Felicity was an emaciated stray when my family took her in and I have loved her with all of my heart since 1997. She was a perfect pet, even when I was a less-than-perfect owner. Certainly there were times in my 20s when I was too busy studying/working/partying to clean her litterbox as often as I should have, but she never complained by soiling my carpets or tearing up my furniture.
Now, aged 14, Felicity has been plagued with recurring urinary tract infections and “crystals” that have her peeing everywhere. She has ruined both my roomate’s and my own mattresses. I have had to throw out $200 leather boots because I couldn’t get the smell of piss out of them. The vet charges me hundreds of dollars for testing and antibiotics. I give her the pills and change her diet, but all that results is a miserable owner with a miserable roommate/landlord and a miserable boyfriend, who have all grown tired of the stink of catpiss.
They tell me it may be emotional; her pissings started about when I finished my Masters degree and returned to work full-time. They tell me that it may be behavioral; that she started neglecting her litterbox due to the infections and that she must be retrained to return to it. They also tell me this “retraining” is very difficult. As my veterinary bills stack up alongside the bags of ruined carpets and clothing, my relationship with my beloved pet suffers. My roommate and I must shut her out of our bedrooms when we leave the house for fear of returning home to a reeking bed. Nothing is safe if it is on the floor; not my roller skates bag, my bathmat or my shoes by the front door. I must admit that I appreciate her company less and less as her condition persists and I continue to spend money on ineffective treatments.
What’s worse is that Felicity’s quality of life has also lessened. Ever the dignified feline, she always held her head high and seemed strangely mortified if I should catch her using her litterbox or gagging on a hairball. Her condition appears to humliate her as least as much as it upsets me. She once roamed the house as though she owned it but now she can always be found on one chair in the kitchen, where she can easily access her food and water. Speculating that the problem might be emotional, a vet proposed the idea of antidepressants; an idea I find to be ludicrous.
Resigned to her age and recurring illness, I once told a vet that I love her very much but am ready to make a difficult decision if need be. His reply was that it was unethical to put down an animal when it becomes “inconvenient”. A second opinion months later yielded the same sentiment. I respect the statement, but I have to wonder at the line between undesirable and unacceptable. While I am repeatedly told that Felicity is an overall “healthy” cat despite these recurring infections, I know that she is unhappy and it breaks my heart.
I feel it cruel to have to insist to the vet that her time has come, but at the same time I feel as though I’m been taken advantage of with repeated promises of health that never comes. My once friend and companion has become an emotional and financial burden, and I resent that I do not have the right to say goodbye to my friend with dignity. I want to remember the pet I snuggled with in my bed, and not the one I have to shut up in the basement to protect my furniture.
Surely I’m not the first person to find themselves in this position, so I put it to the blogosphere. What to do?