A candid talk about our aging pussies.
(First of all, I've been dying to write any blog post containing the word "pussy" in the title merely so I'd have reason to use this Prince song/video, which I only discovered a couple of weeks ago. Somehow, this gem had gone beneath my radar screen all of these years! He is simply amazing and I cannot get enough of him. Especially post-mortem.
Which is how this death thing seems to work.)
Ok, so back to the title at hand. Get your mind out of whatever gutter in which it may be residing. I’ll write about THAT pussy another time. Today I’m writing about the other kind of pussy. You know…the furry variety with the finicky appetite…the independent kind with the oft aloof reputation. Actually, that could refer to the other variety of pussy as well. Ok, so to be clear, we’re talking about FELINES today.The pussies with claws who seem to require increasingly expensive brands of canned cat food and who decide to randomly poop in the corner of your living room. Because, as my daughter so insightfully noted:
Wow…she just doesn’t give a f*ck anymore.
And by she, my daughter was referring to our beloved cat, Beanie, who will celebrate her 16th birthday in about a month. Which is an amazing feat, considering the fact that when we received her from Tuft’s veterinary clinic in Massachusetts, she was the size of a large, fluffy hamster. An orphaned little ball of black and white adorableness who required feeding with baby formula via an eye dropper, she was only about three weeks old when she joined our family of five, and we fell instantly in love with our diminutive “tuxedo” kitty. My husband’s sister worked at Tuft’s, and had offered her up to us, knowing we were cat lovers and had recently moved into a new home, and were (unusual for us) cat-less.
The next month, we were headed to Maine for a family vacation with our three children, and when we returned, Drew had a scan which relayed the devastating news that his pancreatic cancer had returned, and spread to his liver and lungs. And Beanie was one of the brighter parts of our life at that juncture. We were all absolutely thrilled to have her in our life. The timing was perfect.
That was August of 2002.
A couple of months later, we got news of a second adoptable girl kitty from the same sister-in-law, and were told that we could have her in three months. That was October. By the time the three months were up, Drew had been buried in a cemetery on a snowy New Year’s Eve day. My sister-in-law and her husband met me at in the parking lot of a McDonalds a few towns away from our home, and handed the kitty, already dubbed“Cecil” by an alive-at-the-time Drew, over to me. Drew had hoped for a second kitty one day, and so had chosen "Beanie and Cecil" in honor of the Beany and Cecil of 1950’s cartoon fame. (Beany being the little kid in the multi-colored beanie propeller cap, and Cecil being his pal, the green dinosaur. A bit before my time, but he remembered it because he had a boatload of older siblings. If you don’t remember it, Google away.)
Cecil was a teensy-tiny ball of pure grey fluff and love… with snowy white paws and a patch of white under her chin and on her chest. I brought her home six days after Drew’s funeral…on our daughter’s 10th birthday. I was hoping it might bring a smile to her face. Or at least allow her to sleep through the night. I remember placing her on Olivia’s bed, up against her pillow, the covers pulled up partially over her little fluffy kitten body, as a surprise for her when she arrived home from school that day. It was a birthday shrouded in melancholy, to say the least, and Cecil was a true gift. Like a living stuffed animal, she would stay in place between Olivia’s arms and snuggle all night long.
And, now, fifteen and one half years later…she is glued to me like a pair of cheap 1970’s vinyl pants.
Beanie and Cecil should be like sisters, since they are nearly the same age and have been together since they were babies. But alas, they are not. They are more like the leading characters in The Odd Couple. Beanie is Oscar Madison and Cecil is Felix Unger. Only even more prissy and sophisticated and demanding. More like Zsa Zsa Gabor, come to think of it. Although, to her credit, Cecil can kill wildlife with the skill of a Ninja. If she could still venture outdoors, that is. Which she cannot, because we now live in a second floor apartment on a street in Newport, RI, where she would definitely stand a better chance of being run down by a tourist trolley than finding a mouse for a lunch treat.
Having always had one or two cats since I’ve been an adult, and having had an unfortunate number of them lost to cancer, car accidents and once, to the ultimately fatal damages brought on by a tail caught in a chain-link fence…I am shocked that both Beanie and Cecil have lived to the nearly ripe-old (impressively old, actually) age of sixteen, given their indoor/outdoor status. And the fact that they have resided with us in towns in both Massachusetts and coastal Maine that included coyotes, errant foxes, "fisher cats" (part of the weasel family and quite nasty/ terrifying) and who knows what other form of predator.
Apparently, they have been two street-savvy, tough and fortunate pussies!
Although many disagree with my philosophy, I’ve always been of the mindset that I’d rather a cat enjoy the outdoors than be trapped inside, against their natural instincts. And if that means their life is shortened, well, for me it’s on par with being a human, putting real half and half in my coffee and potentially cutting a couple years off of my lifespan, as opposed to using fat free half and half or, worse yet, skim milk, and living a bit longer. To what end? Personally, I’d rather enjoy my time here than live longer and be deprived of the human pleasures that make life enjoyable.
But I digress.
Anyway, the point is, I now have two elderly cats (or pussies, as a British beau of mine was wont to call them, to my chagrin), and some days it feels as if they are completely in control of my life. I no longer have a house full of kids,
I now have an apartment full of aging felines.
One is on heart medication and goes in for acupuncture every month or so. The other is completely overly-attached to me and cannot get enough of me on a daily basis (I swear, I know she was born a couple of months before Drew’s demise, but I still don’t completely disbelieve the possibility that he has been reincarnated into her little super-affectionate self). I wake up some mornings and she is either lying on my chest or sleeping on my head…and if she’s on my chest, I sometimes wake up to her licking my face, which is lovely when you’re dreaming that Johnny Depp is loving-you-up, but not so sexy when you realize it is your co-dependent feline trying to French kiss you. I am beginning to see how this situation could negatively impact my future dating life. As my daughter (again) insightfully noted:
She would ingest you if she could.
Perhaps Cecil's intimacy comfort level with me has gone beyond the realm of healthy. Whatever. I've spent too much money on veterinary care at this point to afford a kitty shrink.
Beanie, having a back injury, high blood pressure (seriously??? mine is probably currently higher than hers) and not aging quite as gracefully as Cecil, has challenges with her mobility and now spends 85% of her time on the couch. The other fifteen percent is spent sauntering to the kitchen to eat, and on frequent forays to her (private) litter box. Located quite inconveniently in my only bathroom. At some point last fall, she decided she wasn’t going to use the “communal” litter box any longer (I know this because she began doing her business next to the toilet in MY bathroom) and so, I set up a separate litter box for her in there. How cozy.
Unfortunately, she has apparently also lost her spatial and depth perception ~or merely enjoys exploiting her senior citizen status~ because when she pees, which is a frequent occurrence~ she has a tendency to hang her bottom over the edge of said litter box and voila!, half of the pee doesn’t quite make it into the litter box. And so it goes.
She is one high-maintenance kitty. But she is so very sweet and a true love-bug, and I absolutely adore her. She purrs constantly. And at quite the high volume. (If you've ever seen Spinal Tap...she goes up to 11...just like their sound system.)
And speaking of litter boxes, I never thought I’d be so well aware of my cat’s bowel movement schedule. I don’t think
I even knew this much about my young children’s digestive patterns. But when cats eat, they poop. If all is going well. Beanie was constipated for a while, so keeping track of her pooping schedule was required by our veterinarian at some juncture last autumn, and now, well, it’s just part of my life.
Did I brush my teeth? Yes.
Did I take my pro-biotic? Affirmative.
Did Beanie poop? Yup.
And don’t get me going on the whole eating thing. I have spent more money on every grain-free, organic and uppity, well-branded manner of cat food in the past ten months than I’ve spent on my own nutritionally balanced meals.
Much like young children, elderly cats like something for a one meal, or sometimes a day or two…and then it’s all:
No way Jose'.
What’s this $2.25-a-can organic, grain-free cr*p you’re trying to serve me? Surely you must be joking.
At one point our "holistic" vet, never short on great ideas that generally don't work with my particular cats, wanted me to try canned tuna and salmon. The kind humans eat. I soon found out my finicky felines will drink the tuna water, but not eat the actual tuna. They will also not eat canned salmon (or even fresh cold water coho salmon from the depths of the northern seas!), yet will happily partake of my smoked salmon, at $16.99 per pound.
And they really like those pouches of special kitty food that clock in at a hefty price for a measly three ounces.
I think I could purchase illegal drugs for not much more than that. And have considerably more fun.
I love my kitties…and I am lucky to have procured a lovely kitty-sitter so I can finally leave the house for more than a singular day. And I cannot even imagine my grief and sadness when they finally move on to that great kitty playground in the sky. I am not at all looking forward to that "next chapter," especially since Beanie was our last pet to have had a relationship with my now deceased husband, and to have been held in his arms. And then there's the whole bit about him naming them. Dear God.
At the moment, however, I cannot help but laugh at my situation.
Currently, I am seriously considering donning a Life Alert bracelet, for fear that my epitaph will read “She was found in her apartment, smothered by her codependent pussy.” Or worse yet, for my children to be subjected to the trauma which would surely be instilled by a National Enquirer article about my face having been licked off, and my "middle-aged-single-woman-living-alone-with--her-cats" otherwise considerably hot body found a week later.
Here’s to our amazing and independent and beautiful, kick-ass pussies. Both feline and otherwise.