A Lesson In Aging Well From Pets

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - July 06, 2011
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The concept of aging gracefully is beyond my comprehension. The cold, hard fact is that getting old is a very difficult journey. It starts with physical changes, then evolves into a mental challenge as you slowly realize that things aren’t getting better and you continue to go downhill.

Wow, that’s pretty depressing. But do our furry counterparts have an easier time with this aging phenomenon? The answer lies below.

It was a chilly winter’s day when Alice brought her 17-year-old cat Miss Kitty into our hospital. We hadn’t seen Miss Kitty in a couple of years, but Alice recently had twins and somehow life got exponentially busier. At a casual glance Miss Kitty seemed to be just fine. After we exchanged pleasantries, however, Alice brought out a long list of concerns.

“Doc, I’ve been meaning to bring Miss Kitty in for her annual exam, but since the twins arrived, I’ve been quite busy,” Alice admitted. “I jotted down a list of all her problems so that I wouldn’t forget anything. After all, who knows when we’ll be back?” Alice joked with a hint of regret.


I listened intently while gently rubbing Miss Kitty’s chin. She languished and purred as if there wasn’t a worry in the world. In the meantime, Alice proceeded with her checklist.

“Miss Kitty sleeps more than she used to. She occasionally walks with a slight limp, but I’m not sure which leg is bothering her. I think she’s losing some flexibility because she isn’t able to groom herself properly. Her nails have gotten thicker and so I’m having a hard time trimming them. She urinates normally but only poops every other day and I think at times she’s constipated. She doesn’t hear very well and sometimes I startle her when I walk by. Overall her appetite is decent, but she’s lost quite a bit of weight. I think she’s happy,” Alice wavered, “although at times I’m not so sure.”

With that last statement I noticed tears welling up in Alice’s eyes. She apologized for being so emotional, but Miss Kitty was her constant companion since grade school. Through boyfriends, taking exams and now the hardships of motherhood, Miss Kitty was always there for Alice.

After a physical exam and routine diagnostic tests to identify any underlying health concerns, we set forth a plan to help Miss Kitty with her problems. Supplements to help with mobility, scheduled nail-trims and grooming, stool softeners and a special diet designed for seniors topped the list. I then assured Alice that her dear friend of 17 years was indeed still happy, but just needed assistance during her golden years.


Reflecting on Alice’s concerns, I couldn’t help but see the similarity between Miss Kitty and humans. Through the years I watched my grandparents grow old and experience the very same things as Miss Kitty. For that matter, I myself am in denial over the changes creeping into my life. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still 21 but with 22 years of experience.

Do pets know that they’re getting older? Sure they do, but they keep on living with a great attitude. It is a lesson well-learned from The Wild Side.

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