Cleo's Progress

One Cat's Struggle with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why I don't believe in euthanizing pets

My last blog post talked about how an ex-boyfriend of mine euthanized his cat after Charlie was diagnosed with lymphoma and what was probably feline hepatic lipidosis.

I indicated that I didn't agree with his decision to euthanize Charlie. Actually, I tend to disapprove of the entire practice of euthanizing animals. This post will discuss why.

Reason #1: I know from personal experience that not every serious illness in a pet's life is fatal.

The case in point here is Cleo, of course: Cleo fell ill with feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, in November 2005. I never even considered euthanizing her; I wouldn't even allow the vet to hospitalize her. Instead, I force-fed her myself. After about 4 weeks, she started eating on her own, and within a month had completely recovered from hepatic lipidosis.

This isn't my only example, though. When I was younger, my parents had a cat who got sick with — and eventually died from — kidney failure. However, if we had euthanized him when he first fell ill, he would have missed more than a year of happy, symptom-free life: All it took was a week of dialysis and a daily pill to stimulate his appetite, and he was fine for a little more than a year.

Reason #2: I don't agree with the moral reasoning behind euthanizing sick pets.

Philip Pullman put my reasoning into words better than I ever could. In one of the books of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, the boy and girl come upon a sick or injured animal. The little girl suggests that maybe they should put it out of its misery, but the boy answers that since the animal can't tell them that it is suffering and would rather die, to kill it would be to make themselves feel better.

In other words, euthanizing pets is all about making the owner feel better by not having to watch the animal's health decline. In reality, we have no way of telling that the animal doesn't want to live anymore, so why should we make that decision?

Out of all the pets I've had, during both childhood and adulthood, the only one we've ever put to sleep was a guinea pig who had a golf ball-sized tumor around her kidney and was peeing blood. The rest — the cat with kidney failure, the rat who had tumors, and the gerbil, the mouse, and the guinea pigs who just got old — all died in their own time and in their own way.

And I think it was better that way. The cat got to enjoy cuddling on the couch with my mom for a few more nights, and died surrounded by the family who loved him. The mouse died in my hands, and the other animals all got to enjoy every possible moment they could still get with the people who loved them.

When it's my time to go, that's what I want — surrounded by my loved ones, and with the freedom to spend my last days in the ways that I love best. Why should an animal deserve any less?


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