“Dad wake up, Marshall is sick.”
Marshall is the younger of our two cats, the orange tabby. I looked at the clock. 11:42 p.m. I had had maybe an hour of sleep. Why did this have to happen when Vivian is away? The cats are her problem.
I prefer not to be woken unnecessarily, I’m funny that way. And I have a standing rule regarding pets: don’t bother me with them.
I believe pets are important. They teach children responsibility and give them an idea of what it means to be God. Teaching responsibility means I don’t want to be the one cleaning out the litter box or taking the dog for a walk. Actually, when the children were young, I said no dogs; dogs are like children that never grow up. If they want a dog they can get their own place.
I had a hamster once. I think that was my first pet. I must have been very young, because all I can remember was the smell. Don’t even remember the rodent’s name. There were goldfish after that, but they didn’t last long. Goldfish have less personality than hamsters, but not much.
Then came the kitten; I was five. I knew it was a setup – I don’t remember my parents visiting that particular church family before or afterward. We came home with a kitten, the first in a succession of cats.
Late night visits to the veterinarian are not fun. There is an automatic expense involved that, as a naturally frugal individual, I find very offensive. Mind you, I understand that in many ways it is tougher to treat animals than humans. A human at least can usually tell you where it hurts.
I have a general rule of thumb that says you shouldn’t spend more money on treating the cat than you would spend in buying a new one. Yes, I am cruel and heartless – but such a position saves you from madness. I understand how attached people can become to their pets, but there should be limits.
I have a relative whose cat underwent regular chemotherapy treatments for several years. I shudder to think what that cost, I know it was thousands of dollars, maybe tens of thousands. I have a friend who spent, I think, seven thousand dollars one weekend on veterinary bills for an aged dog that as I remember it only lived another year. To prevent such an emotional response I establish the ground rules before an emergency hits.
That is not to say I wouldn’t bend the fee ceiling by a couple of dollars – but I won’t be pressured into an emotional decision. That way, when confronted with a $3,000 operation with no guarantee of success the choice becomes clear.
Marshall is a young cat, and a lucky one on this occasion. The bill for treatment for the emergency visit was just slightly less that the amount I had predetermined, which admittedly was more than replacement cost. We have invested 18 months in him after all. Now we hope the medicine helps and that he recovers. There are no guarantees.
You have a lot of time to think when you are waiting at the vet’s between midnight and 2:30 a.m. (which is when this post was written, except for these last two paragraphs). My mind went in some strange directions, which I will share in the next couple of posts.
In some ways it is silly to spend money on a cat, especially when it is more than the replacement cost. But Marshall is my daughter’s cat, and I love my daughter. I am thankful though that the treatment was not over what I was prepared to pay.