I just finished getting a very expensive surgery to fix my own quality of life. Meanwhile my cat, who I adopted in January 2000, has health issues that are effecting his quality of life. Specifically diabetes and some digestion issues. One requires a low sugar/low fiber diet and the other requires a high fiber diet. Insulin shots (twice a day at meal times) can help with this balancing act but lately he’s gotten worse. He has a vet appointment this afternoon to discuss how to get him feeling better.
My cat sleeps a lot. He doesn’t groom himself. He throws up way too often (from one end or the other) and makes a pitiful meowing noise when he does. He walks stiffly, like he’s in pain, and hisses when someone walks too close to him. Given enough experimentation I can extend his life through medicine. He will have bad days and good days. Lately the bad days have gotten longer and the good days fewer. He still loves me, still purrs when he sits next to me all stinky and crusty.
Part of me feels like an evil scientist experimenting on my cat “for the better good.” I seem to have defined good as his continued life. I don’t know if that is right any more.
With people it is possible to have a sense of how to approach an illness. A little reason can be offered, hope spoken of, pros and cons weighed with great empathy. Linus, my cat, doesn’t know what is happening to him. He recognizes that the shot makes him feel better (or used to) but I can’t explain all the conflicting issues. He feels like he is dying right now. That’s how I interpret his no longer cleaning himself. I don’t know how to tell him that all this suffering I put him through may make life nicer. I don’t know how much suffering counts as fair.
At what point am I torturing my cat to keep him alive?