|All About Pets!
Did your old cat go off to die, or is he or she waiting for you at the shelter?
Many people don’t even look for their old cats when they disappear, believing the myth old cats go off to die alone. That may be true for semi-feral cats or those strictly kept outside (what choice do they really have?), but not for most of our social, domesticated pet cats. Of course, some old cats do go off and die, but that is different – with fading eyesight, decreased hearing, limited mobility and slower reaction time, elderly cats often meet their demise in ways unrelated to disease and aging. And, sadly, many meet their end in an animal shelter. We often get in obviously elderly cats – they’re thin, with poor coat conditions, heavy tartar on the teeth, cloudy eyes and other signs of possible metabolic diseases.
Cats with failing kidneys or diabetes can, with supportive care, live several years with a good quality of life. But it takes a committed guardian willing to do the work and pay the price. It’s sad to hear how many cats are just left to “die on their own – naturally” without any benefit of medications to make them more comfortable. Often it is a concerned neighbor who brings an ailing older cat to the shelter because it breaks their heart to watch the animal get progressively weaker and sicker, and know no care is being provided.
We recently had an obviously senior cat brought in as a stray. No collar, ID tag or microchip to help us locate the owner. We hate euthanizing any animal and struggled with the decision whether we should spend some of our limited resources to do a blood panel and other diagnostics to find out what was wrong with this thin elderly feline when we knew we most likely couldn’t cure her. And really, this wasn’t an adoption candidate, and I often think it’s even more of a disservice to expect an elderly animal set in her ways to adapt to a new situation (she already had to adapt to the shelter and that was hard enough).
Clearly, the cat belonged to someone though, because she was completely tame, and very few cats out on their own live to a ripe old age. After the holding time, during which she got regular meals, a soft bed, and lots of affection from our staff and volunteers – I held her in my arms, and we gently ended her life.
Several days later, a person called looking for her missing cat. She said a neighbor mentioned bringing a cat to the shelter and as she described her 17-year-old cat, I recognized it as the one we had euthanized. When I told her that she was gone she replied “I assumed she had just gone off to die.” I guess, in a way, she did. The owner got off easy – no hard decision to make, no body to deal with. How sad for the cat, though. Although she was held in caring arms, it’s not the same as being with the one you love most. It’s part of the compact made when you adopt an animal, I think, to see him through to the very end. Elderly animals require more care and need to be kept closer to home. Your neighbors don’t want to deal with your sick cat or watch him slowly deteriorate, and ending up in the shelter for the last days. No matter how nice we try to make it, it’s not easy on an animal. Adoption is a lifetime commitment – I wish more people would honor it.
Mutt Strut – Come to this exciting event on Saturday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the RP Community Center. Watch demonstrations by Cotati Officer Kaupe and his K9 partner Koda, weight-pulling dogs, and assistance dogs. Try your dog out on a rally course. Shop pet-related vendors, win great raffle prizes, enter fun contests, meet Rob and Joss from Froggy 92.9 and join Snoopy as he leads the easy one-mile dog walk. Fun for the whole family – including the dog! Full schedule of events at animalshelterleaguerp.org.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.