Losing Rudy, and 20 years of adulthood

Rudy, my beloved 20-year-old Maine Coon cat.

Wednesday night, my 20-year-old cat, Rudy, passed away at home. I used to joke that he’d outlive all of us, but in the end, his little heart just gave out. Rudy had been experiencing some of the things that pets do when aging: loss of hearing, impaired vision, some cognitive losses as if he wasn’t sure where he was all the time.

Witnessing these symptoms has been tough. He has been with me through nearly a third of my life. I’ve had a lot of pets over the years, but Rudy was a special case because:

  1. He was the longest living animal I have had;
  2. While I have seen many animals put to sleep because of illnesses, Rudy was my first pet to die of natural causes, with me, at home. It made me feel my own mortality deeply.

He’d been pacing around the house, a sign of disorientation, and other possible causes. He must have logged 20,000 steps a day or more. BTW, the name Rudy is short for ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev, because of the graceful way he walked. While I always enjoyed watching him gracefully step, I knew this pacing wasn’t normal.

Just like many elderly humans, senior cats — ages approximately 10 and up — often experience gradual memory loss, which as a result brings upon disorientation and confusion. If your precious pet feels out of his element, he may express it by wandering and pacing back and forth around a room with no apparent destination. Take note of your cat’s traveling patterns. If you notice that he seems to be aimlessly moving about your home all day, it may simply be because he doesn’t really recognize where he is anymore. — pets.the nest.com

Rudy had been to the vet several times this year because he stopped eating and seemed to be disinterested in food, but his bloodwork was fine, his kidneys were fine. His heartbeat was rapid, but the vet mentioned that due to his advanced age, nothing seemed really out of character for a 20-year-old cat.

I would bring him home and feed him soft cat food through a large syringe. After a couple of days, he’d begin eating again. And that’s why his death Thursday was so unexpected: he ate a big dinner and seemed interested in food.

Sometime around 8 p.m. he began stumbling, and stuck his tongue out in what appeared to be him trying to…



Yvette Walker of the Positively Joy podcast

Walker is the host of Positively Joy, a multicultural podcast that takes a mostly Christian look at the search for light in all seasons. www.positivelyjoy.com