Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cats, kittens, and why I've never regretted paying a lot of money to keep mine alive (Part I)

A mere 10 weeks ago, Oscar and I were sure that we would never spend a lot of money to save an animal's life. We'd talked about it occasionally and agreed that, as much as we love our cats and any other animals we've had in the past, we'd rather have the animal put out of its suffering than pay thousands of dollars simply to add a few years to its life. We figured we'd miss them, but that we'd simply get a new cat or dog and have all kinds of fun adventures with them. And since animals, especially indoor only cats, don't generally need extensive medical care until they're getting close to the end of their lives, it didn't make sense to throw a lot of money towards prolonging their old age. I remember saying "I love my cats, but I'm sure I could love a new one just as easily. Why waste money extending our cat's life when we could put it out of its misery and give a poor shelter cat a new home?" In my mind it was at least as merciful to give a stray cat a home as to save a dying one, so why not go with the cheaper option.

And then it happened. To our complete astonishment we were faced with either paying for an expensive surgery for our 16 month old cat, or letting him die after enduring considerable pain. We'd hoped that the vet would be able to fix the problem without surgery since we knew that surgery could cost many thousands of dollars. But based on what we'd ascertained from our research, we knew deep down that ours was the worst case scenario and would not be fixable without it. And since we'd previously been so firm in our resolve to not pay for surgery, we simply accepted that our beloved kitty was going to die.

The weight of that realization hit me just before we took him to the vet, and as it did I held my sweet cat to my chest and wept profusely into his fur. I was overwhelmed by emotions that were completely foreign to me. I'd never known what it was like to have a pet die, and my heart ached to think of losing him. I did everything to hold my composure for the few minutes we were at the animal hospital before the vet took him to the back room, but once we were back home I started crying hysterically. My husband put his arms around me, and it wasn't long before he too began crying.

For about 20 minutes we held each other, each describing why our cat was so wonderful and how much he didn't deserve this to happen. I remember saying "why did this happen to my sweet kitty? He's been the greatest joy and given so much to us that it just isn't fair to have his life last so short and end in this horrible way." Oscar expressed similar sentiments, and pretty soon we knew what needed to be done.

Though we hadn't even discussed the idea of actually paying for surgery, my husband turned to me and said "I'd be willing to pay whatever it takes to keep him alive." We didn't need to discuss the money issues we were going through, we didn't need to discuss the risk that we might have to pay for surgery and still have our kitty die, and we certainly didn't need to discuss the idea of simply putting him to sleep and getting a brand new kitten. In that moment we knew that our cat deserved a chance for a full life whatever the risks and costs might be, and we were eager for the vet to start helping him as soon as possible.

Before I explain what ultimately brought us to this decision, I'm delighted to announce that the surgery went perfectly and that my cat is completely recovered. He's his adorable little self again and has in so many ways made his surgery worth every penny we spent. In spite of the large dip in our bank account, I've never once regretted our decision to save Nibbler. He truly is a fantastic cat who has given us lots of love and hours of entertainment, and this post is dedicated to him and to my 2 other cats for all the happiness they give to us.

I have several friends who post constantly about their children - the joy that's come into their lives and the fun they get from watching them learn, grow, and figure out who they are. I'm sure I will do the same whenever I have children, but in the meantime I think my cats deserve a little recognition for how much love, fun, and delight they bring into our home. I believe that learning to love our cats so dearly has made us better people and increased our capacity to love others simply for who they are. And I'm grateful everyday that all I need to do is look at one of them, caress their fur, or think about something funny they did, and before I know it I'm smiling contentedly.

I've already done a couple of posts about our cats. I'm not really interested in cats. I'd rather have a dog tells how Oscar really wanted a dog and I really wanted a cat, Fry and Leela - Our Kittens and Fry and Leela - the Kitten Months are about getting our first two cats and their kitten habits, and Nibbler tells about Nibbler joining the household. I may end up repeating a little bit of what's already in those posts, but mostly I want to talk about their different traits and what makes them unique as individuals.

Though this started out as me simply wanting to publicly thank the Animal Hospital at Murphy's Corner for saving my kitty, it ended up turning into many months work of blogging about all of my cats. Since I'm sure not all of you readers are interested in reading the whole thing, I've split the monstrous post up into 7 smaller posts. If you simply want to know how Nibbler's sickness and surgery turned out, go immediately to Nibbler's Illness, Surgery, and Recovery (Part VII). If you want to know more why Nibbler is so fantastic that we decided he was literally worth his weight in gold (though we only ended up paying his weight in silver :-)), go to Nibbler (Part V). And if you're a huge cat lover, or you're just really bored and want to read all about my feline experiences, proceed on to Getting Our First Kittens (Part II).

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