What is the best thing to do for my cat?
February 24, 2011 10:43 AM   Subscribe

What is the best thing to do for my cat?

Since I was five years old, this cat has been one of my greatest loves. I am now almost 21, and she is 16. I moved out of my mom's house this past fall and left her behind, taking two new strays that I had found. I had always intended to eventually bring her, and two days ago, I finally got her here. The problem is whether or not she should stay. I obviously want to do what is best for her. I will always love her, and I love having her here, but her overall well-being in her last years is the most important thing.

Pros to staying with me:
-she gets to be with me (good for both of us)
-it is a smoke-free environment
-i can provide for her very good quality cat food (no corn, meat byproducts, etc)

Cons to staying with me:
-unfamiliar environment
-one of my other cats for some reason has been giving her a hard time (despite being fine together back at my mom's house) which seems to be stressing both of them out
-she will not be able to go outside without supervision
-She is separated from Baby, a one year old cat to whom she has basically been a mother (my mom tells me Baby, for the past two days, has been looking for her). They are very close, sleep together, clean each other, etc.

Pros to going back:
-gets to be with Baby
-gets to go outside as as she wants when it gets warm
-familiar environment in which she has lived for basically her whole life
-doesn't have to deal with being hissed at

Cons to going back:
-cigarette smoke
-not top quality cat food (which concerns me seeing as how she is getting old but perhaps I could send back good cat food)
-separated from me

So, cat lovers of the green, what should I do?
posted by DeltaForce to Pets & Animals (24 answers total)
This is tough. Do you live close enough to visit your cat? Could you provide your mom with extra money for good cat food?

I think that while your cat will probably adapt to her new environment eventually, it might be better for a cat of her age to be in a familiar place with a kitty she's grown really close to.

I'm not a vet or a cat psychiatrist, though.
posted by elder18 at 10:47 AM on February 24, 2011

Response by poster: I am about 1.5 hours away, so I do get to visit her once every month or two. I could provide the food/money, so that is perhaps a good solution.
posted by DeltaForce at 10:49 AM on February 24, 2011

You are asking a 16 year old cat to make a drastic lifestyle change - new cats, hostile neighbours, new food, no outdoor fun, and separation from a companion kitty. The list of pros here is more about your preferences and less about the cat's preferences. Unless the cat has been observably miserable without you (and let's face it, most cats are not programmed that way) I would send her back with better food for all of the cats resident at your mother's house.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:50 AM on February 24, 2011 [11 favorites]

The change may not be the best for the cat. You want what's best for the cat, right? And your other cats too.
posted by CarlRossi at 10:53 AM on February 24, 2011

Response by poster: I agree that emotionally it's better for her to go back, but I have to say, I am and never have been happy with the cigarette smoke. That can't be good for their small lungs, especially at her age.
posted by DeltaForce at 10:53 AM on February 24, 2011

She should go back and be with Baby. There's no reason to be in an emotionally traumatizing catuation no matter how good the cat food is.
posted by MXJ1983 at 10:56 AM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

I would send her back. She is old enough that I think she should stay in her familiar environment with her buddy cat, and enjoy her twilight years in peace. Is the cigarette smoke really going to be an issue suddenly at 16 years of age, assuming she has been living with it her whole life already? Which food is she most used to? I would send her back and provide extra money for higher quality cat food if your mom is open to it. Sounds like she and Baby have a close, loving relationship, and I think that is very important. Its sad for you and she to be apart, but I think on an everyday basis, her relationship with Baby and the familiar surroundings probably rank higher than her relationship with you. Presumably she has a relationship with your mom also?
posted by Joh at 10:56 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is tough. Cats have territorial and dominance issues, which is probably why the other cat is giving her a hard time. (This book has some useful advice for your multi-cat home.)

If hissing is the only behavioral issue going, you can probably deal with that. But I, personally, would leave your cat in her happy home and know that she's happy there, especially if she can get better food from you--even better if you can personally deliver it with some kind of regularity.
posted by Hylas at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2011

Really really tough but.. leave her where she is comfortable. She's an older cat and deserves her sunbeam.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:59 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm writing as a longtime cat owner who had to give away a newer, more aggressive cat because he made my other cats' lives miserable.

If she has made it to 16 with cigarette smoke and regular cat food, then, given how much cats hate new environments, I don't see those as Cons unless your vet counsels otherwise.

I think the real questions are:

1) Are the new stresses worse than smoke and average food? I'd say they are: a mean cat, the inability to go outside and separation from Baby is a pretty rough combination. I wouldn't be surprised if it causes her to pee outside the litterbox, pull out her hair, raise her blood pressure, or whatever else happens when cats are harassed, confined, etc.

2) is she even going to be the same lovely cat you knew with all the added stresses of the new place? I doubt it. See #1 above.
posted by paindemie at 10:59 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Let her live out the rest of her life (even if it may be shorter due to the cigarette smoke) in the home she's known her entire life, with her best furry friend, and visit with her when you can.
posted by litnerd at 11:00 AM on February 24, 2011

Upon reading your question, my first thought is to have her go back to your mom's house. She is used to it there, and has a Baby to take care of. Extra money for good food is a solution, or ordering it yourself and having it delivered might be even easier. The cigarette smoke is unfortunate and would bother me, too, but even so, it still sounds like having her return to your mom's place is a better solution.
posted by analog at 11:01 AM on February 24, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you for all of your responses so far. She is an amazing cat, one of the most affectionate and needy (in a good way) cats I've ever had (and we've had a lot), and even with this change has been snuggling me and purring.

But paindemie has it right, that the real question is whether the new stresses are worse than the smoke and food (though the food issue can be remedied). I guess what I was hoping to hear is that the smoke, at this point, is not such an issue. It really breaks my heart to think of her being separated from her home and her best kitty friend, so I think I know what to do. Thanks everyone.
posted by DeltaForce at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2011

I feel you on the cigarette smoke. In general, one of the reasons I (in a fit of paranoia) converted to cleaners that are largely natural (other than bleach in the tub) is that our furry children are way closer to the floors than we are, and are way more exposed to those chemicals. So, I get it.

How "old" 16 is for your cat is going to be kind of relative. My aunt's cat lived to be what seemed like a bajillion years old, which was probably closer to 25. Is she looking for the other cat that is at your mom's? Or is she adjusting well? You need to base this on how she's doing not on how the young cat is doing. The young cat will get over it, and has a long life ahead of her to do it. Two days isn't a long time for even previously-acquainted cats to readjust to one another. I wouldn't panic on that count just yet.

The one thing that really stands out to me is that she is used to going outside. In my experience, cats that are used to having access to the outdoors become annoying escape artists who are miserable without outside access. They then pass this on in making you miserable with pulling disappearing acts, attempting to trip you up on the way in with groceries, and other fun antics. That would be a huge part of the decision for me.

If you are going to have good food delivered to your mom (a great idea really) I would look at petflow.com. Our brand of food is pain in the ass to find (only one store in our area) and having petflow deliver the food and litter every month is completely awesome.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:05 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sending the new cats not an option?
posted by notned at 11:22 AM on February 24, 2011

My cats lived with my two-packs-a-day parents and made it to 16 and 18 respectively. (They died of kidney failure and leukemia respectively -- the cats, not the parents.) So I'd say the smoke isn't a big issue in the home.
posted by vickyverky at 11:29 AM on February 24, 2011

How is she and your mom? If that's good, I agree with the general consensus -- you should let go.
posted by rtimmel at 11:50 AM on February 24, 2011

I'm really sorry you're here. I recently had to find a new home for one of three kitties. It's unbearably painful, but she seems to be doing well. To make matters worse, my younger cat died unexpectedly a day later. It took everything I had not to bring the girl back - but she and the surviving cat just hated one another too much (she was peeing on everything and had gotten aggressive - even after four years together).

The right path is just very often the most difficult path. Good luck.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 12:34 PM on February 24, 2011

Best answer: According to several veterinary oncologists I have worked with, lung cancer from second-hand smoke is not really an issue for dogs and cats. It is theorized that it is partially that their noses filter out more of the harmful chemicals than we do and partially that lung cancer takes so long to develop that even long-lived cats simply do not live long enough to be affected by it. There is a slightly increased risk of cancers in the nose and mouth (this is where the muzzle-as-filter theory comes from), but it is still so rare as to be a non-issue.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:29 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Take her back to be with Baby. She's too old to make drastic changes like this, and she needs the companionship of Baby. The cigarettes are bad, but your cat is happier when s/he is where it's been for quite sometime. I know it's hard, but it's best for your cat.

Good luck.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 2:34 PM on February 24, 2011

Perhaps there isn't much of an increased risk of lung cancer from secondhand smoke, but there is an increased risk of lymphoma in cats in such households. According to a long-term epidemiological study at Tufts, the presence of one smoker doubled the risk and two smokers quadrupled it. One of my cats recently died of lymphoma (at 13.5), and so I came across this information while I was researching the causes - although he was never exposed to cigarette smoke. Is there any way you can convince one or both of your parents to smoke outside of the house? Likely this is something you've probably already tried to convince them of.

Otherwise, I have to concur with the majority of posters. If she has already made it to 16, and you can still spend quality time with her on a regular basis, then it might be for the best. My boyfriend left his beloved cat behind, with his parents, when he moved in with me as I already had three cats, and she was used to her environment and going outside as well. She has really bonded with his mother and their new puppy, so we are happy that she is doing so well there.
posted by iconoclast at 4:47 PM on February 24, 2011

Send her home to Baby. Show us a picture so we may love her from afar!
posted by freshwater at 6:14 PM on February 24, 2011

Your mom sounds like a good intentioned person. I would leave the cat with her. She is 16 and sounds pretty healthy. You mom must be doing something right.
posted by fifilaru at 7:50 PM on February 24, 2011

Response by poster: @fifilaru, Yes she definitely is a well-intentioned person. All while growing up, we have rescued, spayed/neutered, rehabilitated, and found homes for dozens of cats.

@freshwater, Mimi after a bath!
posted by DeltaForce at 3:47 AM on February 25, 2011

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