Some cats know

27 08 2008

How skinny can a cat get before her human realizes she needs to do something?

I have two cats, one fat, one skinny, both old. They have dry food whenever they want, canned food on the weekends, and wheatgrass when I can remember to grow it for them.

Skinny cat, who is 17 1/2, has been getting skinnier and skinnier. For the longest time, I thought, Oh, she’s just getting old, that’s what happens. Her eyes are bright, she’s still fairly agile, she’s in no pain, she eats, drinks, eliminates, does what she’s always done (albeit slower). No problem. Sure, I was worried enough to check some manuals on cat care, but weight loss and age seemed to go together.

Then, the other day, I looked at her—really looked at her. That hanging gut that used to sway from side to side as she ran: gone. It was never fat—it looked more like a wattle, loose skin—so I figured it was simply an artifact from her long-ago spaying. But it was gone. And finally, finally, it hit me: my cat was wasting away.

I know: stupid human, it took you this long to figure it out? I’d been thinking that, hmm, maybe I should do something about this, maybe give her more canned food (but what about Fat Cat, who absolutely does not need more calories? what about the LOGISTICS?), but did nothing. (Oh, and did I even consider that part of the problem may be difficulty in chewing hard food? Did I even bother to check her teeth? You know the answer.) Well, fuck logistics. Skinny Cat is going to get a supplement of canned food EVERY DAY for the REST OF HER LIFE.

It didn’t really hit me, until this past year, about the need to reconsider my approach to my cats. Skinny Cat has gotten messier, needier, more of a pain in the ass, really, and my patience was eroding. And then I thought, What am I going to do? And I going to get rid of her because she’s, oh, inconvenient? Because she’s not that psycho kitty doing a frankenstein walk and cracking me up? She’s old and messy and needy, and I can either resent her for that or reset my expectations.

I don’t have a partner or kids, and my family lives a thousand miles away. My understandings of how to care for aging, messy, needy beings is theoretical, at best. I haven’t taken on the obligations of commitment, haven’t promised to care for someone else, full stop.

Or so I thought.