August 8, 2012

My kitty has dementia

Anyone with a pet understands how they  fill your heart when nothing else will.
The day before our son’s 8th birthday we took him to the local rescue center to select a cat.
That’s a misnomer, of course, anyone who knows felines know that they chose you. You can’t possibly choose them.  They are too independent and  make up their own minds.
A black and white female came right to my husband.  For the next 12 years she was his constant companion. She adored him and sat with him while he read, and especially when he watched football.  Her name was Sisy (sic) Renee (named by our son).
She was a Diva with a capitol D
Sisy did not like me.  When she was younger I traveled a lot for work and she loved that because she hated sharing “their” bed with me.  She loved nothing better than sprawling out on my side, and gave me this look of quiet disdain when I pulled in late nights with my overnight bag in tow.
She died two years ago in February.  Even the day before her death she stood as she always did  at the back door waiting for her daddy, the love of her life.
My husband lost his mother within ten days of Sisy’s passing and it was a rough spring.
Sisy has a brother whose name is Fala Jo Renaldo (son named him as well, for Roosevelt’s dog, in part.) 
At the rescue kennel that day in 1998, I spied the gray six-month-old male against a back wall in a large cage, hiding from all the other cats that had loped up to the front bars to see the three of us.  Fala hid his face and wouldn’t come out. I always love a challenge.
He is a beautiful gray cat, reminiscent of the Russian blue breed.  I’ve always had a fondness for gray cats.  That day the family decided we could take two cats home. 
Sisy was comfortable with the family in about three seconds; while Fala had to be dragged out of the back of the cage and reluctantly came home with us.
They were a pair.  She was in charge, and he was, clearly her bitch.  He groomed her constantly, and they had feeding rituals. When it was chow time, Sisy pushed him out of the way and ate all of her food in the double bowl, and then ate most of his food.  He got what was left and sometimes I would add more when she was sleeping it off.
She pushed him around and he followed her like a little lost puppy.
Over time, it was clear that he was “my” cat.  He preferred my company and while he tolerated others, it is clear that I’m his person.
Yet he would sleep next to her, always nudging up to her and wanting to support her. 
He has suffered since Sisy passed. We literally could not say her name for months or he would search the house.  We still speak of her but in code as “Princess” or simply “Her” or “She.”
During the past two years, Fala's mental health has deteriorated and he often stands alone crying as if he has lost his way.  We’ve been talking to our vet for months and the vet thinks Fala has something called Feline Cognitive Disease.
Yes, that’s what I said, Kitty dementia.
I’m the last person in the world to joke about this.  Many of you know my mother passed away after a difficult decade of suffering with dementia.
But you’ve got to see the irony in this.  He behaves as many older people do in the last stages of life, complaining about his food, uncertain of time and place, and clinging to those things he holds precious. I know he misses "Her" and I know that has made him closer to me. He grooms me constantly and sometimes I'll wake up in the middle of the night and find his neck and head stretched over my head, and his loud happy purring.
He is very rigid about time.  Our routine here is fairly simple. My husband comes home from work between five-thirty and six and we eat dinner.
Now I have a new West Coast client, so my husband brings dinner home on Thursdays, a day  dedicated to this client. Last week I was having a meeting with the client around six p.m.  My husband came home with two salads from O’Charleys and put mine in the fridge for when the meeting was finished.  Then he sat down to eat his dinner.
Fala was extremely upset by this and stood in my office door, yelling loudly.  He sounds like a screaming baby, and it was hard to explain to the client that I have a demented cat. My husband came and got him several times, and reassured him that it was all okay.  Fala doesnt speak English, so that did no good.
I took this situation back to our vet, because I don’t think the animal should be that unhappy, but we also can’t resolve our work lives around his needs.
Doc suggested a  product called FeliWay that is a diffuser of of stress-reducing hormones that will calm the cat down. (Of course this is something I crave, perhaps a alprazolam saltlick  in my office, one that offer that little daily respite needed to battle anxiety caused by a screaming cat  Perhaps I should just make some of those special brownies from college?)
So the vet ordered this product and I’ve plugged it in near where Fala aka Lumpy sleeps all day. His whining and crying and getting lost mostly happens in the evening.  Amazingly, my mother had “sundowners” also and we had all kinds of strategies to combat that. 
Truth is often stranger than fiction.
So far, the product is working great.  I just wonder what affects it will have on the husband and me.