I received many interesting responses to a column I wrote on March 2 about my cat Tut getting old. You can read it here: http://www.contracostatimes.com/garybogue/ci_8428103?nclick_check=1
I printed some of those responses in my March 5 column: http://www.contracostatimes.com/garybogue/ci_8460417
And more on March 9: http://www.contracostatimes.com/garybogue/ci_8512057
I’m printing the rest of the e-mails and letters below because they all say something special about pets and about getting old. If you have even MORE to say about it, please add your special words under “comments” at the end of this blog. Thanks! If you have a pet that’s getting old, reading these letters should help you deal with it. /Gary
LETTERS ABOUT TUT THE CAT AND GETTING OLD:
** When you talk about your beloved Tut the butt is looking like a little old man, I think about the bony little butt that male cats get when they age. It’s a real heart breaker to see their sleekness develop the rough-edged curves, the bones sticking out, but, looking somehow smaller than you realized, and, somewhat less elegant.
That reminds me of a joke my dad told me. He said, “I have furniture disease.” And, I said, “What’s that?” And, he said, “My chest is falling into my drawers.”
All joking aside … I really noticed how I had to really keep my eyes open for my kitties when they got older. They got easier to accidentally kick or step on. They once were so good at moving quickly out of the way or wandering over and melting into my leg. Now, I felt this fragile being, who I could knock over like a feather if I didn’t slow my pace for a minute as he sauntered over to me. The pace was slower and less steady. I remember finding that especially touching and sad.
Yeah … It’s tough. Specially when you have a special cat with attitude plus. You remember my big boy, Eddie? Watching his once proud form disintegrate before my eyes was real hard to take. I still cry when I look at the tuft of fur that I saved from him from his special sweet smelling spot on his neck. I remember Eric’s big cat, Thunder, feeling as light as air when I picked him up in his last year of life. He was all fur. My 11 year old cat, Rocky, has always been my baby. I notice he’s just starting to get a hint of a bony butt. He’s all fluffy; so, it’ll hide in his lush white fur for a while.
But, I’ve got that little pistola, Daisy. She’s 19 and looks absolutely marvelous, darling! She’s still got attitude; but, has finally accepted that retirement in the indoor villa isn’t so bad after all. She has her special spots and doesn’t take crap from Rocky or the dogs. Every now and then she appears next to me and asks for a chin scratch. She’s my wash and wear kitty. Never asked for much. Some food, a chin scratch now and then. She’s had very few medical problems; but, because she’s Manx, I’ve had to clean her up in the back end area more than I’d like. But, other than that. She’s been great!
Tut the butt. What a great tag. We don’t mind if he softens a little with age. He’s earned his rep and we all love him for it. And, we love you for sharing it. Hoping your final year(s) with Tut will bring you more joyful memories and not too much pain. (Paulette Kenyon, Pleasanton)
** Your column on Tut getting older prompted me to write to you. We rescued a kitty in April of 1990, the year before we married. She was about a year old, malnourished, abused. She will be approx. 18 yrs. old next month and has outlived many cats along the way. We started noticing changes years ago when she got down off our balcony and couldn’t get back up; she got up the oak tree and couldn’t get down.
My husband had to rescue her on both occasions and that was the last time she asked to go outside. She doesn’t get around like she used to as her back legs are weak so we put a chair next to the bed so she can get on the chair, then on the bed. She gets a prescribed food for older kitties. She sleeps a lot on a towel we put on the couch, but she is still the boss and gets what we call the “kitty force” in her once in a while. She runs around, but it doesn’t last long, then she has to nap.
We pamper her, take special care of her, and protect her. We think she may not hear or see quite like she used to, but she’s a such a great cat and a member of our family. We love her very much. (Jackie in Pleasant Hill)
** Thanks Gary for your column on Sunday! I also have an aging animal — my dog Topaz. She is 14, has arthritis in her hips, kidney disease and probably dementia, yet she still wags her tail when I get home from work. Last week she was trying to celebrate spring by rolling around on the grass, but her wiggle was not very energetic. It made me sad knowing that these joys are slowly going away for her. I just hope that I know when her time is up so that I am not selfishly keeping her alive when she is in pain. Animals are a blessing, and I have enjoyed reading about Tut (and Isis) over the years! Thanks for your stories. (Teri Steig, cyberspace)
** Reading your column about Tut aging brought tears to my eyes. Not only because (through your columns) I feel like I know him personally, but because of my own little furballs. I lost Mandy (she was 18) in December & had had her since she was a kitten. She was run down physically, but it was the kitty dementia that was the hardest to watch.
My dog (Ember is almost 15) has had Cushing’s for almost 6 years, Diabetes Incipidus for about 4 years & numerous other ailments that creep up on all of us. In spite of it all, my vet says she’s in great shape. Then a couple months ago, she started to get lost in the house. (I live in a very small house.) She couldn’t get up on the couch or bed anymore, and didn’t even recognize my son when he came in one night. Sound familiar? I’m so sorry you guys are going through this. Where did the time go? Hug Tut for me and tell him that someone in Antioch is thinking about him. Being a typical cat, he won’t care less, but it will make me feel better! (Pat in Antioch)
** We love all animals, and we are a real kitty family. Upon moving up to the East Bay from So. Cal. in the very early 80′s, I was delighted to find your column in the Times, although that discovery may have been a couple of years after our move. I remember reading of Isis so very well in many your early columns as she went through her daily life with you and your family. I read and still have your book, “Isis,” and I remember very well your loss when it was time for her to go. I grieved for you and your family, as did all of your readers.
I remember when you acquired Tut and then later Newman. It is so hard to watch our friends age, and our animal friends seem to age so very quickly, and we’re never ready for it. And now I read about Tut, and I am so sorry for what he and you and your family are going through. Our family is going through this very process right now with our 15 year old “Gus,” a wonderful 16 lb. white flame point “whatever” cat, he is slowing down by the day. He sleeps most of the time and only seems to get up to eat and have a drink once in a while but always makes it a point to spend his evenings with the family, his arthritis makes it hard to jump and climb much anymore.
We all love our animals and must enjoy the times we have with them, the good and the not so good. And Gary, thank you for sharing your family with us over all these years. (Paul from Hercules)
** We are so sorry to hear that old age has caught up with Tut. We all cherish our cats and wish that they could live longer lives than they do. My Mother-in-law had a Siamese cat that lived to be 21 years old. We have 4 cats of our own. Two of them are 16 years old. Mitzi our Calico Lady seems to be taking everything in stride. She asks for massages from me every day and so far that has helped her. The other 16 year old is Penny our gray cat. She is very arthritic and we give her a natural treat called Hip Action with glucosamine/chrondrotin plus vitamins and minerals. It has helped her because she appears to hobble less than she did and gets around better. Our other two are Maine Coon brother and sister 5 year olds. Their names are Sonny and Cher. Both of them love Penny and take care of her constantly almost like she was their Mother. Mitzi of course stays pretty much to her self as any Calico does.
Tut may be slowing down for his old age but as long as he doesn’t have any medical issues he should be with you for a few more years. Just love him and reassure him more and more each day that you are there for him and will always be. Also don’t forget to call him for dinner which appears to be the highlight of his day.
When we were first married 37 years ago we adopted a cat whom we named Melody. She was a wonderful lady and gave us 7 beautiful kittens. She lived to be 19 years old and for a few years was unable to jump up any more and you could see she was slowing down but it still wasn’t her time to go and we knew that she would let us know when that time would come and she did. She was my husband’s treasured lady. Give Tut a big hug and kiss from us and tell him to hang in there for a while longer. (Barb in American Canyon)
** I was so sorry to hear about Tut’s aging. I have enjoyed so many stories about him over the years and I know it is never easy to watch a beloved pet grow old. I have had that experience with both a cat and several dogs . Right now my family is mourning the loss of our beloved German Shepherd, Holly, who lost her three year battle with cancer two months before her tenth birthday. She was sweet, loving and courageous to the end and it will take a long time to get over the pain of losing her. Her sister also misses her. We will hold good thoughts for Tut. (Nancy Schick, Moraga)
** Your tribute to Tut mentioned him growing thinner. Have you had his thyroid checked? Indoor cats have epidemic levels of hyperthyroidism, due to PCB’s as fire retardents on furniture (at least that is the current theory). My girl Tasha ended up blind from hypertension (causing her retinas to detach) a side effect of the hyperthyroidism. I have also found a vet who just sees cats. Makes all the difference in the world, because cats are really much different than dogs as far as diseases and the best approach for treatment (Dr. Melissa Matthews, Altamont Cat Hospital, Livermore). The treatment is as easy as rubbing a little cream in the ear 2 times a day. (Christine, Livermore)
** Jennifer was 2 years old when she came to us. She was all white, blue, blue eyes and deaf. Her “owners” were moving and could not take her. She was our 1st pet together. She was so much fun. Great personality and Christmas was her time of year. We have picture after picture of her running through the wrapping paper as we opened presents. We always plopped a bow on her head and got that year’s picture. She loved menthol. Heaven help you when you were sick and put Vicks on your chest. She was right there on top of you. Was great with the greasy Vicks and long white cat hair. I smoked (back then) menthol cigarettes and she was always in my purse ripping the pack open. The Jennifer stories go on and on.
She lived to 23. Healthy and active until 22. One day I just looked at her little puckered up, old lady face and said “Jennifer, when did you get old?” Her last year was very quiet. She was never sick and died very peacefully in her sleep.
We now have several house cats, we feed the hungry that come to our porch and help friends of animals with foster care during kitten season but there will NEVER be another Jennifer. She has been gone for years now and I am still crying as I write this letter. If Jennifer is listening, thank you for the 21 years of pleasure you gave us. You will never be replaced. Thank you for letting me share. (Ruby Waderich, Vallejo)
** I recently lost my dear cat Sheba. She too was 16 years old. It was a very hard time for me. Just as I was able to start wearing mascara again, I read your column about Tut getting old and it showing. Your writing was my story exactly My beautiful Russian Blue once had so much bounce in her playful step but as the years passed she began to slow down and become less tolerant of her brother cat and his antics. She sometimes needed help up or down the stairs until around January when she didn’t even want to go downstairs anymore. She was losing lots of weight and quickly.
Then suddenly she stopped eating all together and 3 days later passed away. We kept her as comfortable as possible in one of her favorite spots in our bedroom. We talked softly to her and stayed with her during her last few breaths. It is very hard losing a cherished pet but knowing that you gave them the best possible life and lots of love makes the situation a little easier to handle. So when you go home today, tell Tut how much we all love him and care about him. And know that our hearts are with you and your family during this difficult time. A grieving cat mom. (Carol in Oakley)
** Saw your column concerning Tut’s aging. Our gray tiger stripe, Quasimoto (unusual spelling, long story) amazed me more than once. When young (maybe 1 or 2) he jumped off of a balcony rail, over 2 stories from the ground, landed fine, shook the dust off and walked away without a care. When 16 he would still climb a redwood deck support to greet us on the balcony rather than go inside and come up the stairs. He even showed up with a captured Robin in mouth at about age 20, though we figured it must have been stunned from a window collision.
He made it to 23, outliving a succession of adopted/rescue dogs in the household and feeling very smug about it from all appearances, though we’re sure he lived that long because the dogs kept the yard clear of the feline competition. The dogs never bothered Quasi though, even in the yard, they knew the difference. (Paul, from San Ramon)
** I, like they all say, don’t usually write to the paper but your article about your wonderful cat Tut brought back many memories. I too had a cat that stayed with me through many years. I first got Muffin when I had broken up with a man that I had dated for many years. She saw me through meeting a new man, whom she hated, (she was a true calico) that I married. She was there through the birth of my three children and was the baby-sitter for my first child.
Many times in her life she would bring her treasures into the house and I would have to somehow get rid of them. My husband would always know when I was getting home from work because she would run to a window and start meowing until I opened the door. As the years went on Muffin started moving slower and slower. People said I should put her down but I could not bring myself to do that because she would still run to me when I would arrive home or when my children when get home from school.
Unfortunately the horrible day came. She was 19 years old, deaf and blind, and I was in a hurry to leave for work. I guess she was sleeping behind my car when I drove out of my drive way. My husband and oldest daughter took her to the vet and they said that because she was so old and led a great life that it was her time to go. It was a horrible day and my daughter still remembers it. Some good did come out of it a couple of months later I received a letter from UC Davis thanking me for donating the cat for research. I guess even in death she is still helping people.
Thank you for listening to my story, I love reading your column daily it gives me great pleasure hearing about what goes on in our animal world. (Kerry, another great animal lover from Concord)
** Our 19 year old Garfield suffered from a kidney disease that is very common in older male cats. For several months we had to insert several ounces of glucose into his little body in order for him to continue to live and he had a pretty good life, though he was not real fond of the procedure, but as a result we enjoyed his company for another 6 months. He also needed to take glucosamine for his achy joints/bones.
As he neared his end it became very apparent he was no longer enjoying a quality of life, we prepared to have him euthanized but he had a massive stroke before we were able to get him to the vet’s office. It has been 7+ years and it is still painful to recall his last minutes. This last September we adopted another kitty who looks very much like our beloved Garfield and now we are sorry we waited so long before adopting. Our new Gigi is absolutely delightful. (R. Schuette in cyberspace)