A recent NY Times article discusses the fact that most cat (and dog) guardians will eventually face agonizing decisions about treating terminal illness or serious injury. While I've often (half) joked that I am going to make up a cardboard sign that says, "Need $ for my cats' acupuncture & cardiology appointments" and stand by a freeway on-ramp, I am glad to have so many options for care. One of my clients has a health savings account for her cats; this is an excellent idea for people with younger cats who haven't started racking up the health problems as it gives you years to prepare. Cost is often not the more emotionally troubling issue amongst those of us who count non-humans as our family members but quality of life; how much should you put your cat through to make her well? Those of us who have made decisions to assist our kitties in passing (by employing a doctor to do so) understand all too deeply that we are only wishing to alleviate suffering. One of the comments in this story is an expression of gratitude that at least we have this option as our animals' caregivers, whereas it is much more problematic (and illegal) when our dying loved ones are human.
Given my education in sociology, I am always interested in reading the comments at the bottom from readers from all over the world. The fact that there were so many people weighing in conveys the meaningfulness of animals in our daily lives and the heavy weight our hearts bear when we lose them. One issue that isn't discussed much is the emotional strain of caring for elderly and ailing companion animals. There are good days when your kitty is eating well and obviously comfortable and then there are days when you think, "This might be the end." I've learned on a group that offers an animal caregivers' support circle that offers free meetings in two different Seattle locations. Check out www.AHELPProject.org for more information. Cats often receive second billing in a dog/cat practice since most pain management drugs and newer therapies are approved and researched for dogs only. Plus, doctors need to keep up their education by attending seminars. I realized this after seeing one senior kitty sent home with very manageable issues but a lack of communication on lifestyle changes and information on basic medications from an old style vet. Seek out veterinarians and care providers who support a holistic vision of health and offer advanced hospice options for you to provide at home to make the most of your time with your kitty. We should never be ashamed of being compassionate and wanting the best for our "fur babies."