This spring, Matilda and Cow turned 9 years old.
This is a definitive time when both dogs are, without a doubt, seniors.
Another reason this age is a turning point to me: my childhood dog passed away at age 10 of brain cancer, and by his ninth birthday, he was starting to show symptoms of neurological issues as well as slowing down due to arthritis.
As we know, the larger the dog, the faster they age. My old dog was between Matilda and Cow’s sizes, though neither of my girls have showed signs of arthritis so far.
What’s more, recent events have had them acting like puppies – to my absolute delight.
Raising A Litter of Kittens With My Dogs
Around my apartment complex there’s a huge cat colony.
I’ve never been a cat person, but we eventually took in a young black cat named Sabrina. She’s now about two years old, lets me kiss her on the head, and mostly just tolerates the dogs, but for the most part she keeps to herself.
This spring, one of the stray cats outside fell pregnant.
We set up a large container filled with straw because, at that time it was still pretty cold out.
And on March 13th, Lil Mamas gave birth to four wonderful kittens in that container, located under the red bench on my patio.
She was doing well, so we kept an eye on her and made sure she had plenty to eat while she nursed.
Four weeks later, she moved her kittens into a car engine. It was at that point we had to rescue them and continue raising them indoors.
This is when things got exciting.
Are Kittens Safe Around Dogs?
My dogs are fascinated with cats and try to chase them any chance they get. They’ve mellowed out a bit since we adopted Sabrina, but they still couldn’t be trusted… at first.
Since Matilda is just five pounds, I decided to give her a chance to get up close and personal with the kittens. With her small size, even if she couldn’t control herself, at least she couldn’t seriously harm them.
But what actually happened was incredible.
She started playing with the kittens, her tail wagging like a propeller.
I hadn’t seen her this active in ages. She’s never been so playful.
In the following weeks she became their surrogate mama, constantly checking up on them, playing, chasing, and letting them chase her.
As for Cow, it took another week or so before I decided to give her a few minutes of very closely supervised playtime. It was more of a risk – Cow’s a medium-sized dog of about 30 pounds, so she could hurt a tiny baby kitten even by being too playful.
But Cow, too, was overjoyed to play with the kittens. After nearly a decade of playing with Matilda, she had a knack for lowering herself to the ground and nibbling oh-so-gently to keep the kittens safe.
Even when the kittens napped, the dogs were completely lit up. They played with their toys more, and they just seemed so much happier.
Life With Our Forever Kitten
Oliver is about 2.5 months old, and his siblings have gone on to their adoptive families.
He’s smitten with his doggy mamas, and they continue to be enamored with him.
The dogs play with him, they nap with him, and they gently scold him when he pesters them while they’re sleeping.
While I still only allow the animals to spend time together under supervision, they seem to know that he’s small and needs to be treated gently.
As he nears Matilda’s size, she’s in for quite the awakening – male ginger cats tend to grow larger than other tabbies, so we can expect him to become much, much larger than her over the next few months.
As for me, while I love Sabrina, Oliver has opened up a whole new world of understanding. I finally understand what cats are all about. And there’s room for both dogs and cats in my heart – and somehow, too, in my home.
Keeping Matilda and Cow Young
Of course, I can’t bring in a litter of kittens every year in hopes of giving my dogs eternal youth.
And like all dog parents, including you, I try to prepare myself for the fact that they will have short lives, and that I’ll be incredibly lucky and blessed and honored to spend 15-20 years with them.
Like everyone we love in life though… we don’t know if we’ll wake up in the morning. We don’t know if something awful will happen at any moment. Every moment is a treasure with these dogs.
In the meantime, all we can do is offer our dogs the very best we can.
I’ve fed a fresh raw diet in the past, and while I can’t do it anymore due to my dogs no longer tolerating it, and not having the room or time to experiment with different types of fresh foods, I feed the best kibble and dehydrated foods that I can find. Honest Kitchen clusters and food mixes are Matilda’s favorite part of the day.
I supplement with freeze-dried toppers, fresh treats, and plenty of water to keep them hydrated.
I’ve also started giving daily joint supplements with glucosamine, chrondroitin and MSM, even though my dogs don’t have any signs of arthritis yet.
YES, you can start to give joint supplements anytime – no need to wait until your dog starts to slow down.
And while nutrition, exercise, and vet checkups are vitally important, the biggest boost we’ve seen have been the kittens – the absolute joy and mental wellness they’ve brought is beyond what I could have imagined.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone with older dogs should foster kittens, but opening our home to unexpected guests has been nothing short of amazing.
And while some dogs cannot safely, logistically, or otherwise spend time with younger animals, supporting their mental health in any way you can will go a long way.
Happy 9th Birthday, Matilda and Cow! I Love You!