Seeking Senior Cat Advice

Miss Molly
I would like to ask for the opinions or advice from any mums in the CB who have senior cats. My Molly will be nineteen soon. About three years ago she was diagnosed with hyperthyroid, the vet said the damage to her kidneys was significant and that they were only about 1/3 functioning. He gave her about two years (maximum) to live and prescribed Methimazole. We have passed that estimate by one year now! But, Molly is painfully thin and shaky on her legs, she sleeps all the time, vomits regularly (although in all fairness she always had a jumpy tummy) and despite my constant brushing her fur is covered in mats. However, I believe(d) that she still has quality of life for two reasons:

1. she does not seem to be in any pain

2. she always engages with us and purrs and wants to cuddle

Then the other day when I was at the vet picking up food, I started chatting with a man who was there with his three cats for their annual check-up. He told me that they used to have four cats but their twenty year old had to be put down.

“Really, I have a senior cat too” I said. “Was she ill?”

He replied “Oh yes, she had no quality of life left; she just slept all the time and puked and was covered in mats.”

Gulp, I paid for my food and slunk out of the office. So what I considered to be bearing up well for her age, he considered to be a heinous existence that required euthanasia. I’m sure you can imagine how this made me feel…like a terrible mother who was letting her cat suffer!

This is where I implore anyone who has a cat around Molly’s age to please tell me your experience. Is your cat also afflicted with age related disease? Are you also struggling with what decisions to make? Please help me.


Amy & the house of cats said...

Hi Cat, we had two senior cats growing up - one passed on her own, the other we had to make the decision. She was having seizures, unable to stand at times, incontinent - it was obviously time for her. In your case, I would suggest talking to the vet and getting their opinion. It is such a hard decision to make and I wish I could give you more advice. I am sending you lots of comforting prayers and hugs because I know this has to be so hard for you.

Raymond and Busby said...

Your vet should teach you how to give daily sub-Q fluids. Both of our older siblings lived to be 22 & 23 years old and had good quality of life until the end of their lives. They both had CRF, chronic renal failure. All older cats get it. But with daily fluids, they can live comfortably. The vet can also give you a pill for her stomach upset. Talk to your Vet about the sub-Q fluids, they are vital to her at this time.

Cory said...

Our guardian angel cat Jonathan lived to be 20+ years and he had FIV and high blood pressure and blindness...but we loved him and even though he slowed way down, he loved us and we loved him and he was shaky and his fur had mats because he couldn't groom himself like he used to. All that. But you know what, he was not suffering and even though we worried about him and when the right time was, we just trusted we would just "know"...he'd let us know. And he did. One day, he was obviously confused and out of it and he walked over to mom and just let fly with his pee...and acted as if he didn't even realize he was doing it (he didn't)...and then he slowed WAY down and his breathing became labored. And we knew. We spent those last 2 days with him cuddling and reading stories to him and then took him to the v-e-t for the trip to the Rainbow Bridge.

Trust in your love for her and you'll know the right thing to do and when to do it.

Milo and Alfie Marshall said...

Please don't rush into a choice in a hurry ~ just because of what a stranger said. I truly do believe you will know when the time is right and then there will not be a decision to make.

My adored lilac point siamese cat (Henry 1985 ~ 2004) lived to be nearly 20 years old ~ and he too went very thin and didn't groom well in the last year or so. but he still enjoyed life and I knew when the time had come and he was able to die in my arms surrounded by love (with an injection from the vet).

I so agree with Cory's mom, "Trust in your love for her and you'll know the right thing to do and when to do it".

Love and ((((((hugs)))))) from Jan
(Milo and Alfie's mom).

Marg said...

What Cory said is so true. When they get older it is so hard because you think they are suffering but they really are not. They do not groom themselves when they get older so don't worry about the mats. They do get thinner so don't worry about that. I had a cat that had the thyroid problem and she would throw up and quit eating and I would think it was time but then she would start eating again. So we would stick it out a little longer. Then one day, her eyes told me that she was tired and it was time for her to go. I just knew and the same will be true for you and Molly. If she is still purring and eating a little bit(give her some people tuna, not a lot) then don't worry. But she will let you know when it is time.

Hannah and Lucy said...

I had a senior cat called Emma who I had to have put to sleep at the end of November last year.
She had had kidney problems for several years and cystitis flared up 2 or 3 times a year which was cleared up quickly with tablets from the vets plus arthritis in the back legs.
She would not drink out of a bowl and always drank out of a watering can in the garden - her prefered water was rainwater!
One day in the early winter as it was starting to get dark she went out and I thought she'd been gone a while and looked out and couldn't see her at first but then spotted her on the garage roof - she couldn't seem to get down. I flew down and got some steps out the garage and just managed teetering on the top to reach her and lift her down.
Later that evening she sat on her gizzy quilt on the sofa and I took her photograph and when I looked at the picture I saw her eyes looked strange. Next morning I took her to the vet and they said she was almost totally blind. Although I didn't want to I had her helped to the Bridge there and then because I couldn't bear to think of her going up on the roof again and if I was not in getting stuck up there in the winter weather.
I still miss her so much but am convinced I did the right thing at the right time.
You will know when it is the right time to do this so painful task.

Mishkat said...

I think that as long as she's still engaging with you (very encouraging), and you know she's not in any pain, that's great. You didn't mention anything about her eating but if she still wants food, that is a very good sign too.

I've had to have two senior cats put to sleep - Henry developed congestive heart failure at age 13, and, after a few remissions, I think he was preparing for death - he had difficulty breathing, stopped eating and drinking, and withdrew from us. Fletcher (age 17) had cardiomyopathy, but was happy and functional until the day he developed a blood clot, which immediately caused him to become very uncomfortable. We'd been warned about this by vet, so we knew to take him in right away. (This is still very hard for me to remember and write about, but I am 100% sure we did the right thing.)

I also agree with what Cory said - you have known and loved Molly for a long time, and you will be able to tell when she is ready. I've learned by experience that cats are far more pragmatic about death that we are - and that they know.

(((hugs))) and purrs from Katie and the cats

P.S. If the vet thinks Molly might benefit from sub-Q fluids, you might check them out. I have done them at home to help Dobby get over a urinary tract infection, and it is much easier that I expected.

The Monkeys said...

We definitely agree with Cory and Katie that you'll know when Molly is ready. If she's purring and interacting, it sounds like she's still doing well.

I'm not sure if you know the cats over at Cats of Wildwood Cats? They have a 19 year old Tortie named Chica. They use a holistic vet, so she may have some tips for you. Their blog is: http://wildcatwoodscats.blogspot.com/

cats of wildcat woods said...

Our Chica is 19 but doing well - she has CRF and hyperthyroid. I give her water with a plastic needle free syringe several times a day since she will not tolerate sub q fluids. She was diagnosed with CRF 4 years ago. On the other hand Yoko is 17, matted fur, sleeps all the time is thin and vomits has hyperthyroid but she still engages with us and loves to be with us. We just brush her often, give her extra fluids (learning to give sub q would be handy for you)and love. Try another vet = perhaps a holisitic one - they have more to offer I think and less drugs. My vet said that having hyperthyroid helps the kidneys function better (if you treat the thyroid the kidneys don't do as well) so I have not treated the thyroid but treat the kidneys naturally. You will know when the time is near. Until then just love Molly and be there for her.

Teri and her Stylish Cats ~ Coco the Couture Cat, FurryDance Brighton, and Disco NoFurNo said...

You are getting some good advice from us who have had elderly kitties and nursed them along. I, too, have had 2 CRF cats and they both lived way past the expectations of my vets because of 1)Sub Q Fluids, every day. Most people do them twice a week but having had my dad go through dialysis and knowing that 'diuresing' is what the fluids do, I think they go through less of an up and down rollercoaster of good and bad days if you can do the fluids every day.

I also put them on 'nutriceuticals' that help the kidney function, and not the usual prescription diet solely, as most of the time once they have lost muscle mass (catexia), it is very difficult for them to have the metabolism and reserved to be able to build it back up...but it can be done.

As you probably understand, the hyperthyroidism, once controlled, shows that the kidney function is usually worse than initial blood tests showed. If you can, I would try and repeat the labs about every 3 months.

Arthritis can have a big effect on ability to groom, and something I have used (and we use alot at the cat hospital where I work) is Adequan injections and most cats respond very favorably to them and it doesn't have the risks of the NSAIDS like Metacam. You give 0.2cc every 2 weeks and you can be demo'd on how to do that too.

Email me if you have any questions.

SASS....Sammy Andy Shelly Sierra said...

Oh, dear, this is a difficult one. My Sookie lived to be 20+ years...she never had any health issues....she just got old. When she felt it was her time, she quit eating.

As I saw her failing, I worried about her suffering and took her to our vet on a regular basis to be sure she wasn't in pain.....or to at least have him tell me she wasn't!!!!!

It is so difficult to see our "babies" age and know that we are going to lose them. I send you love and hugs.

Katnip Lounge said...

I had an old guy, Fuzzy, who had diabetes the last 7 years of his life...he lived to be 19!
Molly will let you know when it's time to go. As long as she still asks for affection and company I think she's OK. I agree with the fluid therapy, and kidney problems can make Cats nauseous...the vet can help you with that.
Don't let anyone (exept maybe your vet) sway your assesment about Molly. You know her best.

Angel Simba said...

I think if she was having lots of different issues and constantly back and forth to the vet's, or incontinent, or couldn't stand up, then it would be time. I don't think it sounds like it is now. I agree with not letting a cat suffer, but there doesn't sound like suffering here.

She sounds like a sweetie.

Jacqueline said...

I think you should consider the sub q fluids=I did that for 5 years for my Mom's cat (from ages 15-20) and almost 2 years with my Nikki (she lived to be 20)...I personally do not think Molly is ready to go; it sounds like she could have another good year or two at least with the fluids (it doesn't take long every day and both cats tolerated it well)...Best of luck, kisses to beautiful Molly...xoxo...J, Calle, Halle, Sukki

Kea said...

Cat, Annie is hyper-t, but she's only 10 and right now her kidneys are fine.

Ask Deb at Just Cats. She has more than one 20+ cat--Siamese. And she cat sits. She's in Carleton Place, I think. Just sold her doggie biscuit business to focus on the cat-sitting.



Miss Molly will let you know, as someone said cats are far more pragmatic about these things than we are.

I believe it's normal for an older cat to sleep most of the time, be slightly on the thin side, and not groom as much.

As long as you can tell(and with Molly being your baby for so long, I know you'll be in tune with her)that she is not in pain I think you are still having quality of life with her.

Please don't let someone comment bother you because your baby is different from his.

You've gotten some really good advise from those who do have senior kitties, so I hope it eases your heart and makes you feel better about your decisions with Molly.


Abby (who's 11)

Brian said...

You will get lots of great advise from the CB. We don't have any seniors here, but our humans have had 2 that live to 20+ and the only thing we know for sure is that they will tell you when it is time for something. Then you will know because you know and love your sweetie.

♥I am Holly♥ said...

She sounds like a sweetie to me. She sure doesn't sound like she is suffering at all. My cats are going on 14 years old now and one has been suffering from a stomach problem since she was a kitten. She eats too fast and throws up all of the time. She's healthy though and loves everyone. My last kitty, Bingo, got really sick at the age of only 7. He had diabetes and it spread to his liver. The vet tried to get him to eat but he wouldn't. After a week and a half of vet care and being fed through a tube, I talked with her and made the decision to let him go. He was very young to be so sick. Please don't let a stranger influence your decision. Lots of love to you and the kitties. Debbie and Holly

Ellen Whyte said...

Look, you know your kitty best. If you think she's happy and enjoying a nice restful few years of golden purring and happiness then you are probably right and everything is fine. You will know the second she's not having fun anymore, and then you'll do the right thing. You're a good kitty mummy.

TK and Pip said...

I agree with most- when the time is right, you will know. You obviously love her very much. Your heart will know.

CCL Wendy said...

I think you are doing what is right for you and Molly. If she's not in any pain, why not let her just live out her natural life? I mean there's nothing wrong with sleeping. Most cats sleep most of the day no matter how old they are.

And my Domino is a chronic regurgitator, too. She'll be 10 years old soon, but has always been this way. Some cats just have sensitive stomachs. So that's not a good argument either.

As far the mats, as long as she's comfortable that's what really matters. And you could have her shaved if it gets really bad. You just want to make sure there is air circulation for her skin or sores may develop.

From what I have read on your blog, it sounds like Molly still has plenty of quality in her life. She's able to go outside and enjoy the fresh air, and gets lots of loving from you.

If Molly stops eating and doesn't have bowel control, then it might be time to help her to the bridge. I think you will know when the time is right. But, it would be nice for Molly if she could just go to sleep naturally.

The Island Cats said...

You've already gotten some good advice from the others. I had a cat, Bogart, who lived to be almost 21...he also had kidney issues. He also was very thin, had mats and vomited often. The last year or so of his life, I gave him sub-qs which helped him to feel better. At one point, he began vomiting more than usual, he stopped eating, and was having problems walking. The vet tried some medication which didn't help. At that point, I realized that nothing short of extraordinary measures was going to make Bogart better...he was tired and it was time to let him go. As long as Molly is eating and still enjoys cuddles and being with you, I think she is okay.

Island Cats' mom

Sweet Purrfections said...

You will get excellent advise from the CB. My Sweet Praline will be 15 next month and I know my time could be limited. However, I enjoy each day with her and know that she will let me know when she can't go on. Also, it's good to have a great vet who can advise you. Good luck.

Teddy Westlife said...

I can't add anything useful to what's been said above, and I don't really have any experience of older cats since I never had cats growing up, only dogs. Huffle's older brother poo-face Salvador was PTS in February last year at the age of 17, and he let us know it was time. He had a tumor on his kidney and when it got to be too much for him, he just stopped eating. Molly will tell you in her own way.

Tracey, the HuffleMum

dArtagnan Rumblepurr/Diego Hamlet Moonfur said...

I can't help with advice, but I can say you are so far from being a bad cat-mummy.

I'm wishing Molly many happy and pain free days.