A few months ago a reader posed a provocative question. It was not one I’d been asked before, but it was a subject I’ve thought about myself, and have discussed with my husband and other pet owning friends. I emailed the reader and told her I didn’t know of any solutions to her dilemma but I assured her I would put forth her concern to our reading audience to see how others have handled this issue.
Here is the reader’s letter:
“I just finished reading your article in the May issue of The Best of Times. I enjoy all your articles and read them faithfully. I’m writing to see if you have any suggestions for our situation.
“My husband is 91 and I am 82. We are analyzing how we can downsize, get a little more care for ourselves, and give our pets proper treatment. We have five indoor cats and a number of cats outdoors. All of these cats were (are) feral. We have spayed and neutered all that we’ve been able to trap. We have no idea how we can move and keep all these cats with us.
“Are there any retirement facilities that accept people with numerous pets? If older people are encouraged to adopt and care for pets, they need to be able to find facilities that will accept not only them, but also their pets. Do you have suggestions for us or are you aware of others who have solved this same dilemma? Thank you so much for your thoughts.”
My heart was immediately tugged as I imagined all the physical work they’ve had to do to maintain this group of felines, not to mention the expense of feeding and vetting them. At this moment Michael and I are down to two cats and two dogs, and just taking care of these guys keeps us busy. We are no “spring chickens” over here at our house, and I’m 25 years younger than her husband, so I am marveling at the resilience of this wonderful couple.
Caring for cats is a physical enterprise. There’s the bending over and scooping and scouring litter boxes, and the cleaning up of hairballs and other messes. There’s the driving and shopping for kitty litter, dry kibble and canned food—those continuous treks in the car no matter the weather. When you’re low on litter or cat food your slogan is the same as the Postal Service—through rain, storm, sleet and all that. These days the “all that” might include temperatures so high that only mad dogs, Englishmen and cat guardians would brave it.
The labor associated with these outings shouldn’t be discounted, especially as we age. Not long ago Michael told me the 40-pound bags of litter were getting heavier each year. Transporting a cat to the vet can also turn into a strength contest, especially if a cat is heavy, muscular or feisty. What may be a breeze for a younger person is a bit more problematic for us older folks.
Clearly this couple wants to continue caring for their companions as long as they are physically able, but at the same time they recognize at some point they want to downsize to an independent or even assisted living community. I think many of us who have multiple pets are harboring the same questions and concerns about where we might eventually move, and what will happen to our animals. I know plenty of us would refuse to move anywhere where our pets are not welcome.
Are there restrictions on pets in senior communities? How might they deal with their feral cats? What ideas or suggestions do our readers have? Please share by emailing me if you have personally grappled with this dilemma or know someone who has.
Contact Deborah Camp at Deborah. email@example.com for comments or suggestions.