Getaway Girl Blog

Life with Boo

I'm Boo's mom.

Boo is my 17-year-old cat. I've always thought of myself as his "mom", stirring up the few nurturing genes I manage to scrape from the bottom of my gene pool.

And, as any parent, I'm struggling as Boo gets older. However, instead of tiring of his Terrible Twos or his rebel teen years, I'm watching my cat grow old. He's well into the geriatric phase of his life and it's been no fun to watch.

And I frequently lose patience with him.

And that makes me feel sad and guilty because I know that the odds are against Boo and me.

In a couple of years (or less, god forbid), he won't be around anymore. So every time I yell at him and get frustrated with him over some upsetting new habit he's developed as a result of his old age, the guilt kicks in within me when I realize in a short time, he won't be there any more to hear me yell at him. Or to cuddle him, pet him, listen to him purr and look deep into his eyes at all of the love he just gives to me unconditionally.

And that makes me very sad.

We had a rough beginning, Boo and me. He was really an unwanted orphan in my home. My exhusband insisted that we adopt him and, as someone who had never owned and never wanted a pet, I protested. I didn't want a layer of cat hair all over everything I owned, as I saw when I visited friends with cats and dogs.

I didn't want a smelly old litter box taking up space somewhere in my house.

I didn't want the worry, expense and trouble of caring for a being other than myself.

But Boo came to live with us anyway. And every day when I came home from work, there he was, waiting for me at the door. (Who says cats are not like dogs?) He followed me around the house, just wanting any little crumb of attention I might toss his way. If I sat still for a moment, he jumped in my lap, rubbing his tiny little face against my hands, hoping for love and attention from me.

Eventually, I succumbed to the idea that having a pets was okay.  I felt bad for Boo because I worked long hours then and wasn't home an awful lot. I mistook all of the affection he showered upon me when I did get home as his way of demonstrating loneliness instead of his way of showing his unconditional love and affection for me. 

So I got another cat, who promptly became the dominant cat in the house. For the next 11 years, Boo fell into the background and lived his life very quietly in the shadow of a much more charasmatic animal who gleaned laughter and love from everyone who met him.

And Boo would just sit in the corner and watch while his feline housemate reaped the rewards and benefits of my few nurturing moments.

When my other cat got sick and spent several nights in a pet hospital, Boo promptly threw up upon his return to our home.  Honestly. He puked, right there on the spot.

I was mortified. I had spent so much time over 11 years loving Ziggy that I had deeply neglected my first born. In Boo's mind, he never wanted nor understood why I brought a second cat into my home and my heart. Wasn't he enough for me? Certainly he thought so.

And when Ziggy finally died, while I was still sad and in mourning, I noticed a distinct difference in Boo's behavior. Suddenly, the kitty who'd spent so many years in the corner began vying for my attention. He wanted to sit on my lap again, just as he had as a kitten. He purred again.

He relaxed and felt loved again.  And I felt shame. How had I not noticed how unhappy he was for so many years?  And how delightful he became as a pet. He trotted happily alongside of me around the house again. Began sleeping nestled on the comforter of my bed alongside of  me every night, contentedly purring as he drifted off to sleep.

Over the past three years, Boo and I have gotten reacquainted. Kind of like the fallen prodigal son and his father, only I am the fallen prodigal mother and he is the one who has provided unconditional love as he waited for my return to his life. He never faltered in his belief that I would eventually return to him.

But, over the past eight months or so, I have watched him get old. He still climbs the stairway in my house, but he no longer trots up or down the stairway with a light touch and confident step. It is painful to watch him conquer the stairs as his joints creak with each labored, careful step. Sometimes he stops, halfway up the stairs and cries for me. Sometimes I pick him up and carry him to his bed in the guest room; other times I just cheerlead as he carries on and up the stairs on his own, once he knows I am watching.

He has taken to crying out for me day and night. If he can't find me, he stops and cries and it sounds like a baby whaling. I gather his hearing isn't what it once was, so he can no longer count on all of his sense to show him the way to finding me in the house. When he cries, I call for him and go to him to show him where I am. And he smiles, I swear, and comes alongside of me and follows me back to wherever I am and whatever I am doing.

He is a restless sleeper who cries in the middle of the night for no reason. He wakes me and I get mad because I am tired and need my sleep and because I feel helpless and don't know what to do for him or how to comfort him. Is he in pain? Is old age hurting him?

I am happiest when I see him curled up and sleeping, but not just because he is quiet and not bothering me. When I see him nestled into a ball, his breathing steady and strong, and I know he is at peace and comfortable. I know in his dreams, he is the only cat in the house. I know in his dreams, his mom comes whenever he calls for her and provides whatever love and attention he needs. And she never yells at him for getting underfoot, for crying for no apparent purpose or because she is frustrated that she doesn't know what to do to help him.

I feel sad that perhaps I haven't been the best possible mom I could be to Boo, but he has, without a doubt, been the best possible pet anyone could ask for. And it has been an honor to call myself his mom.


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