Hap­pi­ness is a Cat

Se­niors and cats make a per­fect pair­ing

Modern Cat - - Contents - BY GUY ROBERT­SON

Se­niors and cats make a per­fect pair­ing.

S her­bet, a fe­male or­ange tabby, stretches out on Martha’s sofa.

“She’s truly a minia­ture lion,” says Martha. “When she lounges on my fur­ni­ture, I re­call the lions I saw when my hus­band and I vis­ited Kenya years ago. We made a day-trip to a game pre­serve, and saw a pride of lions rest­ing in the shade. When Sher­bet gets com­fort­able, she looks just like those lions. You needn’t look too hard to see the re­sem­blance—the fe­line at­ti­tude and strength in re­pose.”

Martha’s hus­band died sev­eral years ago. She ac­quired Sher­bet from an ac­quain­tance at a Van­cou­ver, BC se­niors’ cen­tre. The ac­quain­tance al­ready had sev­eral cats, and de­cided to give Sher­bet to some­body re­li­able, such as Martha. Sher­bet set­tled into Martha’s apart­ment with no dif­fi­culty.

“She marched into my front room and jumped up on the sofa,” says Martha. “She gave me a look that told me that she ac­cepted her new home, and then she stretched out and fell asleep.”


Martha had never owned a cat, and re­al­ized that she needed to learn how to care for Sher­bet. Martha took her to a lo­cal vet for a checkup, and asked for ad­vice re­gard­ing fe­line nu­tri­tion and a proper feed­ing rou­tine. For­tu­nately Sher­bet was up-to-date with her vac­ci­na­tions and, aside from a few fleas, she was prob­lem-free.

The vet ad­vised Martha not to over­feed Sher­bet.

“He told me that new cat own­ers can love their an­i­mals too much, and stuff them with good­ies. I promised that I’d do no such thing, but in the be­gin­ning I did. I loved Sher­bet from the first mo­ment I saw her. It was so tempt­ing to give her treats.”

But when Sher­bet put on weight, Martha dis­ci­plined her­self and fol­lowed the pre­scribed feed­ing rou­tine. It was hard at first. She was a lonely widow, and when Sher­bet ar­rived in her life Martha wanted to shower her with af­fec­tion. Luck­ily Martha re­al­ized that the best way to do so was to feed her prop­erly.


Another good source of in­for­ma­tion was the lo­cal li­brary. Martha had been a reg­u­lar pa­tron for decades, but she

had never in­ves­ti­gated the li­brary’s col­lec­tion of cat care ma­te­ri­als. The ref­er­ence li­brar­ian di­rected her to shelves con­tain­ing books on cat psy­chol­ogy, be­hav­iour, and health. Martha also learned how to ac­cess a plethora of web­sites con­cern­ing cats.

“I re­lied on the li­brary for an ed­u­ca­tion on cat own­er­ship,” says Martha. “For a se­nior like me on a lim­ited bud­get, the li­brary is a god­send. I learned how to rec­og­nize when Sher­bet needed the vet’s care, and when she could get by with­out it. I con­fess that one time I saw Sher­bet sneeze, and took her to the vet later that day. He was very diplo­matic, and as­sured me that Sher­bet was as healthy as ever. One sneeze was no in­di­ca­tion of a fa­tal disease.”


Se­niors such as Martha re­port a num­ber of ad­van­tages of own­ing cats. First, the pres­ence of a cat can re­duce lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion—se­ri­ous threats to a se­nior’s hap­pi­ness. When one’s spouse and many friends have moved on or died, a cat can pro­vide wel­come com­pany.

“I talk to Sher­bet a lot,” says Martha. “Ev­ery­body needs hu­man con­tact, but I get enough at the se­niors’ cen­tre, and it’s nice to come home to Sher­bet and tell her what I’ve been up to. And I can gos­sip with her all I want, and not cause my hu­man friends any grief. Sher­bet knows how to keep a se­cret.”

Sec­ond, for se­niors with phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions, a cat can be eas­ier to care for than other an­i­mals. Martha does not need to take Sher­bet for a walk, or store heavy bags of food for her. It’s not dif­fi­cult to groom Sher­bet and clean her lit­ter box. “She doesn’t get in the way or un­der my feet,” says Martha. “She seems to know how to share our space. We both know where we stand with each other, lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively. Sher­bet has en­riched my life in so many ways, and I rec­om­mend cat own­er­ship to many of my old and older friends. Re­mem­ber that ad about putting a tiger in your tank? Well, con­sider putting a lit­tle lion in your life.” Guy Robert­son is an In­struc­tor in the Li­brary and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Pro­gram at Lan­gara Col­lege in Van­cou­ver, BC.


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