Geriatric pets

It’s not an easy task, taking care of a geriatric pet, whether it’s a cat, dog, bird, cow, horse or whatever it is that has been a big part of your family, your life, your heart.

I’ve personally been there a few times, but my pets didn’t become totally dependent on me towards the end, unlike the little guy we have now. Clayton is a full time job. He developed a heart murmur in 2012 and suffered an attack and a stroke Christmas 2013. We thought we had lost him for sure, but he bounced back and was looking in good health until the summer of 2014 when we moved here.

Clayton in Vic

He is a cold climate cat so the air conditioning is on most days in the office where Clayton spends most of his time. The heat makes him more breathless and uncomfortable, so we try to keep him happy and healthy as much as possible. It’s a tricky business.

In Perth, my longest living cat, Tigger, had a heart murmur and he decided one morning at the age of 22 that he’d had enough of this life and came to my bedroom, asked to be put on the bed and died in my arms. My other cat TJ was already on the bed, and you know if anyone tries to tell me animals don’t have a clue and don’t feel grief, I will laugh in their faces as being the heartless and ignorant fools that they are.

TJ was 17 at the time and he was heartbroken, as was our 15yr old dog Buddy, a faithful blue heeler. All three had grown up together.

Tigger was a healthy three years old when TJ was rescued by a friend and I from her horrid neighbour who used to set his German Shepherds onto the kitten and laugh as the poor baby tried desperately to scramble over the fence away from their barking and gnashing teeth. TJ was welcomed by Tigger with no problems. Both ginger and white, but TJ was fluffy and a tad dumb to be honest.

Shortly after, Buddy was brought to my husband’s business as a 6 week old puppy by some goon who didn’t think it was necessary to have his female dog fixed. I think there were about five or six puppies to be given away. Buddy took Tim’s eye immediately and he too was welcomed by Tigger and TJ into our home. They played, slept, ate and snuggled together and had fun unrolling the toilet paper into a big white mass on the bathroom floor, many times when I was at work. They travelled around Australia with us and enjoyed life.

Tigger was the first to leave us with his dicky heart giving up, Buddy was next with a heart attack at the age of 16, and TJ soon followed at the age of 18. I always say he died of a broken heart which I can fully relate to.

When Tigger died I rang my boss and told him I was taking a week’s compassionate leave due to a death in the family. He asked how old the family member was and I replied 22. Shock echoed at the end of the line before he told me to take as long as I needed. To this day, nobody I worked with knows that it was my cat who had died, not a 22 year old man as they imagined. I was bereft for months, and that week away from work was necessary.

Below is a pic of Buddy with Steven both aged about 5. Buddy could be trusted with any child or animal – he was one in a million.

Buddy and Steven

Clayton has his good and bad days. One day he is struggling to breathe and can’t go outside or climb the stairs, and yet the next day he will as bright as a kitten. Each night Tim and I go to bed wondering what will the morning bring and dread having to say our goodbyes to him.

He was a cat we never intended having. (Hence his name Clayton – the cat you have when you’re not having a cat. It’s from an ad for Claytons drinks back in the 80s for those who are still wondering…it was the drink you had when you weren’t having a drink). Get it?

Anyway, he lived mostly in the paddock behind our rental in Victoria when we first moved there and were waiting for our house to be built. His owner was a cabinet maker, unfriendly, gruff, heavy drinking, slobby and uncaring. The last person you would imagine having a cat.

Clayton spent his days and most nights out with the sheep, and played with the magpies by day when it was sunny, or slept under our outdoor setting if wet and cold. He was only friendly with Tim and didn’t trust me one bit. Tim was smitten because Clayton looked like a tubby  short-legged clone of our Tigger. (Mind you, back then the tubby part was all fur to keep out the cold as he was rather thin until I got the chance to feed him up).

Eventually, he would come inside for a bit of ham or cheese. A sweet little guy, gentle with a loud purr but he rarely made any other sound whatsoever.

When the day came for us to move to our finished home, there was no sign of Clayton so Tim drove off with his car and trailer loaded up; Steven drove off with his car loaded up.I sat quietly in the ute with my door open and after a couple of minutes, saw Clayton on the drive watching me. I said ‘Are you coming too Clayton?’ and held the door open a little wider. To my surprise he walked casually towards me and jumped into my lap then made himself comfortable on the passenger seat. We left that place behind and began our new lives together.

On our drive to Queensland from Victoria almost ten years later, he again sat on the passenger seat of the ute and chatted to me between snoozing for the 1800kms.

His breathing and general health began to take a turn for the worse a few weeks after arriving. The heat as I said earlier was too much for him.

It has been a constant worry and dread for us waiting for the inevitable. We love him dearly and I know Tim will need that week’s compassionate leave for sure!

Today though, he woke up looking very bright and happy and wandered outside while I fed the chooks. He loves the garden and found his favourite place this morning. It was cool and shady, just right for a cool climate cat. As the morning drew on it became warm again and he retired to his office with the air cond. He’s a lucky boy.

Tomorrow who knows? He might need to be carried up stairs. He will want to sit on the first available knee for a cuddle and he will still want his breakfast, lunch and dinner with his cheesy snacks and treats in between. He will get all this attention because we love him dearly and just want his life to be the happiest we can possibly make it for him.

Below are a few pics Tim took of him in his garden this morning, looking quite fit and healthy. Close up though his breathing is asthmatic.

Bless him. I do hope anyone out there who is going through the same stage of life of a pet as we are, stays strong and keeps smiling. We wish you the very best. It’s hard, but it’s worth every second.




2 thoughts on “Geriatric pets

  1. Gerri Bowen April 18, 2016 at 8:06 pm Reply

    It is worth it, Jo. 🙂

  2. joskehan April 18, 2016 at 9:49 pm Reply

    Yes Gerri, it is. Heartbreaking in many ways and it feels like the pain of losing him/her is dragged out bit by bit watching them fade away from us. We love this little guy so much and it’s going to be a wrench, so for now we are hoping it won’t be soon.
    By the way, how is your finger? I do hope it healed up ok. Hugs. xx

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