I’m in my 40s and I’ve lived with cats for nearly my entire life. But circumstances have never let me experience life with a cat in their old age until now. I left for college before the cat I grew up with got old, and two of the cats I had in my 20s and 30s both died around age ten.
But Mini, the cat my husband and I adopted back in 2004, is about to turn 16 at the end of this month, and I needed to write about the sheer joy of living him at this stage in his life.
Let me first say that OBVIOUSLY, cats at any age are wonderful. They’re funny, sweet, and extremely opinionated. What I’ve always appreciated about cats is that you get back what you give. Unlike dogs, a cat will not love you no matter what. You have to earn their love. And you also have to respect their boundaries. Sometimes a cat is just not in the mood to cuddle or play – or they insist on it, but it’s 3 AM. You know how it is.
Like all relationships, a relationship with an animal deepens over time. The longer you live together, the more you understand each other’s rhythms and routines and quirks. You grow together, you change together, you learn from each other.
But now I know that something truly magical also happens when you live with a cat in their golden years.
Like most of us, cats slow down as they get older. They become mellow and chill. There is no more zooming all over the house or jumping from the floor to the top of the refrigerator. They take their time and seem to move more deliberately. There’s a grace and grandeur to it.
Our Mini was never a lap cat. He was feral for the first six months of his life so while sweet and curious, he never felt truly comfortable being held or sleeping in your lap or any of that stuff. Now, he climbs into my lap often and spends hours there purring and sleeping. He also calls for me several times a day so I can give him some pets.
Because he’s older, I’m also more conscious of his well-being. I’m always looking for signs that Mini’s feeling OK and checking up on him. My husband and I make sure he gets supplements and medication that help him with age-related issues like arthritis. All this makes me focus on him in a way I never did before and I think it deepens my connection to him. I will often pick him up on days when he’s slower to climb the stairs to the bedroom, “Let daddy give you a lift, my love.”
After Mini had a health scare last summer, I decided to limited my travel so I can be here for him. I know many would think that would leave someone bitter or resentful, but I’ve honestly seen it as a privilege to be able to take care of someone in their old age. I mean, don’t we all hope that we’ll be treated kindly and patiently if we’re lucky enough to grow old?
I’m also much more in the moment with Mini because I don’t know how many more moments we will have. I know that’s true for anybody, but when someone reaches their sunset years you really feel it.
Perhaps a cat getting older changes us as much as it does them. Maybe it makes us slow down, take stock, and reflect.
For now, I plan to enjoy our time together. Placing his bed in the sun so he can warm himself, running up the stairs and giving him pets when he calls, and spending hours on the bed with him in my lap. Just the two of us meditating on life. I wish it could last forever.