I feel pretty strongly about being responsible with the pets you own, making sure they have the basic necessities, obviously, and keeping them safe and comfortable. Sometimes it also means making difficult decisions about those pets, like when it's time to say goodbye.
Having pets isn't inexpensive. It costs for food, for hygiene and for medical care.
Ultimately it's up to the pet owner to assume the costs and the responsibilities.
This afternoon I sat with my sister and watched her struggle over medical decisions for her daughter's cat of 15 years, decisions that could have ended up costing several hundred dollars. She took the cat to the vet to be put to sleep, but the cat is not in extremis. He's still pretty healthy and peppy, although he's had an issue with vomiting for some time. And now he's started what the vet referred to as "inappropriate urination." He's spraying around the house, something we certainly dealt with over the years (and many cat owners experience).
It wasn't up to me to decide; I just wanted to be supportive. I offered to help pay for the tests the vet suggested. I knew those tests might eventually show he needed to be euthanized, despite his appearance. There's no way to know without having the tests. We did this for our beloved Indy several years ago, and hundreds of dollars later learned it would cost hundreds more to even attempt to keep him alive. He was already broken-hearted over the loss of his beloved companion who had finally lost her fight with disease a couple weeks earlier. He had chosen to stop eating and drinking. So we brought him home long enough to say goodbye before we had him put to sleep.
My sister has money issues. She doesn't have much discretionary income and what she does have is not used on the two cats in the household.
The vet gave her an interesting option, to sign the cat over to the hospital and let them take care of his medical needs and see if a nonprofit animal rescue group could get the 15-year-old cat adopted. I was amazed they would make the offer and go to that trouble considering how many cats are unwanted. But he did. He clearly did not want to euthanize a basically healthy cat.
So she signed him over. In retrospect, it was probably the best thing to do, although it's hard for me to imagine giving a cat to someone else after 15 years. I'm sure a lot of elderly and disadvantaged people have to give up their pets because they can no longer care for them. Craig's List is full of college students and re-locating professionals who have to find homes for their cats and dogs. I could offer to bury the cat in my back yard, but I couldn't take him home myself. My cats would make him even more miserable.
If she had put the cat to sleep, I would have stayed by her side. If she had decided to try to fix what was wrong and take him home, I would have tried to help with the finances. And I have to say she jumped at this third option when it was offered.
As I said above, ultimately the pet owner is the one who has to decide how much to do, how much to spend, how long to wait.
I hope Saxon (the kitty) doesn't suffer too much, whether he ends up in a cage for a while, ends up put to sleep or ends up in a new home. He'll never understand what's going on. And if he does 'recover' and find a new family, it might not make any difference to him. But it's a strange thing to experience, a whole new take on being a responsible pet owner.
I've had to make the hard decision to have my seriously ill cats put down. But I've never had to decide to give them away. That's something I'm not sure I could do.