Responsibility for Animals

Since before the wedding we’ve been struggling with whether or not to put our little cat, Boomerang, to sleep. We got her and Batman on December 31st 2006, and she was not quite a year and a half old. We think she had some major genetic damage or vaccinosis, because she was generally nervous and anxious, we were never able to keep weight on her, and by three, she was a wreck, with odd eye problems, teeth basically disintegrating out of her head and opening up abscesses in her mouth, and all through this there was nothing “medically” wrong with her. Even though we knew she was in pain, she was still living a full, normal life. She ate with enthusiasm, played hard, was very active around the house, was curious and snuggly. I have been looking into homeopathy as a possible way to work through this.

The last couple of days of last week it was like someone took our cat away and replaced it with a completely different cat. She followed us around and just wanted to be held, she spent long hours crouched alone in the middle of the kitchen floor, we would leave the house and she would not have moved by the time we got back, she stopped grooming, she stopped eating without major coaxing, and the big one: she would watch but not chase her toys–for a cat who lived for her toys, this development beyond any other–we knew it was time.

I took her in on Saturday, and cried over her and almost took her home. There were times when she was her old self, and through it all she never stopped being a loving cat. I could struggle through feedings, I could keep her brushed and clean…but I could not in good conscience leave her in pain and watch her world become more scary and confusing for her. So she is gone, and the tears are relieving. Boo being sick was tied in with all the stress before the wedding, and also with Patrick’s MRSA scare after the honeymoon and wondering if I was going to be a widow. Not lying awake wondering how much pain she was in, and whether it was time or not… those things have been lifted from me, and I can thank her for the wonderful life we had together.

Recently, I read an article about the Buddhist belief that the suffering of an animal is cleansing for it, and that humans should neither interfere with that process nor incur that sort of debt upon themselves. If that is the correct path, I cannot currently walk that road. This whole ordeal has been a learning process for me. There are things I would do differently with hindsight, but there are many, many decisions I have made that have been good ones, and the lesson learned is to have faith in my intuitions.

One of the decisions I am struggling to make peace with is my decision to feed a raw, species appropriate diet. Of course, for Boo, I have wondered all along if the diet was contributing to her unbalance. But her anxiety lessened considerably, her coat was beautiful, her intact teeth were sparkling, and she had an unlimited amount of energy until the very end. In desperation, I had gone out and gotten some high-fat and protein kitten food to try to entice her to eat. Her body’s reaction to it was violent and smelly, and though she ate some, she wanted the meat more.

Batman has been a kibble hound since it’s been in the house. He has picked his way through the cabinetry to get to it, opened drawers, chewed through bags, and tries to paw and drag and beg. I gave him a few to get him to leave Boo alone, but it has only served to make him beg for food at all hours, and to not eat well at mealtime.

When we first brought him home, he had been used to being a free-fed fat cat. He was overweight with low muscle tone and all the energy of a loaf of bread. His fur was dry and prone to mats. His teeth were very scaled with orangey green gunk. They had come home from a 300 cat colony shelter that was free-fed by necessity. Batman was food obsessive, did not play, and was not very curious. The introduction of an active companion, better quality kibble (haha) and regular grooming only went so far. When we introduced the raw food it only took a few tries before he was crunching and chewing with abandon. When the kibble went away, he did not seem to miss it. Food went down twice a day, was finished quickly, and there was no begging, no cries for food, no pacing, nothing. His fur turned plush and glassy, his teeth lost the scaling and his breath is sweet. Best of all, he lost weight, he is active and playful and except for a blocked tear duct and a lifelong cat virus from being in the shelter he is extremely healthy. On top of all of this, the litter box is not smelly, something I take for granted until I am around conventionally fed cats.

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3 responses to “Responsibility for Animals

  1. I’m sorry to hear about your little Boo, but please don’t blame the diet — you fed her as she was meant to eat. My philosophy on animals is they share the full spectrum of psychological temperament with we humans. Some are batshit crazy and some are as solid as rocks. Environmental factors can mediate/moderate the underlying gray matter, but they cannot change the basic chemistry. You did the kindest, most compassionate thing for an animal you loved — bravo!

  2. homespunheretic

    Thank you for the kind words. Sometimes I feel a little alienated when no one around me understands why I am doing the things that I do. And no one I know seems to understand why we feed raw. It’s just hard not to have a support system.

  3. You will always have a friend in me for raw feeding! We’ve been doing it for years with canines and felines, and I would never go back. It just makes sense, but I agree that it would be hard without a support network. I am lucky that most of my friends feed raw as well.

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