How do you cope with having an aging furry friend?

Medical Herby

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My brother-in-law had to put his dog to sleep last week after he was diagnosed with cancer. From what he said, it was the best option. But I've now been looking at my senior boy (12-year-old tux), and I've started thinking that he might have only a few more good years.

I'm really satisfied with the life I've been able to offer him; I picked him up off the street in 2012, and the cat distribution system was in full effect that day! Since then, I've tried to give him the best I can offer. But I still feel our time is limited - I mean, all of our time is, really.

But I'm wondering if any of you have some advice to share on coping with seeing your friend slow down as they come into their sunset years?
 

FeebysOwner

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My cat, Feeby, is 19+yo and has several medical conditions, most of which have occurred in the past 3-4 years. She has been routinely seen by vets for most of her life, but especially after she turned 10-12. I think that being able to follow her health and treat what is treatable makes me know that I am doing the best for her I possibly can.

She has lived a long enough life to watch her slowly decline, but if I can make her time better and longer with treating her illnesses I will do so. It doesn't mean I am not saddened by the changes she has gone through, and that will continue as she ultimately closes this journey. But I look at her no differently than an elderly family member that is going through decline, or those beloved to me - pet or human - that have already passed.

As succinctly as I can put it - it happens, and we all will have/have had it happen to those around us - and eventually ourselves. It has to be looked at as a sad but realistic part of life.

Cherish them and love them and do what you can for them to keep them content and comfortable for as long as that is possible. It may not have been something you, me, or anyone thought about years ago, but back in the deep of our minds, we kind of always did know.
 

iPappy

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Luckily for us, fortunate cats with good care and good genes can live into their 20's, so hopefully your Tux has many more years left!
For me, keeping tab on their basic habits (eating, litter box stuff, etc.) helps me because I know I'll be able to catch problems as they arise, while they are hopefully easily treated. This helps tame down any anxiety that creeps up when age comes into consideration. I also take a lot of photos! (We love pictures BTW! :) )
I have 4 cats that are over 15. One is completely healthy, one has some mild arthritis, one has hyperthyroidism, and the other is apparently healthy despite being on the thin side. In 2021 and 2022, I lost 3 pets in 13 months time. It was not an easy thing to deal with. By the time the third was diagnosed with cancer despite acting 100% normal, I was in "pre-mourning" for him and, while I consider that normal, it can sneak up and steal quality time.
I've also started keeping a "cute stuff" journal. Anytime they do something incredibly cute or out of character, I write it down. I don't want to lose those memories, and looking back on them brings me a lot of smiles.
 

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In a perfect world our furbabies would live as long as we do. But sadly that is not the case. Instead of worrying on something that is the future focus on the now. Keep up on their health in anyway you can. But most of all continue to give them all the love you can. Play with them cherish them hug them and etc. Create as many memories with them as you can. That way when that sad day comes you will know that you gave that furbaby the best life ever. You will feel better knowing you did everything for that furbaby for them to have a great long life and that they will be waiting for you when your time comes. So don’t worry about the future focus on the now.

I forgot to add but I am so sorry for your brother in law’s loss. It never really is easy when it comes to that time. But as I said as long as we love and cherish them while we have them they will live long happy wonderful lives. They will be free to play in that big yard in the sky until we meet again.
 
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IndyJones

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Kabuto is 16 and has both hyperthyroidism and chd. I was told by the vet it is very guarded because of his heart condition. He looks so much more comfortable on his meds and has put weight back on. My plan is to let him pass at home by Gods hand but if i have no other choice i will have him (good gosh I can hardly type this) put down.

But as it is he is comfortable and still the funny character he has always been. He just has trouble getting on my bed sometimes.
 
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Medical Herby

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This is the kindest community I've ever been a part of. Thank you so much for all your beautiful words. I know it's not a topic any of us want to think of, as inevitable as it is, so I appreciate you all taking a moment to empathize with me.

I completely agree that it's very much like looking at an aging family member. I've recently started noticing that my mom is slowing down a bit, and in that moment, I was just grateful that she's gotten to this point and made it through some really hard times. The same goes for my furbaby - he's a little slow but can still get down with the best of them. I definitely feel guilty when I dwell on the little time we have together instead of enjoying it. But you all helped me gain perspective.

I'm taking him to the vet next week for this annual check-up and getting the works - just to feel a bit more secure that I'm not missing anything. He will not be happy (will probably ignore me for a few days), but it is for his best!
 

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Thats great you're taking him in for his checkup. Senior cats are supposed to have them more often. Being proactive and catching things early can help with some peace of mind. Otherwise, I echo what others have said. I have had some bad anticipatory grief when I truly realized my babies were mortal and it was hard. I learned skills to take care of myself which ended up helping me when the time did come.
 
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Medical Herby

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Thats great you're taking him in for his checkup. Senior cats are supposed to have them more often. Being proactive and catching things early can help with some peace of mind. Otherwise, I echo what others have said. I have had some bad anticipatory grief when I truly realized my babies were mortal and it was hard. I learned skills to take care of myself which ended up helping me when the time did come.
Big hugs to you. I definitely wasn't prepared when my first furbaby's time came - it was very sudden. If you're comfortable sharing, I would love to hear about the skills you learned. I realize I haven't fully recovered from that first experience and could use some coping skills.
 

Kris107

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You have to try things and find what helps you feel better. For me, I did not need medication, but for some that's needed and okay. I'm not normally a super anxious person so I knew this was relatively temporary in the scheme of things. For me, I made sure I made sure I was eating regular meals - even if I had no appetite. I got a weighted blanket which I use when I need it. I found a homeopathic sleep aid. I also found places for additional support with all my feelings. It feels good to know that if and when I need those things again in the future, that they're there. If you still need to work through your first loss - have you found ways to honor that baby? That helped me. I got a special urn, have a resting place picked out. Made a little shadow box for the paw print. I tall to my past ones too and mention their names to current cat (even though he didn't know them). But even with all that, any animal life ending usually makes me weep!
 

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I am personally struggling with this, currently, but despite ongoing struggles, I am just starting to learn some coping skills as I go through the process of dealing with them.

My 11-year-old cat Willy was perfectly healthy, and just two months ago (to the day) I started this post in which I was just talking like you are here... that I was starting to think about the fact he is aging, how I wasn't sure how much time he has left, and how that fact was starting to make me sad. But, in the back of my mind, I took comfort in the fact that he had no major health problems, and some cats live well into their late teens, or as long as 20+ years in some cases.

Then, in some strange twist of fate, just one month later, I noticed a lump. A lump that started growing fast. I began chronicling the whole saga here, which is ongoing, and I have yet to get biopsy results back... but there is a very good chance he has cancer. I couldn't believe it... what are the odds? I'm still in disbelief, and I wouldn't call it denial because I've accepted the situation, but it's more like incredulousness. Like, I know it's real, I know it's happening, but I still just want to shake my head and say "no."

Honestly, though, I was extremely depressed about this for a while, but I am starting to pick up. And the way I am coping is by talking about it on here, as well as with other people in my life, and dealing with it one step at a time. I'm trying to have a plan for everything and set it in motion so that it's not all so overwhelming... like, for example, I am making an appointment with an oncology specialist now, so that if I get bad results back, I know what the next step is and it is planned.

I am also starting to play out the "what if" scenario in my mind, like if I get results back that he has cancer, and it's untreatable. I am researching things that I can do to improve his quality of life (and my own) as we deal with the situation that comes. He is not aware he has cancer yet, as the lumps do not bother him, so I am starting to plan for whatever I can do to keep it that way for as long as possible.

Of course, just writing the above paragraph makes me sad, and like I said, I am only starting to learn how to cope with this. I am far away from mastering it, and I will probably break down if I get bad news. But the best advice I can give you is to take whatever comes one step at a time. Hopefully you don't have to deal with a situation as dire, but with a senior cat, health issues can pile up fast and multiple things can hit you all at once. Compartmentalizing is the best way to get through it.
 

neely

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My brother-in-law had to put his dog to sleep last week after he was diagnosed with cancer. From what he said, it was the best option. But I've now been looking at my senior boy (12-year-old tux), and I've started thinking that he might have only a few more good years.
I think we can all relate to what you're going through and, yes, this is a very supportive and caring community. One of our daughters had to put her dog to sleep a few weeks ago. We considered him our surrogate pup since our last dog is at the bridge. 🌈 I can tell you from personal experience no matter how many pets you have or have had it doesn't get any easier. They are all special and dear to us. That being said, I also am going through this now with our present cat. I reflect on how he acted when we rescued him and have noticed a definite difference in his energy level and even appetite. However, when we adopted him he was in such bad shape that even the vet who is a feline specialist could not approximate his age and gave us a three-year window. My husband and I said we would love and cherish him for as long as he was with us and this would be his forever home. :catlove: We have kept that promise and for fear of sobbing incessantly I try not to dwell on his final days but rather how much he has enriched our lives. Your 12 year old tux is lucky you took him in from the street 11 years ago. He has returned his gratitude with unconditional love and that is the best gift of all.:heartshape:
 

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I read a comment somewhere years ago how someone had regrets about not playing enough with their cat. It really impacted my relationship with my own cat and I was very mindful about the way I treated her since. Lots of play, never being angry with her, giving plenty of attention. Its really helped not having those kinds of regrets after she passed on. It sounds like you're already doing it!

Also regarding health, helps to be proactive and stay on top of it. Sometimes vet won't bring things up unless you ask. Like if you notice signs of arthritis you may have to ask before they prescribe something. If you see changes in litterbox or they're drinking a lot more, bring them in. Maybe getting their teeth cleaned before they're too elderly and anesthesia gets more risky.

Take lots of videos and photos, maybe some paw prints. I think some 'before' grieving is inevitable as you watch your friend slow down. But try to be present in the moment with him and enjoy the sunbeams together.
 

cmshap

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I've also started keeping a "cute stuff" journal. Anytime they do something incredibly cute or out of character, I write it down.
Similar idea: use TCS for this!

After reading the above comment, I realized I have been essentially using this forum as a "memory journal" for Willy. I've started dozens of random threads about him in the "Fur Pictures and Videos Only" or "The Cat's Meow" forums... whenever he does something funny/memorable that I want to share, I've been creating threads on here and attaching photos. Everyone loves to see stuff like that, plus it is saved on the internet.

For example, here are three random ones that came to mind... but I have more:

A few pics from July 4, watching fireworks with my cat

Staring contest with a neighbor's cat across the alley

What my cat does when I play piano
 

xlynnbbyx

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I keep any photos and videos I have in an album on Facebook. Both Scooter & Casper have their own albums. That way I always have their special moments. It helps that way if something happened and my phone got erased or I clean out my photos on my phone I still have them. Whenever I can I plan on taking the photos and make a photo album out of the pics some day. But I love capturing their special moments. Wish I had the option when Skeeter was younger. I raised him from a kitten he lived to be 16 passing in November 2021. Wish I had the option of having pics of him when he was a kitten. But I have pics of him in his senior years and plenty of memories. That is a huge comfort to me.
 

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For my first cat I had more anxiety. I wasn't prepared on the 'how' to get through the loss. Or even to know if I would.

With Nobel it was more sadness, as I knew I could get through the loss but didn't want to have to suffer the loss.

Having resources and supports leading up to it helps. Like a supportive vet who is comfortable having the "when" conversation and also knows that "when" is different per cat.

What really helped the most was focus on making the days enjoyable for them. How could we give them access to things that they can't do on their own anymore? How can our home be more accessible? Those kinds of things.
 

ara11

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Every day since Lunas cancer recovery surgery in 2018, I tested myself on losing her. Unbearable. I wasn’t sure I could live without her. Just back from vet where ultrasound showed left ventricular cardiac hypertrophy and tachycardia ( she was frightened to death) as well as fatty liver with cysts. He is prescribing meds. If the meds and me giving them to her affect our relationship and quality of life, I’ll stop. Suffering has many sides I dont want the hoped for cure in an older cat to be worse than the symptoms. She is still loving life
 

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Hope everything goes well with the checkup! Definitely a good idea. I know some people aren't really into the idea of annual exams, but I always spring for them as it helps me keep an eye on what is going on.

Thankfully, Friday is going strong and knock on wood will continue to do so. He's about 13 now and I could see him living to be 20. Many people are pretty surprised when I tell them how old he is.

Aging has been harder with my dog, frankly. He's had a couple of (thankfully minor) health scares, but for him, aging has included arthritis and pain and it's really difficult to see him struggle with that. I'm working on getting him on a pain management system that can be the most effective, but it's challenging.
 

jclark

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My brother-in-law had to put his dog to sleep last week after he was diagnosed with cancer. From what he said, it was the best option. But I've now been looking at my senior boy (12-year-old tux), and I've started thinking that he might have only a few more good years.

I'm really satisfied with the life I've been able to offer him; I picked him up off the street in 2012, and the cat distribution system was in full effect that day! Since then, I've tried to give him the best I can offer. But I still feel our time is limited - I mean, all of our time is, really.

But I'm wondering if any of you have some advice to share on coping with seeing your friend slow down as they come into their sunset years?
Take a moment to decide how much $$ you're willing to spend to keep him alive and determine how much will it improve his life. You have to separate your desire to keep him around from his quality of life. At some point in the future the cat will let you know when enough is enough. You own him a dignified life and death.
 

iPappy

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Hope everything goes well with the checkup! Definitely a good idea. I know some people aren't really into the idea of annual exams, but I always spring for them as it helps me keep an eye on what is going on.

Thankfully, Friday is going strong and knock on wood will continue to do so. He's about 13 now and I could see him living to be 20. Many people are pretty surprised when I tell them how old he is.

Aging has been harder with my dog, frankly. He's had a couple of (thankfully minor) health scares, but for him, aging has included arthritis and pain and it's really difficult to see him struggle with that. I'm working on getting him on a pain management system that can be the most effective, but it's challenging.
You groom your dog yourself, don't you? Can you work on his toenails?
We're boarding a dog who had such poor mobility I think the owners were starting to wonder how long to let it go on. He was due for a bath, and I really worked at his nails with the dremel. They said when they picked him up, they noticed his mobility had improved so much. We've boarded him several times and I've noticed a huge improvement, too. We've been keeping on top of those nails and he still is arthritic with some aches and pains, but, the nubby-short nails have REALLY made a huge difference in how he's able to get around. :)
 
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