It's hard to know exactly when cats cross the line between being adults and being seniors, but most experts suggest cats older than 10 are creeping up on elderly status. Cats like Eamon with persistent health issues might even merit an older age diagnosis a bit sooner. Their bodies are under more stress, so it makes sense that they might need more advanced health care. This means that while he might be 12, his body might be more like 15. It's a sobering thought.
As much as I know about animals and animal health, I've never had an animal live as long as Eamon has. A veterinarian I once worked for chalked it up to an overactive sense of pity, suggesting that I had a deep-set need to take in the wee ones that no one else would want. In a way, he was suggesting that I had sick-pet radar, and that alone was responsible for the early deaths of my 3 beloved cats (1 due to cancer, 2 due to kidney stones) and 1 dog (due to cancer). I, on the other hand, have always thought it had something to do with me, that maybe I had done something that contributed to their illness and early death. Different food, more screenings, better environment, more training, could any of that have contributed? Call it the curse of the sensitive, but I was sure I could do something more and if I did, my pets would live longer.
So this week, not surprisingly, I whipped Eamon in for an exam.
He wasn't exhibiting any pain due to his degenerative disk disease. (I've kept him medicated, and when he seemed painful, I worked hard to eliminate the source of the discomfort. When he seemed overtly uncomfortable after wrestling sessions with the puppy, for example, I trained Sinead to leave him alone.) He also didn't have any skin problems (I use supplements), tooth problems (I brush his teeth) or parasite problems (we use Advantage). He also has no lumps, bumps or rashes (I check him weekly).
It was an awkward visit.
How do you explain to a veterinarian that all of your pets have died young? How do you ask for advice, when you're pretty much doing all you can do? How do you stave off a death that's inevitable?
In the end, we had a good visit about Eamon's medications, his diet and his activity level. We agreed that he didn't need vaccines at this point, and we thought he might need to gain a pound or two. We also agreed that he shouldn't be brought to the veterinarian over and over on a desperate search for illnesses that just aren't there. I should just keep doing what I'm doing, and remember that he's healthy and happy. Just because others have died doesn't mean he'll die early. And if he does, it won't necessarily be my fault.
We'll see if I can hold up my end of the bargain and do what I've agreed to do. I can't guarantee that I won't be worried and that the ghosts of pets past won't worry me with their stories. But I can try to do what's right for Eamon. I seem to be doing a pretty good job so far.