It’s never a good time to have a sick pet, but the holidays seem to magnify all familial ties, including our feline ones. Our “boys” are only nine years old and we got them together. They are true brothers, being litter-mates, but they don’t seem to be aging at the same rate. We are making the worried trip in to the veterinarian today with the gentle, once-large one.
Family pets have played so many roles in human society; some people treat them as employees, some as babies, some as companions. Ours tend to just become part of the family, someone else to love, and protect, and care for. Our cats dwell indoors, so the perils are far less. No rabies or fleas or worms to worry about when they are not in contact with other cats. No cars or dogs to threaten them. They live a rather pampered life: in fact, I often envy them the freedoms they do have, as well as their nap schedule. They have always been quick to find a warm lap, and even seem to be aware when one of us is sad or sick, hanging around within reach if needed. One of our earlier cats used to nestle up next to our first daughter when she would fuss on the changing table. In a matter of moments, she would quiet and calm. They are sensitive to each other as well, it seems. Right now, big brother is sitting vigil next to our sick one while he curls up next to the heating vent. Nothing will bother him, nothing will move him without getting through his brother first.
As a parent, I know I may be called on to make a hard decision, be it financial or final. When I know the role this guy plays in our family, the hole he will leave — it makes me want to do all in my power to make sure he’s there to fill it. But that’s not always possible. Knowing that is part of being the grown up. That, and comforting and explaining to your kids why every avenue was not exhausted even though we know what will ultimately happen.
The way I see it is this: you can let animals into your life or you can deny yourself the pleasure and companionship they can provide. If you choose not to let them in, life might be simpler. No life and death decisions will need to be made, at least on that front, and your life will be far less messy. If you choose to take an animal into your family there will be mess, and it is inconvenient at times. Their lifespans are shorter than yours so loss is inevitable. And the rewards are rich and warm.
Here’s hoping this will be just another Christmas, and our boy will get back on his feet to open presents with us and roll in the discarded wrapping paper, just like he always has.