Mina came into my life in September of 2000, a tiny, fluffy kitten rescued from subpar outdoor living conditions and saddled by me with the improbable handle of Duchess Wilhelmina von Floofypants. Now seventeen, she has utterly and entirely been content to grow into and live up to the whole of her glorious name, becoming an imperious, noisy, pillow-sleeping eight pound pile of fur and screams.
She’s got a touch of arthritis and an aversion to allowing me to trim her nails or thoroughly brush her fur, she howls loudly whenever she wants something (which is: anytime she is awake), and she has the eating habits of a mountain goat: there is no wet food she doesn’t like. But she is very, very pretty.
And, uh, lately, it seems she’s gone stone bloody deaf.
I thought it was her advanced age, you know, that made her start to sleep so soundly. I thought she’d mellowed, and that was why she didn’t bother to freak out when people knocked on the door anymore. And she’s an imperious little old lady, so I didn’t really think anything was wrong when her screams for attention got louder, it seemed perfectly logical to me that she would just howl at the top of her lungs.
And then a few days ago I came across a video on Twitter of a lovely Persian cat who was deaf. It was a two minute compilation of her screaming in joy whenever her human came home. “Haha! She sounds just like Mina,” I said as I retweeted it. “Except Mina’s not deaf.”
But. Then I started to wonder. And I thought about things.
Mina doesn’t wake up when I am walking towards her while she snoozes, even though I make a reasonable amount of noise shuffling across the carpet or chattering at Trilby to get out of my way. She wakes up when my footsteps make the floor near her vibrate, or when I sit down on my bed next to her, or when I touch her head. And she startles wide, wide awake.
She used to come trotting up to me when I would rattle the plastic bag of cat treats or when I would pop open a can of wet food. But I started to realize she hadn’t done that lately, she was waiting to see Trilby go running for something and then she would get up.
So I began to try testing it out. I realized she wasn’t answering me when I would say her name if she was’t looking at me. Her ears don’t even twitch. I tapped on books, whistled, sang wordless notes – nothing.
I did click on a video of a cockatoo screaming into a plastic cup. That got her attention. And sometimes if I say her name loud enough, she reacts like, “Oh, did something happen?” and she looks around wondering what’s up. But it’s louder than I am generally comfortable being, since I live in an apartment, and it doesn’t seem to actually do anything other than arouse her interest.
It seems her hearing loss isn’t total, but it is still pretty profound. And she hasn’t been sick, so it does appear to be age-related. She’s old. So I suppose it isn’t really a surprise that it should happen. It doesn’t much seem to be bothering her. She still gets to nap, she still gets fed, she still has warm beds and sunbeams. She’s chill, I guess.
This has explained her growing hostility to Trilby, which I had again attributed to her age. I thought she was just an intolerant old lady who wanted Trilby off her lawn because she wasn’t interested in playing. No. She is an intolerant old lady who would like Trilby to stop POUNCING AT HER OUT OF NOWHERE. Pouncing, of course, is Trilby’s primary method of instigating playtime, so I don’t quite know how I am going to solve this problem. Kitty marijuana or something, I guess.
Of course I am going to take Mina to the vet for a checkup, but it is pretty clear what’s happening. Still, everything I have looked up about senior pet deafness indicates that she’s fine as long as I keep her comfortable and don’t startle her or change things too much.
I am also not supposed to allow her outside. Haha. Okay. Sure. She escaped outside once, in 2002. It was March in Wisconsin and it was cold and rainy. She didn’t like it and hasn’t bothered to check out the great outdoors since. I think I am okay.
It’s not easy to watch a pet age. It makes me acutely aware that one day, she’s going to join Callisto wherever Kitty Afterlife happens to be, and that day is now sooner rather than later. And she may be a difficult, aloof, neurotic mess of a cat, but she’s my difficult, aloof, neurotic mess of a cat and I love her greatly.
But for now? She eats like a tiny, fluffy horse. She sleeps well. She still likes to be petted, she still grooms herself, and she still roams the apartment, even if she needs stairs to get up onto my bed now.
She is little, and broken, but still good.
Yeah. Still good.