When the vet called the love of my life a senior


Two weeks ago I courageously loaded my two cats into a carrier and brought them to the vet for their first Seattle checkup. Nothing was wrong, for a change. They just needed updates on their vaccinations and, now that we finally have a permanent residence to call our own, microchipping.

It did not go well. Cat Cat, somewhat predictably, lost her shit, hissing and yowling at anything that moved, and a few pieces of furniture that did not. Jack seemed to feed off her crazy, escalating to a degree of rage I have never, in all of our trips to the vet, witnessed before. I was covered in bleeding scratches before the experience was over, baffled and somewhat frustrated.

At some point during the chaos the vet recommended that we draw his blood as well. BECAUSE HE WAS A SENIOR.

I’ve tried really hard not to linger over the implications of what was, to her, an offhand comment. I’ve never heard him referred to as a senior before. He’s only nine years old, with well over half of his life ahead of him. Middle-aged perhaps, but senior?

I’ve had Jack since he was a few ounces shy of two pounds and I was still in my early 20s. We’ve seen each other through so many moves I fear I’ve lost count, through several boyfriends, through his triaditis diagnosis and the long and terrifying procedures and surgeries required to obtain that diagnosis. He’s the only certainty in my life, the only certainty I absolutely need to continue this messy business of living.

I’ve lost animals before, and it’s never easy. It’s the furthest thing from easy, really. It’s hell. But Jack is the closest I will ever come to having a child. When I’m at home, he’s either on my lap or glaring at me because he’s not on my lap, or demanding that I pick him up. If I’m in bed, he’s tucked under the covers beside me. And this vet was calling him a senior.

There can be no rainbow bridge for us. I staunchly and absolutely reject the reality of his mortality. And for the past nine years that’s worked out reasonably well—triaditis notwithstanding—because he was a young, indoor cat with an obsessive mom who brings him to the vet at any hint of an indication of a problem. Why couldn’t he live forever?

But nine years passes so quickly and while I’m now definitively in my 30s, he’s the veterinarian’s equivalent of a senior. And I’ve realized over the last two weeks that I am not the least bit prepared for what that means. I still expect another 11 years with Jack, demand it really. But the absolute truth is that would never be enough. And I can’t seem to stop myself from  grieving for something that hasn’t happened. I can’t seem to look at him without a lump in my throat, an awareness I’ve previously been able to reject. My baby is, apparently, a senior. And while that meant next to nothing to the woman who provided that information, for me it was a game changer in the most unpleasant possible way.



  1. This is a daily struggle with Whiskey. I look at him and can’t imagine a day without him. He is 12 and the life expectancy is not only down to single digits, but likely countable on one hand. I feel your pain and terror. Give Jack a pet from me while I shed a few tears cuddling with my boys.

  2. My cat Samson is eight years old and he still seems like a kitten to me! We recently adopted another cat and when we were at the animal shelter, I was shocked to see kitties who were nine years old labeled as “seniors.” You have many years left with your kitty to enjoy!

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