In the last few months stories of heroic efforts to save the lives of abused and critically injured cats and kittens have filled my reading and viewing list. Kitties like Bernice, who was apparently set on fire and left for dead on a sidewalk in Oshkosh, Wisconsin but lives and thrives at the veterinary hospital just being a regular cat despite her injuries; Dexter, who was beaten with a baseball bat along with his brother but survived long enough to be adopted before being overcome by his increasing seizures, and, recently, Tabitha, a kitten found in a plastic bag in a dumpster, her body crushed and in extreme pain but alive enough to call for help and is currently recovering, may have at one time been euthanized as an act of “mercy”. Instead, every effort at great expense was made to both ease their pain and heal their wounds so that they could have a chance at life.
Medical care for animals has advanced at a blinding rate in the past few years, giving animals the chance at life they didn’t have even only a few years ago.
But medical care isn’t the only thing that’s changed at a blinding rate in the past few years. Respect for animals and their needs and their sentience, as well as their relationships with we humans and ours with them, is readily accepted, even expected, when caring for animals.
Why so much effort for one animal when so many are needy?
I’ve seen it questioned in articles and interviews, whether we should expend all these efforts and resources on one cat or kitten when that output could save the lives of countless others who are homeless and in shelters, not to mention other needs in society.
It’s a logical comparison if you’re talking about what new products to carry in your store or what roads to pave in your community, for example, but it’s not comparable when talking about saving lives. You can’t say you’ll save this life and not that one because its value will be greater in the end or it will take fewer resources and is therefore a better investment. There are times when needs can’t be met locally, or when, during large rescues or disasters, for instance, so many animals are in need that there isn’t enough time to arrange appropriate care for all of them. But all the lives of animals are valuable, and if the will is there in the animal, it should simply be done to the best of what means are available.
Animals are individuals
And animals aren’t interchangeable. When I lost my first kitten at age nine, everyone told me not to worry because there were plenty of others and I could get another one, which I did, but I never forgot that first orange kitten. And even a little over a decade ago someone said the same thing to me, thinking that one cat is pretty much the same as another.
We do still have a huge problem with homeless pets, especially cats and kittens, but simply that surplus shouldn’t sway the decision that an animal who needs assistance that we can give shouldn’t get it because others have needs, their needs are easier to meet and one of those cats will do just as well. Animals are not new products or roads to pave. Each animal is an individual and can decide if it wants to live or die, we as humans can understand those signals, and we should let the will of the animal be our guide in making the decision, and more and more often this is what happens when a critically injured animal is taken for veterinary care, as you can see in the stories linked here.
Financial resources are another point of conflict both with rescuing injured and abused animals and with our own animal companions throughout their life. As another example with one of my cats, Stanley was prone to urinary blockages and until I learned about and managed his diet, he constantly suffered from cystitis and blocked several times. I told co-workers he had cost me $569 for treatment at one point and one of them asked me why I didn’t just “get rid of him” and asked why I’d spend that much on a cat; others agreed, though not everyone, but I was shocked that they thought I should put him to sleep or, worse, dump him in a shelter because his treatment cost “too much money”.
A little later I had transmission repairs on my car which cost me almost $700, and in sharing the story I got all the world of sympathy and similar stories about how cars had cost even more. Why didn’t they tell me to get rid of my car because it “cost too much” to fix? Cars do cost more to replace, but I wondered how the value of a car, a non-sentient machine and totally replaceable, seemed more than that of my cat, a living, loving creature who was decidedly not replaceable.
Someone might say that to me today, but I would have plenty of support in countering the opinion.
Another expense is long-term care for special needs animals or those with a chronic illness. Most animals who have special needs don’t have any extra expenses, but animals who are diabetic or suffer seizures, for example, require medications and often more frequent veterinary visits to keep tabs on their condition. And, yes, another personal cat story, Namir had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and while I could get his medications through my own pharmacist at a great discount, he still needed regular EKGs and scans and occasional emergency hospitalization for congestive heart failure. I joke that we built one of the wings on the new specialty emergency clinic we regularly visited. In the end, between that and the idiopathic cystitis he’d always suffered, he cost about as much as a new car, basic compact model; at the same time, I replaced my old car with one that cost $2900.
There was no question for me that Namir was more valuable, and I’m glad to see that today there are dozens of organizations and agencies, as well as specialized insurances, that will help pet owners with expenses like those I faced with Namir so that money isn’t always a barrier to the care you want to give. Read the dramatic story of Moki, the Wobbly Cat as well.
Greater chances for survival
And there are other animals whose care isn’t expensive at all, but who would have been euthanized at birth or soon after because their survival was considered risky or impossible, are now reconsidered and given a chance. Frank and Louie, a “Janus cat” born with two faces, was brought in to be euthanized by his owner at one day old because the life expectancy for those kittens was one to four days. His current person asked if she could take him, and now he’s 12 years old and going strong. Then there’s Willow, born with twisted hind legs, chosen by her person who saw she wanted to live, and she’s become beloved by many people and a inspiration for adoption of both cats and dogs born with twisted hind legs. I read more about cats so my stories and experiences are biased toward felines, but recently a woman took a puppy with deformed hind legs that had been packed into a garbage bag for disposal by a backyard breeder of pit bull mixes, gave the puppy a home, love and physical therapy, and it’s running and playing nearly as well as any puppy its age would be.
They will let you know
In all these kittens and cats, someone had the chance to look in their eyes and read the unspoken desire to live and thrive, to be given the chance to grow and love, and given that chance, they did to the best of their ability, returning volumes of gratitude and changing the lives and opinions of many who witnessed the miracle, reinforcing the belief in animal consciousness for those already singing in the choir.
I’ve seen that look in my own cats’ eyes, both before they became my companions, and after long years of companionship, and let them guide me in their needs. In my work with cat rescue and in animal portraiture, I know that have many others have seen it too. Now the rest of society is seeing it as well, and the whole basis of opinion about companion animals and animals in general and their care in our society is changing for their better, and ours.
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