Veterinary Blog

Beating the Odds…19 Years Young!


By Dr. Leslie Ross D.V.M. Bsc.

Striving to Beat the Odds…so far so good!

Willie, a local Chilliwack resident is a greyish-blue and white 19-year-old neutered male cat of Russian Blue X heritage. Russian blue cats are a rare breed as distinct in their outward appearance as they are in their personalities.

Purebred Russian Blues have a soft, very dense blue coat and are born with yellow eyes that transition to green as they mature. They do not shed much so they are considered to be a good choice of breed for people prone to inhaled allergies. They have a muscular body and innate intelligence and playfulness as well as an ability to vocalize their wants and needs very effectively It has often been said that this breed of cat is very much inclined to train their owners to achieve any goals they may have at the time rather than be trained!

Not much more is known about this rare breed; however, it is believed that the Russian Blue originates from The Archangel Isles in northern Russia. According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), rumour has it that the Russian blue breed descended from the cats kept by the Russian Czars.

Using the formula for all cats older than 15 years of age which is to equate 24 human years to the first 2 years of their life added to 4 human years for every year there-after after this makes nineteen-year-old Willie be about 92 in human years. At this advanced age, he is reaching for the top end average range of 20 years for the Russian Blue breed.

As most cat lovers are aware, cats very effectively use their body postures to communicate their emotions and intentions to others. These can range from total contentment to insecurity, and competitiveness to abject fear.

Willie has always assumed, even as a young kitten a resting pose where he crosses his front paws one over the other that is quite uncommon but which speaks very clearly of his ease and general contentment. He has consistently demonstrated even as a young kitten his intelligence and enjoyment of his family members. Until about 10 years ago he was owned by his present owner’s mother before she passed away and since then he has been a beloved family member of the daughter and family.

These days, as would be expected of a 19-year-old elderly cat he is much less active and enjoys the majority of his leisure time languishing in the rays of the sun or on the easily reached cozy places of his home. However, he likes to communicate vocally at times should he feel the need for some extra attention. Now that his joints are stiff and his mobility is reduced, he avoids stairs but is still quite capable of climbing into and out of his litter box when nature calls.

Willie has been quite a healthy pet throughout his life although now, as an elderly cat he has problems maintaining healthy blood pressure and he suffers from some joint pain, especially of his shoulders and elbows. He can be picky about his daily menu but fortunately, he enjoys a specially formulated canned prescription joint diet and dry kibble Kidney diet that helps to reduce the workload on his kidneys and joints. He is very difficult to give any form of medication to orally so now, he is receiving his blood pressure medication transcutaneously by his owner rubbing a compounded blood pressure reducing medication on his ear flap, monthly injections of b vitamins and an arthritic medication, as well as a liquid kidney medication that fortunately he will accept orally.

Early this March he experienced a short seizure-like episode that was a matter of some consternation to us all. Some more common causes in geriatric cats include a cerebral disorder, cardiac crisis, various infections, disrupted organ functions or tumours. Since then he has not experienced any more but most certainly should one occur than it will be necessary to make some hard decisions to elect for a specialized work-up to determine the cause or instead to consider a dignified passing.

Telomeres are protective caps on chromosomes that wear away with age. A healthy lifestyle increases the length of telomeres which results in a longer life-span.

In consideration of the care and attention and love that Willie has received over his lifetime it is quite likely that his telomeres are still in good shape!

The term “telomere ” is from the Greek telos (end) and meros (part).
Judging by his present state, Willie is not quite ready to end and part just yet!

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