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Pet ownership and moral dillemas

I have a cat. However, I do not qualify as a “cat person”. You know the stereotypes that come to mind when you think of a cat person: a house reeking of urine, perpetually single women, overfed and fussy cats occupying prime real estate in a living room. At the risk of seeming like a bad person and pet owner, I will announce that I keep my cat to keep rodents out of my house, provide a homey feel when humans view him perched on my porch, and to enrich my life when I overhear some purring.

I believe that cats should come and go as they please, cause little trouble, provide bits of therapy here and there with an appropriately timed lap sit, and defend the house against mice and rats when they try to move in during the fall time. My end of the bargain includes providing a warm shelter, sufficient quantities of high quality cat food, and annual checkups at the veternairian.

The other animals in my life are considered differently. My geriatric dog, who is approaching the ripe old age of fourteen, has an entirely different contract with me. She is my best friend, a spitting example of unconditional love, and I will do anything and everything for her. We go everywhere together. I will get up at six in the morning to take her out if need be. I will prepare her elaborate meals, buy her heated dog beds, and go out of my way to ensure she has an enjoyable day which includes several trips to the park. And then there’s my horse. He provides me with endless hours of entertainment, exercise, enjoyment, and listens to me discuss all the aspects of my life while we are on long trail rides. He commands my unlimited attention and wallet because he doesn’t even have to try, there is something about his sheer massive size and nonchalent attitude that you cannot argue with.

Back to the cat. He came about accidentally, as you may be able to guess. He was found as a feral kitten, newly born, under a tractor out on Sauvie Island, where I work. I didn’t mean to adopt him, in fact, when myself and a co-worker first discovered the 2 kittens in the grass under the tractor, we decided to put them back out in the barn, so that their mom could come find them. We also had the hope that if their mom didn’t find them, that the barn owls would find a nice meal. But the next day, it was apparent that neither their mom nor the barn owls had located the kittens, and they looked substantially weaker. We brought them into the farmhouse, and the next thing you know, we had bottled kitten formula at the ready, and took shifts feeding the cats. One of the kittens was an orange tabby, and because I had a beloved orange tabby named Sam as a child, I decided I would adopt the orange one. You know, do my duty as an animal lover and take in the poor wretched creature. I named him Tractor.

Everything was going along great with Tractor until recently. He is kind of the perfect cat- he is willing to put in a little bit of time snuggling, but he has a cat door that we installed so he is free to come and go as his pleases. This has made him independent and prevented him from becoming too needy. He sticks around our house though, not liking to go too far away. He sleeps on our bed, usually at the foot curled up against our legs, and I like this immensely.

Then suddenly, he started excessively grooming his genitals and howling. I’m not really sure how else to describe it. But he spent one night under our bed, conducting the aforementioned activity. The next day, like the responsible pet owners we are, we took Tractor to the vet’s office and spent three hundred dollars to determine that the cat had “crystals” in his pee. We came home armed with special cat food and three kinds of medicine. Ten days later, there has been no improvement. A quick peruse of the internet reveals all kinds of people, cat people if you will, that seem to think there is nothing strange about spending thousands of dollars at the vet’s office to improve this problem.

It is symbolically a dark rainy day as I sit here contemplating not doing that. I saved the feral kitten from death once before, must I now slip into debt to do so again? When there are people in my life that need the money for health care and food, am I a bad person for having the cat euthanized rather than paying for surgery for Tractor? I am hesitant, and the moral dillema is making me miserable.

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