20 Years – A Senior Cat Tale

The hospital is focusing on senior pets this month and I thought I would write about my own personal experience as a senior pet owner.

Dickens McBum is the oldest cat in my house. I have had the wonderful privilege of knowing this cat for the entirety of his life. His mother was abandoned at our doorstep when she was about halfway through her pregnancy. She became a clinic cat and when she was close to her due date, she came to live at my house. On May 24, 1997, Dickens McBum was born in my house. His name was given to him because he was a troublemaker from the moment he was born!

Dickens McBum was an active and healthy young cat. He was, at his peak, a large, well-muscled cat who weighed in at close to 6 kg (13.2 lbs). He was always an indoor cat because the outdoor environment is too dangerous for a cat to roam freely. That didn’t stop him from finding trouble in the house of course! Dickens McBum had annual examinations and, starting at 2 years of age, blood work was done once yearly as well. This allowed me to get a baseline for what Dickens McBum’s normal, healthy values were. His blood work was consistently normal with very few deviations in the values.

When he was 7 years old, I started to bring him in for twice-yearly examinations. Seven is considered to be the beginning of the mature years for a cat. Due to the shorter lifespans in our pets, changes to their health can happen rapidly so increased monitoring is recommended. Dickens McBum’s blood work remained normal and he continued to thrive as a mature cat.

When he was 10 years old, some very small changes to his kidneys were found on his blood work (although there weren’t any changes detectable in his behaviour or habits). With that finding, I modified some small things in his life. I started to feed his a diet designed for cats who have kidney disease. I increased the amount of canned food that he ate during the day. I also kept an eye on the amount of water he was drinking throughout the day. I also started giving him some supplements designed to help with kidney function.

I continued with the twice-yearly examinations and blood work to monitor his kidney disease progression. Each time the blood work was done, his kidney values were just a tiny bit higher but he continued to be a normal cat at home, although he was a bit slower when we played fetch and he did sleep more. When he was 16 years old, I noticed that he was vomiting a bit more frequently than he had in the past. At his checkup, his blood work revealed that his kidney values were higher than they had been in the past. The supplements weren’t working as effectively as they had been in the past. I thought my time with this great cat was coming to an end. I gave him some fluid therapy and he bounced back but I was worried that it was only going to be a temporary measure.

He continued to hang on and, although he sometimes needed a bit of fluid therapy, seemed to be fairly stable. In 2014, a new product called Semintra was released in Canada. Semintra is a product for cats with kidney disease. I started Dickens McBum on Semintra. I noticed an improvement almost immediately. His appetite improved and the vomiting virtually stopped. Dickens McBum tolerates the Semintra administration without complaint – it’s an almost tasteless liquid and it only has to be given once a day. At his next exam, his blood work had stabilized (one of his kidney values went down) and Dickens McBum was back to his old shenanigans again.

It is now three years later and I am happy to report that Dickens McBum is still going strong and ruling the roost. He celebrated his 20 year birthday this past May. He’s a little slower but he still finds trouble and he truly is a little dickens. My experience with him has really emphasized the importance of more frequent examinations and blood work for senior pets. I continue to cherish every day that I have with Mr McBum and I hope to have many more days with my geriatric boy!

Written by Cambrian Animal Hosptial