The hardest part of being a pet owner

I’m a cat person; have been for 35-ish years. I seem to have a knack for getting most of mine to some seriously ripe old ages. We had to have Ethyl, a little spitfire of a cat, euthanized about 14 months ago at the age of 19 because of kidney failure.

Ethyl was pretty obvious-she stopped eating and couldn’t move about, even to get to a litter box in the same room. We knew she was suffering from the disease, but we were doing as much as she would allow to support her. And then she just crashed, and the blood test said “Time, please”. As we always do, we brought her home and she’s buried with 2 others (Ricky and Fred) off to one side of the back yard.

We’re facing this again with our 15 year old Thing. Thing has always been small, particular and a picky eater. She is also a train wreck, one that started in 2012 with a diagnoses of Idiopathic Vestibular Disease. With the help of good veterinary care, we got her past that, but it has poked its head up a time or three since.

For the last 3-4 years, blood tests showed her liver under heavy stress. Some expensive diagnostic tests could find no reason. Then her kidney numbers went up, pointing toward kidney failure. Her white blood count spiked to half again what it should be, pointing to an infection or maybe cancer. This all happened in quick succession. We only caught it early because she was having a pre-anesthesia blood workup so we could have her teeth cleaned and a bad one removed.

Catching it early, we’ve been able to provide supportive care and give her a good quality of life, despite never having a firm diagnoses of what was wrong. But as time has passed she’s gotten frail, and the goal of a quality life has been harder to maintain. Now we’re nearing the end of the road, and I’ve been struggling with trying to work out “When do we take that last ride?” It’s complicated by Thing herself, because she’s been such a game fighter. She isn’t going to go easy.

One resource that my vets suggested was the “Feline Quality of Life Index”. While it sounds kind of cold and clinical, it’s meant to help cat owners reach the hardest decision they have to make about a pet-when is it time to let go? Even though I can be a cold, clinical bastard, about my animals I’m anything but.

Hopefully, this resource will help someone else make this hard, shitty decision with less guilt than they might otherwise have.

5 thoughts on “The hardest part of being a pet owner

  1. Ugh. Hard to read. Thank you for sharing. Please keep us posted.
    We have three furballs; two with major issues and one is just a jerk.

  2. Feel for you, brother. Have had to make The Trip many times, for feline and canine both. Have counted it as an extra blessing when they have gone at home, peacefully; have taken one in for what looked like a routine problem and exam proved that she was not going to see her home again. It's never easy for me, and not something that normal folks were meant to become used to. I always wind up keeping my eyes open, and let them tell me, by lagging spirit and inability whether they can not go on another day, or if they simply want to sleep and drift off in a favorite spot at home ( if not suffering, why not? ) Have collars and urns, and memories. When I go, theirs and mine should be mixed, and either interred, or scattered, depending on the wishes, abilities ( and/or transportation difficulties )of my designee. Just ramblin', please understand.

  3. Thanks, guys.

    Thing is still gamely fighting on; she is just now coming out of a crisis that I really thought would be her last. Back up, moving around and eating. Never has stopped wanting to be loved, and I think that's what I'm cluing in on as the real notice that it's time for that trip. I'm not sure how many more she can survive, but I may have finally been able to put together some clues that will help. Time will tell. I know she'll lose in the end, but she's giving the Reaper a run for his money.

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