How Much is That Doggie in The Window?

Or the cat that crawls out from underneath your front porch one winter morning, painfully thin and hungry?

How about the dog that you’ve had since its puppy-hood now pushing 14 and arthritic.  He’s been off his feed for 24 hours and you’ve set up an appointment with your vet for later in the day.

Or, how about this?

You wake up one morning to find your two year old cat looking and acting strangely. He’s slumped against the wall,  back legs splayed out at odd angles; his neck muscles too weak to support his head which appears to dangle and bump against his chest.

You’ve only had this cat for a few months. Without knowing it’s health history, you have no idea what’s going on or what in the cat’s background might have triggered this alarming behavior.

Here’s how this last scenario plays out.

The first vet visit (which happens the same day you discover that something is drastically wrong with your cat) results in blood tests and x-rays.  Your bill:  $700.00.

“We think he’s had a stroke.  He needs to see a neurologist,” explains the vet.

You take your cat home and head off to the neurologist the next day.  Thirteen hundred dollars later (that’s $1,300.00), the specialist wants to keep the cat overnight. His condition is touch and go; he could continue to breathe on his own or he could die.

The neurologist suggests an anti-inflammatory drug to see if that will reduce the swelling in your cat’s brain which would mean that he would get the use of his legs back.

This might work. It might not.  If it doesn’t work, the next option is surgery to insert a shunt that would open up his blood vessels. This surgical procedure will cost almost six thousand dollars ($6,000.00).

Will THAT work?  It’s not a sure thing. So, maybe yes. Maybe no.

You desperately want to give your cat this chance. However, you are spared having to make this decision because when you stop in the neurologist’s office to visit your cat, he dies … in your arms.

A melodramatic true story – one that gets retold again and again on blogs, in online communities, on Face book, and around kitchen tables all across the country. The family pet might be a cat, a dog, a horse, rabbit, chicken or goat.

You can bet that the animal will be at death’s doorstep and someone in the family will be ready to go to the wall, financially, for this animal.

Here’s how THIS story ends.

The cat owner applies for a special health credit card to pay off the $2,000.00 vet bill she’d racked up. The 18% interest won’t kick in for two years. That’s good, right?!?

Now she wonders just how much is too much to spend at the vet’s?

And, pardon my callous reply as I shout: “What? Were you NUTS?”

“You would consider digging yourself into an $8,000.00 credit card hole to put your traumatized cat through a $5,500.00 surgical procedure?”

And, as long as I’m ranting,  Mr. Dr. Vet -“YOU have the balls gall to actually charge someone almost SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS ($6,000.00) for an operation?”

Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?

Just in case you’re wondering, the cat owner got a lot of sympathy from fellow animal lovers.  Comments after her post seemed to be split 80/20 or 90/10 in favor of the steps that she took (the money she spent) in her attempts to save her cat’s life.

Someone assured her that, added up, the money that SHE’D spent in one year for her animal’s welfare was the equivalent of a year’s college tuition.

Sprinkled among these comforting replies were one or two that very nicely offered their sympathies but clearly stated that they would take no heroic measures for their dog/cat.

Everyone respected all of the opinions expressed.

As for me, I’ve been banging my head against walls wrestling with this scenario. Finally, at the end of the day, I took the coward’s way out.

Rather than adding my own comment to the long list of folks who’d reached out to this woman, I decided to sneak over to  my own blog and see how I felt.  Here. In the privacy of my own little piece of cyberspace.

Because I don’t really know this young woman.  So, who am I really to pass judgement on how she chooses to take care of her cat? God knows, I’ve spent my share of dollars on my own pets over the years.

Who am I to question how someone else chooses to spend money that they have or have to borrow to pay for their animal’s medical expenses? At the end of the day, it’s not what I think that’s important … is it?

But. The minute this cat owner hit the “Send” button, her material became available for public comment. That’s one of the best and the worst things about the internet.

Now it’s my turn to hit “Send.”  Wonder what will happen next?  [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]








  1. Polly says

    We faced this dilemma about a year ago – my mother’s death had meant each of us children inherited (volunteered to give homes to) her four cats and one dog. We took “Tough Guy” – a cat which had as a kitten showed up on her roof in the middle of winter. He had to be tough to survive that! He was three years old when he joined our family – healthy, active, and a charmer who loved to ride on your shoulder, and sharpen his claws on your suede slippers – only suede will do!

    We had him about 6 months when he started squatting on the bed and leaving drops of bloody urine behind. Off to the vet, and then the surgical vets, who diagnosed blocked eurethra. They inserted a catheter, swamped his system with fluids, and crossed their fingers. $1.5k at this point. Then he blocked again. The only recourse now is further surgery to re-configure the urinary tract system. At least $5k more. For a cat. For my mother’s cat. My mother would do it, and she did leave some money for her kids. That made the decision a little easier. At least we had the money readily available.

    What would I have done if I did not? My brain said – $5k is outrageous for a cat. It still says that. But it is not the only operating organ in my body. They fight sometimes, these organs.

    So now we are a “no dried catfood” family, and Tough Guy still sharpens his claws on my slippers, pushes the dogs around, charms me with his sea-green eyes, and I am happy to have him around.

    • htkhp says

      What a touching (heart-breaker) story. And wasn’t your mom a wise woman for setting aside some money. Reading this makes me think of my mom. When she died, we had four (?) of her cats to take care of and one dog named Bear. Bear went with my sister’s family and my nephew’s girlfriend (at the time) took two of the cats. I honestly can’t remember what happened with the other two, but, knowing my older sister, they went to good homes. The things we do for our families are (sometimes) nothing short of miraculous.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *