peeked in on his way from his favorite bed in the bathroom to the steps. I watched the doorway for a minute or two thinking she’d come upstairs once she noticed the activity. But no Peaches.

Not all my cats sleep with me every night, and not all participate in my awakening in the morning. But usually any cat who is in some chronic condition will be there in the morning or will show up in the doorway, make eye contact with me, our way of checking in with each other. If they don’t, it may not be a good sign. Peaches is very consistent and usually sleeps on me, and if not she doesn’t let me sleep late so this likely meant she wasn’t feeling well in one way or another.

She was fine last night, I thought, or just a few hours ago when I finally got to bed, and she was great all day yesterday. Things can change unexpectedly when the kitty is in chronic renal failure, though, so I bypassed my usual wakeup routine, put my glasses over my sore eyeballs and headed straight for the stairs.

She looked up at me from the butterfly rug where she was settled with all paws curled underneath, but she didn’t sit up or get up, and I could see her eyes were not as round and open as usual. Begin the diagnosis: she is dehydrated to a certain extent, she may be feeling some general indigestion as a side effect of the renal failure we’ve been fighting, and she might be constipated, an issue for Peaches as long as she’s been with me and common since she’s been in fluid therapy, plus she’d been eating very well but I hadn’t seen a significant “deposit” from her yesterday.

Well, let’s see how she eats at breakfast. Sometimes she’s a little sluggish. I was just buying time, though; I knew this wasn’t the case.

This was a very busy day ahead, I had stayed up late to get work done and especially made sure Peaches was in good shape so I wouldn’t have to worry while I was out. I really didn’t have time to fuss and fret over Peaches, but of course I would.

man and cat

My brother Mark and Cookie take a break from yardwork.

What was on the agenda for today? Complete minor corrections to design jobs customers had sent over yesterday; pick up post cards and greeting cards for the show I’m having Friday through Sunday, deliver them to another printer to score and fold, pick up the ones that are done, pack in boxes; call the nursing home I’d be moving my mother to later this week; call the personal care home she currently lived in and make arrangements to pack her belongings and settle paperwork; pick up a check from a customer at noon, deposit; order greeting card boxes; talk to disabled brother about his budget for May; work on a few of the bigger jobs on my desk right now; photograph some of the new pieces for the show; visit mom in the hospital…I knew I’d be out or otherwise occupied all day, so I got as much in order as I could before I went to bed.

Each of us has days that are full, and herein lies the quandary of caring for a chronically ill pet. When I worked away from home I was always frantic about leaving my cats when I knew they were ill. I also didn’t know symptoms and simple treatments as I do now. Working at home, even when I’m out for a good bit of the day, and with two family members who regularly need care, paperwork or more, I have the flexibility to treat my cats throughout the day. But I give thanks to all the senior cats who’ve come before and taught me what to look for and what to do.

Peaches came in the kitchen, ate a little dry food, ate a little canned food, then left. Eating in general is good, but Peaches usually eats like she didn’t just eat a few hours ago, pacing around on her countertop, waving her paw at me until she gets her food, focusing entirely on it until the first serving is done, having a good long drink of water. This could mean many things, and it was up to me to figure out.

She was on the butterfly rug again when I went to my computer a little later, and didn’t move to jump onto my lap, as usual. I looked at her and felt just a flash of irritation, then concern.

peaches and Kelly on the butterfly rug

Peaches and Kelly

Right now Peaches is a priority, not just because she’s my sweet little senior cat and her birthday is Saturday, but also because at her age and in renal failure, she can crash fast. I’ve seen her feeling fine in the morning, by evening her skin feels like bread dough and I need to get a reasonable dose of sub-Q fluids into her, and it will often take until the middle of the next day before she’s eating well again and feeling comfortable. So, let’s start the triage, then I can observe her while I get some work done before I leave the house, which means working with one eye on Peaches and getting up to follow her if she gets up to leave the room, which I’ve been doing for so many years with a succession of cats that it’s second nature now.

First, Petromalt, which I found long ago softens up nicely in the pocket of my bathrobe so that when you shove it in the cat’s mouth they can’t spit it back out in a lump. Peaches got two half-inch gobs, all of which went in. Ooo, not happy.

Second, just in case she’s developed any type of an infection, I take her temperature, finding it normal but also serving to grease up her other end. Just in case she is constipated, the thermometer and the petroleum jelly will help to dislodge something that may be in the way. Peaches has had bowel problems since before she was with me, and even on a mostly wet food diet with fiber supplement and a little sip of milk every few days—nope, I don’t like to give them milk either, but I discovered years ago that the extra fluid plus the fat in the milk can help an older cat with hairballs and constipation, and a tablespoon won’t hurt—she’ll still have occasional problems.

Third, aforementioned milk. Peaches was mad at me and ran, she’s a little suspicious but forgets she’s mad when she sees her dish and the milk carton. She doesn’t finish it, also not a good sign.

photo of two tortie cats

Cookie and Kelly at the computer

Let her sit, get more work done. Posting on Facebook, calling to confirm my order for greeting card boxes, calling printer to ensure my printing is done. Peaches leaves several times, always just to the water bowl in the kitchen and back; this is good. I make one more call, and off goes Peaches, headed for the basement. I finish my call and follow.

I’m not sure if she’s not entirely comfortable with any of the ten litterboxes in the house, but Peaches no longer uses one, even the empty, fairly flat one I added just for her. She prefers the floor in two areas. Fine, I can clean up after that very easily, and it’s almost convenient because I always know what she’s “done”; this can be hard to tell in a house with nine cats unless I confine her, which upsets her.

photo of calico cat

Do I look hungry enough?

Okay, there’s number 1 in the number 1 area, then number 2 in the number 2 area. Good girl! Yes, it was more than her usual, so that likely was the problem. Clean up, back up to the kitchen. After a little clean-up on the butterfly rug, Peaches is actually hungry.

I call my neighbor who recently graduated from vet tech school and who watched my cats while I was away three weeks ago, leaving a message asking if she has the time for fluids for Peaches. I can dose Peaches myself but it’s a little bit of a struggle. I also like Teri’s help; she will make a wonderful vet tech some day when the job market opens up again. Peaches really likes her and is completely relaxed when the two of us give her fluids; I also like being able to help Teri keep her hands in the business while she’s applying for jobs and working in a pet food store.

So between other phone calls and getting work done for customers, I feed Peaches a little at a time as she asks. By mid-morning she’s resting on my lap, by late morning when I’m ready to start my errands—a little later than anticipated because I wanted to be sure she was comfortable before I left—she is pretty much back to normal.

This was an easy morning, made easier by years of experiences with many other cats growing older. With each one I sharpened my observational ability, learned a new physical skill in caring for them such as dosing subcutaneous fluids, learned a lesson in symptoms and side effects, learned to control my fears and relax because I’d project my feelings on the cat, sensitive to me in return, and only make the situation worse.

Being an artist I’m attuned to minute physical changes in familiar things, especially my cats. After finding a veterinarian who didn’t wave me off when, for instance, I said my cat’s eyes weren’t as big as they normally were, I learned to trust these observations as well learning that a squint can be a sign of pain and sunken eyes appearing smaller than normal can be a sign of dehydration.

photo of my mother

My mother two years ago.

And I’ve been able to use the knowledge I’ve gained in treating my cats to understand the same illnesses in humans, and vice versa. My mother has a history of illnesses and surgeries, including with the lung cancer surgery and subsequent COPD, renal failure and congestive heart failure that necessitated her move to personal care several years ago. I had learned about renal failure prior to that from treating one of my cats, so I understood what was happening with her when I saw the symptoms.

And when my Namir was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure he was prescribed the same medications as my mother, and it was comforting to be familiar with what each would do for him.

In fact, I had the same conversation with my mother’s doctor and with my veterinarian on nearly the same day about the importance of hydration: if we could keep these older bodies hydrated they’d be much healthier generally, my mother’s medications would work better, my cats would have a better appetite, both would have more vitality and their organs would function better and for longer. It’s a struggle to get my mother to drink enough liquids, and I can’t just pop a needle under her skin to hydrate her as I can my cats, and it’s always a comfort to me when I see the sometimes miraculous recovery after a simple dose of fluids.

watercolor painting of rainbow and hearts

Original sketch for Heal Your Heart.

I ran all my errands, made all my calls, checked on Peaches, checked on my mother, at the end of another day all is as well as it can be. I still have hours of packaging and tagging merchandise for the upcoming sale, and I can use those hours to muse about the spectrum of life, the slower span of humans arching over the faster span of our companion animals like the arcs of the rainbow where, perhaps, we all mingle at the end.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

My Feline Garden Sprites

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

A Poem Dedicated to an Old Cat

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

Cookie Reminisces

On The Conscious Cat

How to Care for Your Older Cat

Donate to FosterCat Through Other Blogs and Websites

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.

Cookie Reminisces

Even though Cookie doesn’t want to admit it, this is another article celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday. Cookie is my main tortie, and though she’s two years younger than Peaches she’s been with me the longest of any cat currently in my household, and she has many stories to tell. She’s also been a very special friend of mine all these years for reasons you’ll read in her story.

photo of tortie cat

Cookie Ponders

I just don’t understand all this fuss about Peaches. I mean, I know she’s an old cat, but so am I, except that I’m “mature” where Peaches is just “old”.

It’s not hard to get “old”, really it just happens. What is more interesting is how you get there. And you have to have a good human who will take care of the important things for you.

I have lived my life in service to my mom, and I have let no other living thing, human, feline or otherwise, come before her. To me, and to the rest of us, she is like Freya, goddess of just about everything that is worth living for, and I have happily served as one of her chariot cats all my life.

Most people don’t know that tri-color cats have an excellent memory, and can recall everything we’ve experienced through our lives. It’s one of the reasons tri-color cats have been considered good luck through history, though most humans think it’s only because of our unique coloring. That extra gene that gives us our tri-color coat also gives us an extra ability both to remember and to perceive. Sometimes, we can be a little irritable, but it’s only because we’re processing an awful lot of information.

So I remember all the way back to my beginning, which was pretty grim.

There were four of us kittens with our mother and we were pretty happy and warm in our little box in a house until someone in the house decided we should be raised outdoors “like real cats” and put us outside. I was very young and still nursing, only tasting real food now and then.

Our mom moved us to a safe place then went off to get some food since she was told to “fend for herself”. We never saw her again, though we called and called for her.

Other little humans heard us, though, and led some other big humans to where our mom had hidden us. We were so hungry all we could do was cry. Unfortunately by that time two of my sisters were silent and we knew we’d never hear them again.

One of the big humans picked up my sister and one of the little humans picked up me and the big human told the little one that we needed special food and it might be a lot of work, but that we were probably old enough to survive if we got enough food.

So I went off with the little human, but not to live happily ever after. It seems his mom wanted no parts of me, even though he already had another feline in the house. He brought me inside overnight because she didn’t notice, but the next day she would put me outside. I really don’t understand some humans.

But he fed me and he played with me and I understood that he really loved me, so I stayed close to his house and when he came outside to look for me it made him so happy when I’d magically appear from under a bush or around the side of the house.

He always managed to feed me something, but there were times when there wasn’t much. Then the weather got colder and colder, and I heard him and all the other humans talking about how we hadn’t had “snow”, that icky cold wet stuff that gets on everything when it’s cold outside, “that early in winter”. When there wasn’t snow it was just cold, and it really hurt my paws.

pastel painting of snow in morning

Morning Snow 1, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

One day I had had enough. Cold wet snow was falling fast and I just started walking. I found a spot where warm air was flowing out of a little window and I settled underneath it, since it was somewhat dry there. I heard the boy calling and when he got close enough I came out and he picked me up and began to carry me back to where we lived.

We stopped on the way to talk to a big human in a little house I had passed. While he held me and proudly told her “this is my kitty”, I could see there were other cats in the house looking out the windows. They looked so warm and happy I could only wish, but I knew my future was in this icky outdoors. Still, I heard her say, “If your mom puts her back outside, just bring her here.”

And later that day his mom came home and literally tossed me out the door into the snow, which was really deep and wet by then. He brought me back in, and I heard them on the phone, her saying, “I don’t care if that cat dies it’s not coming in here, he already has one…”

Then he put me in his coat and in a minute we were back at the lady’s house. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll take care of her, and you can visit.”

So we went inside and she put me in a nice warm room by myself then left. There was a bowl of food and a bowl of water but I was so tired and confused after my awful day that I ignored it at first and just curled up on a nice soft bed and fell asleep.

The lady came back in and picked me up to take me to another room with bright lights. She sat on the floor and put me on her lap and talked to me while she gently ran her hands all over me, pulled on my ears, lifted my face and looked right into my eyes, lifted each of my paws and felt all my toes. Any other time I’d have given her a piece of my mind at treatment like this, but it wasn’t like the kids outside would do, and besides I was kind of in a stupor in the warmth with food and gentle petting.

I curled myself up on her lap really tightly and started on the second toe on my left hind foot. “Hmmm…” she said, picked me up and looked at my foot, pulling my toes apart and looking really closely. Then she let my paw go and I went back to it with my toe, feeling a big profound purr begin deep inside me, but again she took my foot and inspected it and let it go. This time she just petted me while I worked on my toe and after a while I heard her say, “Oh, little kitty, you’re nursing on your toe…” Well, when I lost my mom and then my sister and I was alone a lot, I needed something for comfort. What could it hurt?

photo of tortie cat in basket

Cookie in the basket.

I stayed in the warm, quiet room with the food bowl and the lady came to visit a few times a day with food in a little can—yum! I heard the other cats outside and we sniffed under the door at each other. She petted me and talked to me and called me “Chocolate”, but I was still wary and usually kept my distance when she came in, acting unconcerned, except when she sat down and then I could curl up on her lap and work on my toe. I just knew this had to end, and I wasn’t going to get too accustomed to the room or to her since I had loved the little boy too, and had to leave there. I had lost my mother and all my sisters, and I wasn’t taking any chances anymore.

But one morning when she came in and cheerily said, “Good morning, Chocolate!” I impulsively turned and walked over to her, put my tail up and asked her a question with just my eyes, “I’m staying here, aren’t I?”

“Oh, little kitty, I’m so glad you’re happy to be here!” Humans can be very intuitive too. I knew I was right. And I knew that I’d be devoted to this person for all my life. Eighteen years later, I still am. In fact, right now I’m properly draped across her lap, right paw extended and my chin resting on her right wrist as she types, and just a little purr is intended to massage her wrist and to relax me. Mom is working and I am attentive as her kitty in waiting. We are very happy.

photo of two tortie cats

Cookie and Kelly at the computer

I have seen many changes since the day she let me out of that room and I officially joined the household (and I had no idea until some time later that I nearly left with someone who was looking to adopt a tri-color kitty who ended up with Sunshine, a calico who had been wandering the neighborhood as well as me). I was the youngest then; now I’m the second oldest, but I’ve been here the longest. I grew to love all the cats who were here when I came for what they taught me, even those who came for a while then left, and all the others who came and stayed and are still here. I even managed to get over my pique when my mom took in another tortie, that scrawny, noisy Kelly who is so un-tortie in so many ways, and now it’s hard to believe that Kelly is a senior cat too.

photo of tortie cat in the sun


I knew some day I’d hold this position of honor as the lead cat in the household. I was instructed by the best cats in the world just exactly how to take care of my mom and how to be a leader among cats so that you earned respect without having to lift a paw, though sometimes you need to say something. Usually, a stern look will do.

Cookie and Sophie

Cookie and Sophie

But mostly I’ve loved being one of my mom’s guard cats. I knew this was my place and learned the position from my sister Sophie, who was here when I came in and who became my closest friend in the household, though she could be a little strange at times. Still, whenever our mom settled down, we would take our positions on either side of her, either curled in vigilance on either side of her on her desk or literally leaning against her ankles, either just being vigilant or giving her the strength and support she needed in the moment.

We lost Sophie a few years ago, and it hurt as badly as losing my mother and sisters did all those years ago. I couldn’t even be there for my mom, or she for me, until one day we looked at each other and noticed we’d each quit eating and were losing weight and just feeling sick all the time. We curled up together and gave each other the strength to go on.

photo of two cats in a garden

Namir and Cookie inspect my gardening.

We’ve lost others too, and last year we lost Namir; even though I wasn’t as close with him as I was with Sophie, and he used to run up behind me and swat my butt then trot away giggling, we had great times out in the back yard helping mom with her garden and just enjoying being cats out there and it’s just not the same out there without him.

There has been so much more in my eighteen years here with my mom, and I am looking forward to many, many more. Our Stanley lived to be really, really old, several years older than I am now, and I don’t see any reason I can’t do the same.

photo of cats on bed

Mewsette questions Cookie

Besides, who would look after our mom if I wasn’t here? The only kitty I’ve seen with any potential all these years is Mewsette, who has been hanging out near me and asking questions. I have to put her in her place now and then because she’s a little too friendly for me, but even though she’s not a tortie she is big and strong and solid black and I think she may be able to be the next kitty in waiting.

About Cookie’s name…tortie cats can look very brown when they are young, before their markings develop clarity on a slightly larger body, and Cookie was the first tortie I encountered. I called her “Chocolate” because of her coloring and because she was sweet. Because she was small I called her “Chocolate Chip”. One day I called, “Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Cookie, Cookie and she ran out from under the bed with big round eyes as if to say, ‘How did you know my name?’ ” She’s been Cookie from then on, but her full name is Semi-Sweet Butterscotch Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. You know how these things develop.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.

Celebrate Pet Parents Day and Support WPHS!

photo of green dog bowl

Dog Bowl painted by Megan Beck.

First of all, HAPPY PET PARENTS DAY to all those lucky enough to share their lives with loving animal companions.

Second, celebrate Pet Parents Day AND help the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society with ceramics!

You can participate in one of two ways:

  • If you’re in Pittsburgh, join the Painting Party and CD Signing at Color Me Mine in Squirrel today from noon to 6:00 p.m. Visit Heal From Pet Loss for details and links to a map and the Facebook page for National Pet Parents Day Pittsburgh. You can paint a special food bowl, treats jar, picture frame or other fun item in honor of your special animal companion. $15 will cover appetizers, desserts, drinks, a two hour block of painting time and a contribution to the WPA Humane Society. Ceramic pieces to paint will be offered in a wide range of prices to accommodate everyone’s budget.
  • If you’re not in Pittsburgh or you want to help even more, bid on pieces that were already painted by staff and volunteers at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. As part of the fundraiser an ongoing silent auction of already painted animal-theme pieces is posted April 18 to 25 on eBay. Click here to go to the auction on eBay. (Let’s help them out—at the moment nothing has a bid!).
photo of steelers dog bowl

Steelers fan dog bowl painted by Karen Litzinger.

Karen Litzinger, author of Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet is a sponsor and organizer of this event. I’ve written about her and her wonderful CD several times on The Creative Cat in Heal Your Heart and in A Remarkable CD and Guidebook.

She’ll be signing CDs at this event and also painted a bowl that’s in the eBay auction. Steelers fans, start bidding!

Karen’s website is Heal From Pet Loss.

photo of painted ceramic bowl

Cat bowl painted by Lee Nesler, Executive Director of WPHS.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is an open-door shelter on Pittsburgh’s North Side serving over 13,000 animals every year. In addition to providing shelter for every animal presented regardless of how it arrived, they provide low-cost spay and neuter and veterinary clinic services, dog training and owner education for any animal parent, humane investigations of animal abuse and cruelty cases, pet loss counseling groups and fun events of all sorts for animals and the people who love them.

So before it gets too much later in the day, head on over to Color Me Mine or visit the eBay auction site to help WPHS and get yourself a new pet-themed item for your collection!

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

my three cats logoMyThreeCats.com will donate $5.00 to FosterCat when you place an order!

MyThreeCats.com and The Studio of Bernadette Kazmarski have partnered to create a wonderful opportunity for you to help homeless cats.

In addition to bidding on the print, you can shop at www.MyThreeCats.com and trigger an instant donation to FosterCat, Inc.  For each and every order you place at www.MyThreeCats.com now through May 1, 2010, MyThreeCats & Co., Inc. will donate $5.00 to FosterCat, Inc.

Once www.MyThreeCats.com has received your order, you’ll receive an email confirmation of the donation.

There are only 7 days left to this special offer, so please act now!


photo of pink plate with daisiesMy Three Cats & Co., Inc. is one of my customers for design, photography and promotion. In fact, they are the longest-standing customer for my commercial art business—we’ve been working together for 12 years!

From the very beginning, it’s been the company’s philosophy to find the best products for your cat in value, durability, safety, nutrition and fun.

From the beginning, my own philosophy has been to work with customers whose product or service I used, supported or believed in so that my work could further my goals for the world. I think this worked out just fine between me and My Three Cats.

Please visit their page in the “graphic design and illustration” section on my website at My Three Cats to see some of the work I’ve done for them.

Happy shopping, and thanks for supporting both one of my customers and FosterCat at the same time!

A Poem Dedicated to an Old Cat

painting of a gray cat with a pink sweater

A Rosy Glow, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Dedicated to the most gentle, loving being I have ever encountered.

Things I Found in the Woods

Tiny rivulets of water released from thawing soil
flowing beneath last year’s debris, trickling and gurgling all around
hurrying down hillsides before the freeze returns.

A cup-shaped fungus holding a tablespoon of snowmelt
for a song sparrow to sip, practicing its vernal melody
for the time when spring arrives in earnest.

Ferns, newly-green, draped on cliffs,
fluttering like garlands in the mild, caressing breeze
gathering a little nourishment to last the rest of the winter.

Fallen trees blanketed with bright green moss,
thick and lush already in the brief January thaw
filling a span of life in but a few days.

Four young white-tailed deer, capricious as the gusts,
feeling the flush of their first spring as adults
cavorting as if winter might not return tomorrow.

An understanding that life and love are cycles,
and that the moment must be taken for what it offers
even if what it offers is not what we expect.

A fraction of your dignity,
and the desire to walk with you to the end of the path
as you transition from this beautiful world into the next.


black and white photo of gray cat on bricks

Moses on her bricks.

I’ll tell Moses’ full story some day; 19 years of love can’t be condensed easily.

She had been a feral kitten my niece managed to capture, only because Moses was near death from starvation. To everyone’s surprise, she not only lived but thrived, except for her hobbled hind legs—the “knee” joint hadn’t completely finished and the bones kind of knocked against each other.

Just give me good food, no medications, Moses said, but most of all, let me lie in the sun every day. And so I did, indoors or outdoors when I could be with her.

She was healthy and rational until about a month before she died, and she knew what was coming and accepted it; I could see this in her eyes. To appease myself I had her checked by a veterinarian and even emergency when she had breathing difficulty one night. She forgave me for this, and I wrote this poem sitting in the waiting room for them to finish some procedure.

Waiting for Moses

I remembered a moment earlier in the day
even through the fear and pain of your impending death:
in that moment when I reached out to you
and you firmly rubbed your face against my hand,
nuzzled your nose between my finger and thumb
and lifted your chin for me to scratch underneath,
eyes squinting at me, whiskers curved forward, nose crumpled;
you, reassuring me.
The look in your eyes wipes the tears from my face
and I can, for the moment,
spontaneously smile and love you completely as of old,
above our grief.

And just a day or two later I was in the woods photographing the spring thaw in wonderment at the changing of seasons and the transience of life—here it was still winter but it felt like spring and everything that lived was taking advantage of the moment.

So was Moses. So should I.

photo of cat in sunshine

Late in the Year, black and white photo © B E Kazmarski

So I resolved just to let her follow her course and she would let me know what to do.

I have kept this lesson in my heart with each of the older kitties I’ve loved since. I don’t care what’s coming for us. I love them right now, this moment.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

My Feline Garden Sprites

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

photo of Eva's face

Eva's expression

Eva says,

Help celebrate my BFF Peaches’ 20th birthday by going to my Blog and posting a comment-We’ll send 50 cents to Foster Cat., Inc for each comment made during the month of April!

Eva has computer privileges and her blog is very fun to read!

This is where I read that Eva needed an office assistant and, while mom was away, I actually applied for the position and had an interview! Then I developed renal failure and we all decided that I should stay put, but Eva and I became BFFs. I’m so happy we met! And see what a nice kitty she is?!

Visit Conversations with Eva at www.evaevaeva.com, but make a comment on Help Cats and Kittens in Need.

photo of Peaches on my desk

Peaches is back to work.

Thank you, Eva! Without people willing to foster, the two of us might be…well, nowhere. Scary thought. Please read about Eva’s amazing rescue; mine was nowhere near as frightening as this, and I am very proud of Eva for hanging in there until her forever mom came along…the second time.

And read about what FosterCat does for kitties so you’ll know why Eva would donate for the cause!

Thanks to everyone who opens up their heart and their home to a cat in need.


My Feline Garden Sprites

As part of celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday, this is an article I first posted a little over a year ago as Namir and Cookie and I cleaned up the garden for another gardening year. A number of cats have grown to their senior years here, and one of the treats they get is to carouse in the backyard with me as I garden. I keep a close eye on them because once or twice they’ve been known to disappear when my back is turned, but the sunshine and fresh air is so refreshing for them and I can enjoy that little bit of extra time and extra memories. Ironically, Peaches doesn’t even recognize that the outdoors exists!

My two seniors join me outdoors to supervise my gardening.

My two seniors join me outdoors to supervise my gardening.

It’s a joy to share the time and the experience with them, but with a flicker of sadness, to watch Namir sprint across the yard just for the joy of running and Cookie patrol the garden paths, even in the late winter when strewn with weeds and debris. It means they are old enough to want to stick with me while I’m out in the garden, old enough that our time is limited and these will be our golden memories. It’s a tradition when the old ones get to be this old that they also get to enjoy time outdoors with me.

Because animals live shorter lives than we do, chances are we will outlive them. And if we adopt and foster a number of animals, we’ll live through that many losses. It never gets easy, but with the awareness gained from each loss, watching the oldest grow into their senior years is less shocking and painful. Animals are so graceful about aging, not like us fretting about gray hair and memory loss. The brevity of their lives may seem unfair to us, but that span is normal for them. The lesson is to enjoy them in this moment while preparing for the unavoidable, but not to dwell on either.

Namir and Cookie are not happy about having to go inside.

Namir and Cookie are not happy about having to go inside.

Out of the mixed bag of the eight or nine rescues I always seem to share my space with emerges a “couple”, a male cat and a female cat, spayed and neutered and totally unrelated except for having spent the better part of their lives together and with me. They become as the prince and the princess of the household and grow old together, growing wiser and closer to me as they age.

I am in my third “couple” now. Cookie is 17, Namir is 15 with congestive heart failure and other complicating conditions. Cookie is apparently fine though not as flexible as before, but Namir has had some close calls and spends a night or two in the oxygen cage in the emergency hospital for a “tune-up” at least once yearly since he was diagnosed four years ago. I’ve had cats live to their late teens and early twenties; even the best of care and love can’t bring back that seeming infinity of youth.

But I’ve always noticed that a trip to the great outdoors of the back yard is an antidote to a lot of ills for them and me, even just a few minutes will do. My yard is a Backyard Wildlife Habitat so it’s full of smells and noises and movement and the noses get to work and ears swivel around and eyes focus on tiny movements, and soon discomfort and infirmities are forgotten in the important business of being a cat.

Cookie pauses to let me see how well the daffodil greens match her eyes.

Cookie pauses to let me see how well the daffodil greens match her eyes.

Cookie (see “The Goddess” for another look at Cookie) has been my lady-in-waiting since she grew from a roly-poly tortoiseshell ball of an abandoned kitten to a generously-figured and poised tortoiseshell adult. She entered my household unresponsive to affection and “nursing” on one of her own toes for comfort, but quickly and wholeheartedly accepted that she was loved and welcome. She spends time on my lap, but more importantly she is always near, always vigilant, I’m not sure what for, but I’ve always been comforted by Cookie’s presence and perhaps that’s all there is to it. We give each other the gift of ourselves, and it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

Namir stays carefully on the brick edge after inspecting the new lettuce sprouts.

Namir stays carefully on the brick edge after inspecting the new lettuce sprouts.

Namir (he is in the header image on this blog, and see also “Darling Clementines”) entered my household as a foster from a friend who was returning to graduate school and just couldn’t take her two cats, and though we tried for months for find them homes they ended up here. Now one of the sweetest and most popular cats in my household—he’s even popular at the emergency hospital where, even with tubes and bandages he’s desperate for affection and takes a long goodbye when he leaves—was hardly even social when he arrived here. He’s very loyal and loved his mom, and every time I entered the room he’d stand up hopefully, then crouch and growl at me because I’d apparently taken away his mom. He arrived here in October; it was April before he accepted the situation.

Just recently Namir was back in the hospital and wasn’t responding as usual; after bringing him home I had to take him back. On his second return home he just wasn’t coming around. From his initial diagnosis I’ve been anticipating the final decisions for him, knowing that one day this little tune-up won’t work. This time he seems to have pulled through and is feeling well enough to swat the young men (Mimi’s Children) when they get out of line.

For Moses, the sun-warmed bricks were her treatment of choice for her arthritis.

For Moses, the sun-warmed bricks were her treatment of choice for her arthritis.

Cookie and Namir acceded to their thrones a few years ago with the passing of Moses and Stanley. While Cookie and Namir displayed leadership potential from a young age, Stanley had been abused and was a real problem child into his teens, and Moses was a timid feral rescue, physically challenged by the after-effects of near starvation, but was the sweetest, most gentle soul I’ve ever known. These two entered my household a year apart and discovered each other’s gentle spirits when they were still healing from their time on the streets, and through it all were a refuge each for the other.

Moses (see “A Rosy Glow”) had malformed hips and legs from the beginning, and no matter what treatment I found for her, the best thing was simply a sunbath. She was terrified of the outdoors and of other people and things, but when it came to the line of the sun creeping out of the kitchen or basement into the outside, she decided she wanted to follow it, and as often as I could she and I went out into the yard, she to lie on the sun-warmed wood or bricks, me to work my garden. It’s no wonder she was unsuccessful at feeding herself when little velvety voles ran over her paws and birds hopped all around her as she lay there and watched. She adopted one clump of grass at the corner of one of the garden beds to graze on, and it’s still there in her memory. She surprised even me by living to be 19 years old, not showing any serious health problems until just a few months before she died.

Stanley dozes in the early spring garden while supervising my work.

Stanley dozes in the early spring garden while supervising my work.

Stanley’s misbehavior inside came in handy outside, and trips to the outdoors helped stop him from errant watering in the house. He was very territorial, and whenever he saw another cat in his yard, he’d pee on the next nearest thing, inside. When we began visiting the yard he would run around sniffing everything, especially the forsythia which was like a big feline chat room, and after downloading his pee-mail he’d upload a few replies. Apparently this was more direct than giving a reply indoors, and it had the added benefit of keeping most cats out of my yard, and discouraging all but the bravest (or least intelligent) rabbits and little critters from inhabiting my garden.

Stanley (see “After Dinner Nap”) was well into adulthood when he showed up on my porch in 1986, and he was with me for a little over 20 years. He was in kidney failure for his last four years, but I treated him with fluid therapy and vitamins, and he was vigorous until his last few weeks.

And Stanley and Moses took over from Kublai and Sally, the original prince and princess, so noted in one piece of artwork I created simply to commemorate their place in my household, “Awakening”, where you can read their stories. As opposite as you could get, but they were the leaders for years, and in their day the other cats would answer to them before me. Their photos are on regular film, and I’ll have to scan them one day and get them up here, but in the meantime they are the subjects of several pieces of artwork.

Namir and Cookie assist with some outdoor photography.

Namir and Cookie assist with some outdoor photography.

So as I watch Namir chase leaves and harass Cookie for fun, and Cookie cruise around and nap in the leaf litter, and have them both supervise my gardening progress while enjoying their time outdoors, I thoroughly enjoy their presence and remember their predecessors…with smiles more than sadness. Each loss prepared me for the next, and that was their final gift to me, and to the household in which they had lived. While I still miss all of them, even the ones who didn’t rise to royalty, I know that someday, perhaps soon, I’ll be missing Cookie and Namir, too. Loving them in the happiness of just this moment alone builds these smiling memories, and these will be an important element in dealing with the final decisions, and with their loss.

I just wonder who they are planning to pass the scepters on to. For now I tell the young ones who want to join us that someday they’ll be that old, too, and then they’ll be able to come outside.

For other writings on my cats in the garden and gardening in general, please read “My Cat Has Become a Serial Killer” and “On Planting Peas” on my website in the writing section.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.

Open House at Portraits of Animals Shop!

I’ll be part of Carnegie Antiques’ open house the first weekend of May. Read about it on “What’s New in Bernadette’s Studio?” at Open House at Portraits of Animals and Carnegie Antiques!

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

profile of calico cat

Peaches' Profile

As a part of celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday, I am reprinting this article, Part Two in a two part series exploring Senior Cat Care that was first published in Cat Chat on My Three Cats in 2006.

Right now, Bogey is still pretty much at the top of his scratching post. He’s got the benefit of a good diet, lots of exercise with all his toys, and the knowledge that his little world really does revolve around him.

photo of a cat on refrigerator

Kelly can still make it to the top of the refrigerator at 16

Many cats will go on like this well into their teens, still spry and playful with a good appetite and a good attitude, perhaps just sleeping a little more and losing a little muscle mass even with regular exercise. But just like humans, other cats will begin to deteriorate at a younger age, or will develop chronic or terminal illnesses. And because many of us have rescued our companions from a life on the streets, many will bear the marks of that early deprivation, well enough when young, but with increasing difficulty as they age.

Optimizing the Environment

Somehow, the favorite chair is a little higher than it was last year, it’s hard to lean down to the food bowl, those steps to the litter box in the basement are pretty scary and she’ll never get up on the bed without assistance again, it’s just too tall. Just as cats will adapt to or hide physical illnesses, so will they adapt to these growing daily challenges of aging. You’ll think perhaps Tiger doesn’t like that food, or wonder that suddenly he has developed terrible litter box habits and doesn’t want to sleep with you any more.

As you would if you thought your Tiger was ill, observe the changes to his habits and do your best to determine the cause. Does he sit on the floor and look longingly up on the chair or the bed? Does he head for the stairs and not go down, or have obvious physical difficulty negotiating them? Give him a little assistance in the form of a foot stool or step stool next to the chair or bed and see if he still likes to sleep there. Consider purchasing raised dishes for his food and water.

And even though you may not like a litter box in the living room, Tiger may be very appreciative and use it diligently, which will keep you both very happy.   An attractive covered box with odor control features may work just fine on the main floor of your home.

cat sleeping on rocker

Kelly on the rocker.

Eyes and ears can begin to fail in older cats, too, and Tiger can become disoriented easily if furniture is moved without a reintroduction to the room. If he’s got a favorite sleeping spot, try to maintain it through a remodel. He may also need a few extra hollers if you call him for dinner, too. Also, consider a night light here and there to light Tiger’s way around the house. If he starts to wander around the house and yowl, some affection and sweet words from you can help to reorient him and provide him with reassurance.

Encourage activity as long as possible, as this will help circulation, joint flexibility, weight, appetite and elimination. Consider also products designed for seniors that will help in these areas, such as Cat Sure and Joint Health.

My senior cats love some green in their diet, so I grow grass for them and have it accessible on the floor of the main living area . This helps them to maintain a clean digestive tract.

And just as older people tend to be less adaptable with temperature changes, try to keep a warm spot available at all times for an old cat to curl up in when it’s cold, and a cool spot in the summer. For extra warmth and padding for those old bones, what cat wouldn’t like a Woolies igloo or cat bed.

These conveniences will help your senior cat remain independent for as long as possible.


photo of Calico cat washing her toes

Peaches still cleans between her toes.

In a body that doesn’t move as well or digest as well, consider the rigors of bathing. Tiger may not be able to reach all his areas and may develop knots or mats in his fur, even if he is short-haired, or a rash or flaking skin where he can’t clean the oils as he used to. As he ages, or with certain physical conditions, he may shed more, and constipation is a concern in older cats, often exacerbated by fur from grooming. Brush or comb him all over, especially in areas he may not be able to reach—he’ll really appreciate that, and the regular working of his skin will help to keep it clean.

Senior Illnesses

Get to know the big three benchmarks in Tiger’s daily life: activity, appetite and weight. Note any change in these three, especially if it happens over a short period of time and if it involves more than one indicator. Tiger may slow down as he ages, but if he just quits doing things he formerly enjoyed, like playing with a certain toy or starts sleeping more or in a completely different place than usual, he may be dealing with a chronic illness. If he suddenly loses interest in his favorite food or food in general, or starts losing weight despite his appetite, observe him carefully and make an appointment with your veterinarian for an exam and tests. Remember that your veterinarian will need your observations for a complete diagnosis.

The most common diseases in older cats are kidney and liver failure, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, anemia and cancer. The list needn’t be as frightening as it sounds—with early detection, a good diet and palliative care, these diseases can be cured or managed for more years of a good life. Along with the recommended twice-yearly exam by a veterinarian, observe your cat’s food and water consumption, and note any changes in behavior.

Increased activity level and a ravenous appetite with weight loss can indicate hyperthyroidism. Very common in older cats it is easily managed with medication if it is simply an overactive thyroid, but can also be successfully treated if it is caused by a thyroid tumor. A complete diagnosis is made with a physical exam of the thyroid and a blood test to check for thyroid hormone.

photo of cat on table with flowers

I treated Stanley for kidney failure for four years; he lived into his twenties.

Those symptoms can also indicate diabetes, along with frequent urination, which is diagnosed with a blood test and urinalysis. Many senior cat owners have managed the daily glucose test, insulin shot and dietary changes and been able to enjoy their cat’s company for years beyond the diagnosis.

An increase in water consumption along with a decreased appetite and occasional vomiting can mean kidney failure, also diagnosed with a blood test. It can’t be cured, but can be treated over the long term with dietary changes and hydration—even after all that water is consumed, Tiger can still be dehydrated because his kidneys are not functioning as well as they could be. Regular doses of subcutaneous fluids, often daily, will help Tiger’s kidneys continue to filter the body’s fluids, another treatment that can be done at home.

Cancer can be obvious in a highly visible growth, but can also be hidden inside, evidenced only by decreasing activity and appetite and weight loss. Many cancers can be treated without surgery, as surgery would be a last resort for an older cat, and treatment can keep it under control for quite some time.

Palliative Care

While many of the environmental changes can be considered “palliative”, this really refers to actions you take or treatments you give that help his body function normally or may simply make Tiger feel better. Dehydration is not uncommon, even when no chronic condition is present, as the body simply slows down. Regular application of subcutaneous fluids can help your cat fight diseases and simply feel better.

And beyond anything else you might do, it’s vitally important that you constantly give them affection, remind them how much they mean to you. The unfortunate truth is that cats only live a brief span of years compared to us, and that we’re likely to outlive them. However, if we commit some thought and some time to their senior care, we can certainly prolong their lives and provide for their comfort. After all, they have been our constant companions, offering unconditional love over many years. They deserve our special attention now, in their “sunset” years.


You can find plenty of references for care for older cats around the internet from CatChannel.com to The Cornell Feline Health Center to the American Association of Feline Practitioners and in books such as Complete Care for Your Aging Cat.

I’m proud to say that part two of this series won a Muse Medallion in the Cat Writer’s Association’s 2007 Communications Contest and the Hartz Mountain Everyday Chewable Vitamin Award for the best article on senior cat care in the same contest. That’s when I joined the Cat Writer’s Association and it’s been one of the best associations I’ve made in my career for both writing and learning.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 1

As a part of celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday, I am reprinting this article, Part One in a two part series exploring Senior Cat Care that was first published in Cat Chat on My Three Cats in 2006; Part Two, appearing tomorrow on The Creative Cat, will give you tips on optimizing your senior cat’s environment and information about senior illnesses and palliative care.

photo of black and white cat

Bogey, chief spokescat of My Three Cats

Bogey dares you to guess how old he is. He knows you’ll be wrong, because he knows that cats have a unique way of hiding aging from even the most attentive owners. Once cats reach three to four years of age they can go well into their teens before they show signs of physical weakness, arthritis, failing eyesight and hearing and other common ailments of an aging body of any species.

And even then they can often get along just fine with a good diet, lots of love, and a little something extra from their people. Just like senior humans have special needs befitting the physical age of their bodies, our cats will benefit from an appropriate diet and exercise, regular health checks and even some palliative care you may not give to a younger cat.

Definition of “Senior”

photo of cat in sunshine

Moses soaks up the sunshine

“Senior” is as loose a term with cats as it is with humans, and feline aging is not the equivalent of canine aging.

We used to assume that dogs and cats both age, over the course of a lifetime, an average of seven “human” years for every year the animal is alive. Cats, however, tend to live a little longer than dogs, so while dogs are still averaged at seven “human years” for each “dog year”, cats average only five “human years” for every “cat year”.

In addition, the age considered “senior” for an animal was, and still is in some cases, only seven years old. More recently, though, other authorities and perhaps even your own veterinarian, differ in opinion, especially for cats, varying from eight to twelve years of age.

Cats are living longer and longer, and while reaching the double digits in age used to be quite a milestone, reaching the second decade isn’t unusual. This is why older cats need different care from younger cats as they age.

Annual Exam

photo of two cats

Stanley and Moses, old friends

From kittenhood, Tabby should see the veterinarian yearly as part of her regular care even if there’s no apparent health issue, as a benchmark from one year to the next. If a health problem arises, our cats can’t say to us, “Hmm…I think it was in January that I first noticed that…,” but an observant veterinarian will know if a lump, bump or symptom was present at the previous yearly examination. If you’ve been lax when Tabby was young, and unless your veterinarian indicates any chronic conditions developing, tighten up your schedule when she reaches about ten years of age.

In addition to this yearly checkup, and because health symptoms are that much more likely to arise in an older cat, consider a “senior exam” for your cat between ten and twelve years as well. Many veterinarians and clinics offer these as a matter of course, but be cautious what they include, which is sometimes no more than a regular yearly exam with a basic blood test, but the cost is triple the charge for a regular annual exam.

The purpose of the senior exam is to determine baseline data on the cat’s major health indicators at an age when everything appears normal. Find an exam that lists not only the procedures but also the conditions or symptoms for which tests are performed: a CBC, or complete blood count, does not include the T-4 or thyroid test, and in some cases does not include measures for BUN and creatinine, the indicators for renal failure, two very common chronic illnesses in older cats. So in addition to the usual exam of eyes, mouth, ears, weight, heartbeat and temperature, a geriatric exam should also check your pet’s blood, urine, blood pressure and/or radiographs for problems such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or arthritis. None of these conditions may be present, or only the earliest symptoms, but later if you do begin to see changes in Tabby’s lifestyle you have a record of her body when she was healthy and your veterinarian has a much more clear starting point for diagnosis.


cat and can of food

Peaches with can of food

If you haven’t already, start reading labels. Tabby may tend to fill out around the middle as she gets older, or she may be a little chubby to begin with. Also, while maintaining the proper weight balance is critical as cats age, be careful with weight loss and management.

Cats are “obligate carnivores”, meaning that they must eat protein to maintain their body tissue. While many senior foods may advertise reduced protein content because it’s assumed to be better for an older cat, the only content that should be reduced is calories, just like a human diet or senior program. If protein is changed at all it should only be made more easily digestible, but should still be animal protein, not vegetable protein.

One other change in the food content should be an increase in fiber, obviously necessary as the cats’ digestion changes, also aiding in hairball prevention.

If you currently feed only dry food or leave dry food available all the time, you may also consider feeding an increased amount of wet food. It has a stronger smell to attract her, is easier to chew and swallow, and the increased moisture content is always a benefit. If you feed at specified times, consider feeding an extra meal in between; just like senior people, Tabby will eat less at each meal and her digestion can only handle a certain amount, but she needs just as much food through the course of a day.

Feeding at specified times instead of leaving food available all the time is a good idea all through Tabby’s life. For one reason, the food is always fresh, and sense of smell is what prompts a cat to eat; with aging this becomes critical. More importantly, monitoring Tabby’s dining habits is important as she ages, and a change in her consumption or even her attitude toward mealtime and her food can often be the first early indicators of a health problem.


tortoiseshell cat with toy

Cookie gets a nip

Tabby may still be racing to the top of the cat tree and running laps in the middle of the night at age 15, but at some point she’ll slow down in either speed or frequency. While it has always seemed that she could sleep 18 hours a day and eat whatever she wanted and still stay in prime physical shape, she may need a little encouragement as she grows older.

Physical activity not only helps to keep her muscles toned, but it also keeps her heart and lungs and circulatory system in good condition, helps with digestion and elimination and even appetite if that starts to wane. If you don’t already play with her on a regular basis, find some toys that get her excited to leave around, and some interactive toys so that you can see she gets her exercise.


You can find plenty of references for care for older cats around the internet from CatChannel.com to The Cornell Feline Health Center to the American Association of Feline Practitioners and in books such as Complete Care for Your Aging Cat.

I’m proud to say that part two of this series won a Muse Medallion in the Cat Writer’s Association’s 2007 Communications Contest and the Hartz Mountain Everyday Chewable Vitamin Award for the best article on senior cat care in the same contest. That’s when I joined the Cat Writer’s Association and it’s been one of the best associations I’ve made in my career for both writing and learning.