Cat Sanctuary

Live Long and Prospurr – the SuperSeniors

The RAPS Sanctuary has been situated here for more than 20 years, and many, many cats have come into our care.

Because most of them were deemed unadoptable, and yet get the best care we can offer them, there are a considerable number of inhabitants who have lived with us most of their lives, and are now in their senior years.

There are various measurements of age, but most generally accepted are

• birth to 6 months  – Kitten
• 7 months to 2 years – Junior
• 2 to 6 years – Prime
• 7 to 10 years – Mature – equivalent of human mid-40s/50s
• 11 to 14 years – Senior – takes the cat up to the equivalent of 70 human years
• 15 years and older – SuperSenior – and like some senior humans, cats can just keep going!

Most of the Moore House cats have come in to us as seniors, and in a warm quiet place, they are doing well. Earl Grey is around 19 years old; Rufus, who was adopted out, is about the same age.  Just as some senior humans remain fit and active well into old age, so for some cats; other younger cats may be visibly frailer as they appear to age earlier.

Many of our cats have grown into their senior years in different areas of the Sanctuary, and we will not be moving them into the Moore House just because of age. We notice them slowing down a bit, often sleeping more, or seeking out the warm places, but most of them have their own territories and their cat-friends, and they are comfortable in their home.

Occasionally we will notice that an older cat appears confused about where it is or what is happening; it may begin yowling for attention, and needing more comfort. Senile dementia is a feline as well as a human condition. And as with humans, we find it’s usually best to allow the cat to remain in its comfort-zone, even if that is one of the outdoor pens. Sweet Gabby, who we lost a few years ago, was a cat like this, and we’re now hearing it in his girlfriend Tara.

Other cats suddenly become more vocal, and the pitch of the voice changes. We think that this is often because hearing loss has set in, and the cat is not aware of the sound of its own voice. Old Kiko, who lived in pen 6, had a particularly penetrating voice in the months before she passed, and we’re hearing something of the same in Tugboat‘s demands to be picked up and cuddled.

Greying hair is also noticeable, especially among the darker cats. Little SaraLee – formerly black with a smoke undercoat, has now become flecked with white fur. In spite of her 19+ years, she is able to jump up for lap-cuddles, or for quality control of gravy at mealtimes. Former feral Ruff has always had grey in his fur, but it has become more grey than black, giving him an elder-statesman aura.

As cats get older, we have to watch them more carefully for all the things that affect senior humans as well – digestion and bathroom habits, mobility, weight loss and grooming. The Med staff have a list of cats who are checked every day, and both staff and volunteers may draw attention to a cat whose behaviour has changed. Often, a cat will be more demanding of attention – though it’s never a hardship to sit down and give extra cuddle time to cats like Tugboat.

Because these cats have aged in our care, they don’t have the trauma of being surrendered into a new situation if they become incontinent, or noisy because of deafness. Sweet Earl Grey is happy now, but was depressed when he came to us. For him, it was like putting Grandpa into Assisted Living – he didn’t want a new place or new people (and cats) and it took a while for him to realise that it was actually a pretty good deal.  None of our resident seniors will be traumatized in this way – they can choose to go on living wherever they want.  And happy cats with good health care can live long lives – we have many who are SuperSeniors, and several who enjoy life into their twenties – the equivalent of reaching their century!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Jackie Chappell, Karen Nicholson, Michele Wright