My aging cat regularly screams into the toilet and it's disturbing

·4 min read

Aug. 6—The first time I heard our cat scream into the toilet, I thought she was dying.

It was a logical conclusion. After all, we've had Flannery for around 16 years, and she wasn't exactly a kitten when we adopted her. By my fingertip calculations, that would put her at roughly 6,924 in cat years. Most other creatures would be little more than bones and scraps of fur by her age.

I was in the living room when I heard her begin to wail, her cries low and mournful and tinged with what seemed to be an edge of panic. It was one of the most disturbing sounds I'd ever heard ... not quite a death rattle, but definitely a sibling or, at the very least, a close cousin.

"Flannery, what's wrong?" I called out as I shot out of my usual chair. Of course, asking such a question served no purpose. Science long ago proved that cats have an extremely limited grasp of the English language. Also, Flannery is as deaf as a steno pad.

Still, didn't stop me from yelling at her and her yelling at what I soon learned was the water inside the toilet of our hallway bathroom. I found her straddling the seat, rump at a 45-degree angle and shoulders plunged well beneath the rim of the commode. It took me a moment to process what I was seeing, and when I did, I naturally assumed she had gotten stuck while maneuvering her fragile body into a position that would allow her to get a drink from the same container in which three humans regularly urinate.

"Are you stuck, girl?" I said to our non-English-speaking, deaf cat, who also had her head in a toilet.

Although I'm almost entirely certain she didn't hear me, she answered. Sort of. She let out another sorrowful wail. Then another. The sound echoed inside the porcelain bowl, giving it a spooky, ethereal quality.

"I'll get you, girl," I said. Again, for no real reason.

Cats are often by nature somewhat skittish and prone to fits of panic during those rare times when you — either accidentally or on purpose — get the jump on them. During their waking hours, deaf cats are even more so. And the older any of us get, the more our bodies refuse to just roll with such jolts and shocks and instead just quit working altogether. And since, as we previously established, Flannery is both very deaf and also very old, we try our best to avoid surprising her straight into a backyard burial plot.

So, although I wanted to rescue our beloved aging feline from plunging headfirst into the poop pit, I was reluctant to just walk up and grab her by the rear end. Instead, I stomped on the floor and flailed my limbs and, for no reason, called her name a few times until she finally popped her head out of the toilet, saw me doing these things, and stared at me like I was a total moron. Which, you know ... is fair.

Turns out, Flannery was not, in fact, struggling to prevent herself from diving into the urine urn, but was instead yelling into the bowl simply to do so. It's an act she's repeated consistently every morning, and occasionally in the evenings, for weeks.

I have a theory. Despite evidence to the contrary, I think our aging cat isn't entirely deaf. I believe that, when she wails directly into the toilet just as loudly as possible, she can ... maybe only faintly ... hear her own voice. And even just that tiny ghost of a familiar sound is a comfort to a creature who knows she's growing old and facing changes she may not understand, but must live with anyway.

So, every morning and sometimes in the evenings too, I sit in the living room and listen to Flannery scream into the toilet. It makes me smile. After all, who among us hasn't felt the occasional need to yell into a void just to see if anything hears us? Even if it's just ourselves.

ADAM ARMOUR is the news editor for the Daily Journal and former general manager of The Itawamba County Times. You may reach him via his Twitter handle, @admarmr.