Youth can seem like a curse in our youth-obsessed society, but does that mean we have to treat our pets the same way? Experience and confidence are gifts that come with age, no matter the species.
As I got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I started thinking about this. Our fluffy cat, Max, followed me into the room and began talking loudly to me. Generally, Max doesn’t talk much. At night when everyone is upstairs, and he seems lost downstairs, he lets out some pretty pathetic but loud cries. He doesn’t talk much in the bathroom. I realized he has been talking more and more lately. As I considered this, it occurred to me that he’s picked up other behaviours that weren’t part of his repertoire previously. The fact that he’s approaching middle age means he’s growing into a much more interesting and well-rounded cat.
I have compiled a list of signs and symptoms your cat might be entering middle age. Your older, more experienced cat will be even more appreciated when you read this.
He has a stronger voice.
This is something I mentioned just now. Neither he nor his litterbox seems distressed or in need of anything specific. After nearly eight years, Max seems to be engaging in vocal conversations with me as I go about my day. Communication has always taken place, but more calmly (See Animal Communication: Fact or Fantasy?) As he reaches middle age, he now participates in conversations much as his brother has. It at least seems like a middle-aged woman wandering the house talking to herself now that he’s holding up his end of the conversation.
Her destructive behaviour is reduced.
It’s a fact that kittens are destructive. There are no limits to what they can do. When our boys were little, we would hear a very loud crash and later find the Lego pirate ship that lies on top of a tall bookshelf on its back and looked like it was about to sink. During one of the destructions, I witnessed both boys running, leaping, flying, crashing, and destroying.
The pirate ship remains untouched, and the chairs remain upright these days. Our boys limit their outbursts to random, seemingly unprovoked runs around the house and up and down the stairs despite their physical inactivity. Usually, it is just one of the boys going on some strange solo adventure that rarely involves the furniture but sounds like a herd of hooved creatures stopped by our house.
He enjoys exploring new places.
Max has generally enjoyed the same perches and sleeping spots throughout his life, while Jasper has varied what he considers his favourites. But both of them are finding new spots over the past year. By unusual, I don’t mean their hideouts where they retreat when they don’t want to be found, but rather, weird. The middle of the third step would be appropriate from the top of our stairway. They have lived on these stairs their whole lives, ignoring them except to prove how much faster they are than us, but now, sleeping on random stairs is cool.
On top of the living room table formerly only used for launching, in the middle of the kitchen floor, and nestled near the end of the bookcase overlooking the stairwell are other odd spots.
She is becoming less predictable.
The same way our cats train us to do whatever they want, they change what they want. We used to feed the birds by opening the back door, and Jasper would come running to join in. Rather than go out the front door, he now complains loudly that we only opened the back door. Jasper only went outside under close supervision (in the past), so my wife knew Max wouldn’t follow because the outside is scary. Now, Max calls out to me as he strolls out onto the porch and continues calling until I join the family. He even has favourite foods, couches, and even toys. Max chased after a toy mouse he threw across the kitchen two weeks ago. If it weren’t for the fact that Jasper was the only one who had ever touched that toy, it wouldn’t have seemed odd. He loves that toy very much. There are times when it seems as though they got together and decided to annoy us together.
Spending more time sleeping and cuddling.
Taking naps becomes more important to most of us as we grow older, and cats are no exception. Their nature has always been to take many naps, but as they have gotten older, the naps have become longer. It is not uncommon for Max to sleep in his cat tree for 3–4 hours, waking only when he rattles the treat container. On top of that, he will cuddle with me on his blanket – which was once mine – for up to an hour at a time while I watch TV. It used to be a big deal if he stayed for 20 minutes. Jasper has also increased the duration of his cuddles. My wife used to snuggle on top of him at bedtime, he would stay for a belly rub, and he would leave within an hour or two. But now, he sometimes stays longer than an hour. They are becoming more appreciative of life’s finer things as they age.
Having learned about this phenomenon, I expect to notice more behavioural changes as our cats grow older. No complaints here. These changes are a sign of their maturation. Seeing how they are growing, I can perhaps more easily accept my aging process because menopause is not my favourite part of life so far. Maybe I’ll take a nap somewhere nicer instead.
Please note that this is a humorous piece and not a diagnosis. A veterinarian should be consulted if your cat’s behaviour changes in ways that are worrying.