We've had Larisa, our Designer Cat, for 11 years. She is a Siberian Forest cat; her registered name is Windrifter Larisa of Lundberg. She was a breeding queen at a small cattery in Oregon, and she was retired when she was five years old. We bought her because my husband Art is allergic to cats, but Larisa is a very-low-allergen cat and he is not allergic to her.
Larisa would not let us touch her until she had lived with us for 62 days. Now she's a typical cat. We can touch her when she lets us.
We live in a Seattle suburb for six months of each year, and in Tucson for the other six months. Larisa travels on the plane in a soft-sided crate under the seat. She knows both of our homes and heads for the litter box when she first arrives at each place.
Last June, in Washington, I watched her exploring the yard. She looked a little hesitant, a little stiff. I guessed she had some arthritis in her hips. I hadn't noticed it until then because we'd been in Tucson, where it's warmer and drier and easier on the joints of most elderly creatures. We called our vet and she prescribed gabapentin for Larisa's arthritis. Powder in a gel tab. We spent most of the summer trying to get Larisa to take her medicine, a usually fruitless effort very familiar to cat owners all over the world.
Also last summer, Art had back surgery in June and I had a hip replacement in August. We were both distracted by some pain and by the pre- and post-surgical limitations each of us had. Larisa had gotten a close haircut in the spring, when the weather in Tucson got hot, and it grew all summer in Washington. By the time we left for Tucson again in October, Larisa looked like a slow-moving hedgehog.
I noticed that she wasn't grooming herself much. She had mats in her fur - under her chin, on her belly and on her back just in front of her tail. We'd brush her, but she was sensitive in the matted areas. Her coat looked dull. I wondered if she was sick, or just on the decline.
Last month, finally, we made an appointment for Larisa to be groomed. She got a bath and a haircut. It had been over six months. Art and I had been distracted enough by our own issues that we hadn't thought about it. We realized then that Larisa's arthritis had prevented her from reaching the mats to take care of them herself. When she moved or we brushed her, the mats had pulled on her skin.
When we brought Larisa home from the groomer's, she was a different cat. She had a very short cut. She spent the first half hour grooming herself. Then she played with toys she'd ignored for months. She sits on my lap now most evenings. She sleeps in our bed most of the night.
She's a happy cat. She's purring on my lap right now, her tail resting on my keyboard.