Lessons from an old tomcat
For years I have been the happy owner of a cat. Or rather the loyal servant of my house tiger. When he came to me, he was in the prime of his young life. A five-year-old young god who could take on the whole world. Unfortunately I lived in a flat, so that was disappointing: he could only meow to the world from the balcony with his Big Tomcat meow - which he invariably did every spring.
A few years ago I moved to a house with a garden in a quiet village. The cat had to get used to it, because the world was suddenly so big! When he finally dared to go outside after 6 weeks, he was unstoppable within a week: he had to go outside every day. Only rain and snow he considered a reason to stay indoors. Preferabbly sitting on the door mat next to the open door, so that he could get a good idea of what was happening outside. But that was also over after the first year. Now my cat mainly lives outside in my garden and only comes in to eat, for the litter box and to throw up. I find the latter a somewhat dubious honour…
According to pet food manufacturers - and also my vet - a cat is considered to be elder from eight years. My cat and I think a bit differently about that. But when my tough tomcat turned twelve, his young years were definitely over. From that day on he gets food for 'seniors', which is better for his kidneys.
This spring my hairball turned 16 and suddenly aging went fast. In a few weeks time he went from a 'younger elder' to an older tomcat. He has stiff joints and it is more difficult to lie down, he is also less firm on his legs and he has become thin as only the elderly can be thin. Suddenly he also started bumping into his food ball - sometimes, but not always. I wondered if he's just being crass (which he always has been) or if he's starting to see badly.
Now I paid close attention, the answer was clear: my old tomcat is quite visually impaired. I can no longer lure him in by wiggling my fingers – I have to rub my fingers, so he can hear them. He also no longer finds his food by sight as before – he 'looks' with his nose. Yet he is not completely blind, because he sometimes winks back.
What I find striking is that my cat doesn't seem to be bothered in any way by the fact that he can hardly see anymore. He just keeps walking around as if nothing is wrong, is now 'seeing' with his nose or his paws, and remains the contented tomcat he's always been.
That reminded me of my parents' cat. The cat was already quite old when one day I walked behind her and in passing, as I often did, gave her a pat on the back. To my surprise, a shock of startlement went through her. For a moment I didn't understand what was going on, but then I realised I had come from behind. Apparently she hadn't hear me coming. That could only mean one thing: the cat is deaf. From that moment on I made sure to always approach her from the front, so she could see me coming. That worked great!
At New Year's Eve, my conclusion about her deafness was definitively confirmed. When the world ended because of the fireworks, the old gray lady was dozing nicely on the couch and was not bothered by anything. Deaf as she was, for her it was just another night like any other…
I would wish for us, humans, that we could do that like these old pets! Of course it's annoying if you get a disability. Obviously, you need time to mourn the loss of that which is no more. And of course you need time to learn new ways to do the things you can't do anymore the way you used to. But thereafter we should just get back to business!