Toby, our cat, is somewhere between fourteen and fifteen years old, and over the past six months, has come to look it. He’s lost weight, gone frail, and is now mostly a furry bag of overly affectionate bones.
He’s also lost what brains he had—and believe me, the benchmark wasn’t that high.
Old, forgotten habits are new again, in his second kittenhood, and he’s gone reckless with them. He jumps on the counters from the kitchen table, right in front of my MIL, with no regard to his personal safety, her draconian ideas pet etiquette and food safety, or my blood pressure.
He knocks over unattended glasses, just to pat at the puddles. And we’ve had to extract him from the toilets, lately, a habit he ditched a decade ago, so all the humans in the house are trying to remember to put the lids down, a habit we thought we could safely ditch once the girls were too big to fall in.
But he’s developed a couple of new habits, too.
The cat who ate everything and anything now turns up his failing nose at food that’s been sitting in his bowl more than three hours and water that isn’t moving. He slides the ceramic bowl around to be helpful—or to point out that his water is stale, thank you—which drives my MIL, whose ceiling is the floor of our laundry room, crazy.
He’s also decided that he can’t poop in the litterbox unless it’s absolutely clean. I scoop three times a day, but work outside the house and do occasionally sleep, so he’s started to find . . . alternative facilities. I’m just grateful he’s not as picky about all his bathroom habits, because his kidneys are obviously older, too, poor guy—our semi-weekly rounds of “Find the Torpedo” are revolting enough, but I categorically refuse(pun totally intended) to play “Rip out the Ammonia-infused Closet Carpet.”
I sympathize with all this. I do. Kitty dementia is a real thing, according to the vet, and I’m sure being unable to trust one’s instincts, memories, and once-sharp senses is terribly confusing, especially when one’s cranium is the size of half a tangerine.
So I do my best to keep him comfortable and keep the inconveniences at a minimum for the rest of us.
But when one’s beloved pet, for reasons only known to him—or not—starts howling at 3:45am every blessed morning?
That’s when I get a tad resentful.
“Maaaw? Maaaw? MaaaROW? MaaaROW?”
“Here kitty, kitty,” I mumble, more than willing to accept his dirty feet on my pillow and his Meow Mix Hairball Control Formula breath in my face in exchange for just one more precious hour of sleep.
My husband mutters something and sticks his head under his own pillow.
“Maaaw? Maaaw? MaaaROW? MaaaROW? MAAAROW?! ROW?! ROW?!
After about twenty minutes of this, I stumble into the laundry room, check his food (full), check his water (full and clean), check his litter (scoop, just in case), leave the light on so he can find all three, and stumble back to bed.
“Maaaw? Maaaw? MaaaROW? MaaaROW? MAAAROW?! ROW?! ROW?! ROOOOOOOW?!!”
He’s standing on the toilet lid, pawing at it.
I get up, raise the lid, give him a rough head rub because thumping elderly kitties sharply around the ear hole is wrong, whatever the justification, and go back to bed.
“Maaaw? Maaaw? MaaaROW? MaaaROW? MAAAROW?! ROW?! ROW?! ROOOOOOOW?!! ROOOOOOOW?!!!!”
He’s howling in the shower. He seems to like the echo. Or he wants someone to turn on the taps for him.
It’s now 4:45am.
I give up, get up, banish him from the bathroom, and turn on the shower for my own use. Even through the water, I can hear him.
“Maaaw? Maaaw? MaaaROW? MaaaROW? MAAAROW?! ROW?! ROW?! ROOOOOOOW?!!!! ROOOOOOOW?!!!!””
There’s certainly nothing wrong with his lungs.
But when I come out, he’s gone.
The house is quiet.
But I’m awake now, or my version of it, so I start coffee,grab my laptop, and start kvetching about this smelly, rude, loud, clingy, senile cat of mine.
About halfway through my rant, a too-light furry ball of bony warmth sits on my bare foot.
And starts to purr.