caring for a grandchild, Caring for a parent, conversations, Death & Dying, Dementia, family caregiving, Health care, Mental health, mother daughter relationship, Retirement

Bad Cattitude

Smudge the Cat started caterwauling a few weeks ago, especially in the middle of the night. I was beginning to suffer from sleep deprivation.

She’s always been a whiner. She gets a small of amount of food specially formulated for diabetic cats and it’s never enough. Though this sounded different from the usual complaining, I started giving her more. She’s 16, I reasoned, and she’s (gradually) lost half her formerly significant body weight. Why was I starving her?

But she didn’t want it. She kept up the howling even when there was food in her bowl. When I gave her food, she just drank water, ignoring the food bowl. Water. That’s a sign her glucose levels are out of whack. I have a glucometer, but I haven’t tried to use it for a long time; I suck at it. It’s impossible to poke a cat in the ear with a needle who doesn’t want to be poked in the ear with a needle. I increased her insulin a quarter unit.

She started pooping hard turds on the rug. She has never had litter box issues, but I am familiar with the grumpiness of constipated elders. I began to wonder seriously enough if she was in pain to get her to the vet, rather than just thinking about it.


“She might have a hyper thyroid,” the vet said. “We could test for it,” and relieve me of $130 just to find out. I asked if she thought Smudge was in pain. She said humans with hyperthyroidism don’t report pain, just a kind of antsyness. She understood, when I pointed out that she is 16 and has been (an expensive) diabetic for almost ten of those years, that I don’t want her to be in pain, but I wasn’t going to treat anything that was wrong. She’s like 80 in cat years. “So why get a road map for a trip we’re not going to take?” I asked the vet. “I have a 100-year-old mother. Same thing.”

They checked her glucose and it was out of whack. She told me to increase the insulin another three-quarters of a unit. And, since I knew it was pointless to bring her in for a glucose curve (cowering in a cage so they can check the level every two hours all day, which stresses her so much they can’t get accurate readings), she suggested I do it at home. Right.

“What about the constipation and pooping on the rug?” I asked. She said she had no idea, and brushed it off. Same reaction my mother gets from the hospice nurse. And from doctors for the past 30 years. (I’m cleaning out my father’s desk and found my mother’s little notebooks she took to doctor visits to write down what they said. They date back to 1978, and detail the same health issues she suffers from now. She has never been able to accept what is and move on.) I looked online afterward and found several things litter box problems could be. She isn’t constipated anymore (good news), but none of the inappropriate defecating solutions have worked (bad news).

From the vet visit, I went to see Mama. She started right in with her attitude, telling me the hospice nurse had weighed her the day before—she may have been thinking of a month ago; it all runs together for her and I never know—and she’s gained weight. “Too much weight!” she exclaimed. I heard the nurse’s response to that a month ago: “A four pound gain, up to 80 pounds, really isn’t too much.”

She was stringing complaints together so fast I couldn’t keep up. Three or four grievances later she got to breakfast.

“The eggs were dry.” “The hash browns were dry.” “And they ran out of bacon AND sausage!”

I had been “mmm hmming” and “uh huhhing” and “I’m sorrying,” and “that’s too badding,” like a pro, but I couldn’t let that one go.

“Well there’s a couple ounces of weight you didn’t gain,” I said helpfully.
“They brought me raisin bran first,” she said, ignoring me, “and that was all I needed anyway.”

You have got to be kidding me. If her full time job when she lived at home was complaining, she’s working overtime now. I’ve resisted of late telling her she has a bad attitude. I’ve stopped trying to get her to tell me something good that happened. Neither makes a whit of difference. She doesn’t want to stop, she isn’t able to stop. I listen to her complaints—more and more believing them to be fabricated—but don’t engage. I change the subject when there’s a break in the action. I tell her what’s happening outside her walls (well, on the hill, not in the larger world because how would that be helpful?) and in my life. And then I get to go home. Some days I can even keep the light lit inside my body.

Oh, though the catterwauling stopped after a few days of increased insulin and Smudge is eating again, the rug pooping continues.

In other news:
The Friends of Seminary Hill Natural Area held their annual meeting on Saturday. Mama likes to go, even though she can’t see or hear what’s going on. SHNA is my mother’s life achievement. Here’s the story.  I told her a couple weeks ago we would go, and I reminded her several times. She’s had the sniffles, and I thought she might change her mind about going at the very last minute. Which was fine with me; I could go myself and get on the interstate earlier for Elliot’s third birthday party in Seattle. Then I learned she was the recipient of FSHNA’s annual award. I had to get her there by hook or by crook.

Sure enough, when I arrived to pick her up, she said she wasn’t going. I told her she needed to, she would be glad.

“Why do I have to go if I don’t feel good?”
“They have something for you,” I told her, partially letting the cat out of the bag.
“They have given me enough,” she said. “I don’t deserve any more.”
“You might feel better if you get out,” I told her. “We don’t have to stay for the whole meeting.”

She put on her cute hat and we went. She thought her “dignitary status” introduction, along with those of several others, was why I made her go. So I hadn’t given away too much; she was surprised by the award! “I don’t deserve it,” she told the president. “None of us deserve what we get,” he said. I thought it was a pretty good response. I’m so proud to be her daughter. And glad for the reminder.


And then there was Elliot’s birthday party. My heart is full.


5 thoughts on “Bad Cattitude”

  1. … And I just hope that you always find a way to keep that light lit ☆

    And, oh Smudge. If only we could talk to them for ten minutes with a list of questions: Why are you pooping on the carpet ? What are you howling about in the middle of the night ? Are you in any pain ?

    And …
    Will you tell me when you’re ready … ?


  2. I always delighted to keep up with this part of you! I have long felt that humor reveals truth in some measure, and that there is no pure humor–it relates to something in the originator. True for you, G?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s