Christine Schoenwald and her kitty Yoshi have been friends for 17 years. And as both of them grow older together, she draws inspiration from this handsome boy. Our cats, she notes in an essay for NextAvenue, a website for those of us of the over-50 set, have many things to teach us as time encroaches.
Schoenwald met Yoshi when he was still a kitten all those years ago. But things changed a year later. A friend, who had adopted Yoshi and his brother, was having to move from a house into an apartment and wasn’t able to keep both cats. So Schoenfeld adopted the beautiful gray-and-white longhaired cat.
“I got Yoshi,” she writes, “and he was the best gift I ever got.”
Yoshi Is Now A Senior Kitty
Yoshi, who has a cute white triangle on his nose and a fluffy white bib, is having some of the difficulties that older kitties experience. His back legs are a bit wobbly and he’s become a little bit bowlegged, thanks to arthritis. And she’s had to make a few accommodations for her old friend: placing chairs and step-stools where Yoshi can get to them as he goes from one place to another.
And Schoenwald knows that our cats have many things to teach us if we listen.
“I know that Yoshi’s time here on Earth is limited, but I’m grateful for the things he continues to teach me and for the love he shows me,” she said.
What has your kitty taught you?
As a cat caretaker for many years, mine have certainly taught me at least eight important life lessons.
1. It’s okay to face your limitations
We all know that kittens are spring-loaded. While they are young, there’s nothing they won’t try to jump on, crawl under or climb on. And everything leads to a game of chase, whether it’s playing with a leaf, your favorite toy, or your sister’s tail. But older kitties grow more snuggly and while they can still be playful, they almost always prefer your lap to running around the house at full speed as they did in their younger days. And as we grow older, it’s perfectly okay to understand just what we can and cannot do. Don’t dial back a challenge, just make sure you know what your physical limitations are.
2. Stay active
Light exercise is still important for you and your kitty, and there’s no reason that playtime can’t be fun. Of course, we have several cats and they play with each other regularly. But we also have a supply of plastic balls we toss for them, for the more laid-back loungers. And for us, walking and gardening are healthy low-impact ways to get exercise.
3. Set goals for yourself and kitty
Schoenwald says that while it’s important to be honest about your limitations, it’s also important to focus on things that you can do, especially things that you haven’t done before.
“For instance, Yoshi is still determined to kill his catnip ladybug and his age hasn’t dimmed that desire one bit,” she says.
4. Give yourself permission to ask for help if you need it
It can actually be difficult to ask for help when we’re in a bad situation because we often don’t want to appear weak, Schoenwald writes. She notes she doesn’t want Yoshi to suffer and says she’s going to continue to do whatever she can to make life easier for her feline friend. But she also hopes she won’t be too proud to accept help when it’s offered.
5. Pay attention
We’re more prone to health problems as we age, and that rings true for our cats as well. So it’s important to keep tabs on our health and theirs as well and take them to the vet when necessary.
“I want Yoshi to live a remarkably long life (I’m hoping for 20+ years), so I watch him closely for signs of any behavioral or health changes and then take him to the vet,” Schoenwald notes.
6. Remember to stretch
Our cats have already figured this out. If there’s one thing kitties love, it’s a good stretch. And a study in the Journal Gerontology noted that older adults who stretched and did flexibility exercises on a regular basis felt less pain and enjoyed a better quality of life. And even though he has arthritis, Yoshi still enjoys a good stretch, Schoenwald says.
7. It’s all about loving and being loved
Cats often like to cuddle and be lovable on their own terms, but make no mistake — they can be very affectionate. And we can certainly learn from this example. We can be like Yoshi and demand it, Schoenwald says, as long as we give love back in return.
8. Savor the quiet moments
Cats often love the simplest pleasures. A rolled up paper towel tube is as fun for my kitties as any expensive toy. A nap in the sun is nirvana and lounging on a big, comfy chair is as good as it gets.
“You don’t have to win a million dollars or go skydiving to enjoy the little things in life; sometimes the perfect cup of tea or a gorgeous sky can make your day,” Schoenwald says.
She’s followed Yoshi’s example. Doesn’t seem like that’s been a bad idea. A kitty can teach you many lessons if you’re lucky enough to have one for a friend.
Has your cat taught you any lessons? Share them with us in the comments.