Not Throwaways, and Definitely Worth the Effort

gray cat on bricks

Moses, a nearly starved feral cat, was not a good candidate for survival, but lived happily to 19.

In the last few months stories of heroic efforts to save the lives of abused and critically injured cats and kittens have filled my reading and viewing list. Kitties like Bernice, who was apparently set on fire and left for dead on a sidewalk in Oshkosh, Wisconsin but lives and thrives at the veterinary hospital just being a regular cat despite her injuries; Dexter, who was beaten with a baseball bat along with his brother but survived long enough to be adopted before being overcome by his increasing seizures, and, recently, Tabitha, a kitten found in a plastic bag in a dumpster, her body crushed and in extreme pain but alive enough to call for help and is currently recovering, may have at one time been euthanized as an act of “mercy”. Instead, every effort at great expense was made to both ease their pain and heal their wounds so that they could have a chance at life.

Medical care for animals has advanced at a blinding rate in the past few years, giving animals the chance at life they didn’t have even only a few years ago.

But medical care isn’t the only thing that’s changed at a blinding rate in the past few years. Respect for animals and their needs and their sentience, as well as their relationships with we humans and ours with them, is readily accepted, even expected, when caring for animals.

Why so much effort for one animal when so many are needy?

cat on rug

Can you tell Simon is missing a leg?

I’ve seen it questioned in articles and interviews, whether we should expend all these efforts and resources on one cat or kitten when that output could save the lives of countless others who are homeless and in shelters, not to mention other needs in society.

It’s a logical comparison if you’re talking about what new products to carry in your store or what roads to pave in your community, for example, but it’s not comparable when talking about saving lives. You can’t say you’ll save this life and not that one because its value will be greater in the end or it will take fewer resources and is therefore a better investment. There are times when needs can’t be met locally, or when, during large rescues or disasters, for instance, so many animals are in need that there isn’t enough time to arrange appropriate care for all of them. But all the lives of animals are valuable, and if the will is there in the animal, it should simply be done to the best of what means are available.

Animals are individuals

a photo of Bootsie, the gray and white cat I had growing up

My first cat, Bootsie photo © B.E. Kazmarski

And animals aren’t interchangeable. When I lost my first kitten at age nine, everyone told me not to worry because there were plenty of others and I could get another one, which I did, but I never forgot that first orange kitten. And even a little over a decade ago someone said the same thing to me, thinking that one cat is pretty much the same as another.

We do still have a huge problem with homeless pets, especially cats and kittens, but simply that surplus shouldn’t sway the decision that an animal who needs assistance that we can give shouldn’t get it because others have needs, their needs are easier to meet and one of those cats will do just as well. Animals are not new products or roads to pave. Each animal is an individual and can decide if it wants to live or die, we as humans can understand those signals, and we should let the will of the animal be our guide in making the decision, and more and more often this is what happens when a critically injured animal is taken for veterinary care, as you can see in the stories linked here.

Financial resources

photo of cat on table with flowers

I treated Stanley for kidney failure for four years; he lived into his twenties.

Financial resources are another point of conflict both with rescuing injured and abused animals and with our own animal companions throughout their life. As another example with one of my cats, Stanley was prone to urinary blockages and until I learned about and managed his diet, he constantly suffered from cystitis and blocked several times. I told co-workers he had cost me $569 for treatment at one point and one of them asked me why I didn’t just “get rid of him” and asked why I’d spend that much on a cat; others agreed, though not everyone, but I was shocked that they thought I should put him to sleep or, worse, dump him in a shelter because his treatment cost “too much money”.

A little later I had transmission repairs on my car which cost me almost $700, and in sharing the story I got all the world of sympathy and similar stories about how cars had cost even more. Why didn’t they tell me to get rid of my car because it “cost too much” to fix? Cars do cost more to replace, but I wondered how the value of a car, a non-sentient machine and totally replaceable, seemed more than that of my cat, a living, loving creature who was decidedly not replaceable.

Someone might say that to me today, but I would have plenty of support in countering the opinion.

photo of Namir

Namir, photo © B.E.Kazmarski

Another expense is long-term care for special needs animals or those with a chronic illness. Most animals who have special needs don’t have any extra expenses, but animals who are diabetic or suffer seizures, for example, require medications and often more frequent veterinary visits to keep tabs on their condition. And, yes, another personal cat story, Namir had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and while I could get his medications through my own pharmacist at a great discount, he still needed regular EKGs and scans and occasional emergency hospitalization for congestive heart failure. I joke that we built one of the wings on the new specialty emergency clinic we regularly visited. In the end, between that and the idiopathic cystitis he’d always suffered, he cost about as much as a new car, basic compact model; at the same time, I replaced my old car with one that cost $2900.

There was no question for me that Namir was more valuable, and I’m glad to see that today there are dozens of organizations and agencies, as well as specialized insurances, that will help pet owners with expenses like those I faced with Namir so that money isn’t always a barrier to the care you want to give. Read the dramatic story of Moki, the Wobbly Cat as well.

Greater chances for survival

And there are other animals whose care isn’t expensive at all, but who would have been euthanized at birth or soon after because their survival was considered risky or impossible, are now reconsidered and given a chance. Frank and Louie, a “Janus cat” born with two faces, was brought in to be euthanized by his owner at one day old because the life expectancy for those kittens was one to four days. His current person asked if she could take him, and now he’s 12 years old and going strong. Then there’s Willow, born with twisted hind legs, chosen by her person who saw she wanted to live, and she’s become beloved by many people and a inspiration for adoption of both cats and dogs born with twisted hind legs. I read more about cats so my stories and experiences are biased toward felines, but recently a woman took a puppy with deformed hind legs that had been packed into a garbage bag for disposal by a backyard breeder of pit bull mixes, gave the puppy a home, love and physical therapy, and it’s running and playing nearly as well as any puppy its age would be.

They will let you know

In all these kittens and cats, someone had the chance to look in their eyes and read the unspoken desire to live and thrive, to be given the chance to grow and love, and given that chance, they did to the best of their ability, returning volumes of gratitude and changing the lives and opinions of many who witnessed the miracle, reinforcing the belief in animal consciousness for those already singing in the choir.

I’ve seen that look in my own cats’ eyes, both before they became my companions, and after long years of companionship, and let them guide me in their needs. In my work with cat rescue and in animal portraiture, I know that have many others have seen it too. Now the rest of society is seeing it as well, and the whole basis of opinion about companion animals and animals in general and their care in our society is changing for their better, and ours.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


15 Comments on “Not Throwaways, and Definitely Worth the Effort”

  1. It makes me so upset whenever people are cruel to animals. I actually feel a more profound sympathy for animals than I do people as well as a stronger outrage when i hear of their mistreatment or homelessness. I don’t care about homeless people. More often than not they chose to be in their situation and chose not to rise up and change their lives for the better. Animals on the other hand, are for the most part helpless and have no voice and can’t help it if they’re homeless or handicapped. I think anyone who abuses animals should get the same discipline as anyone who abuses people. People like Michael Vick should be tossed in jail and throw away the key.
    My bf goes to Israel for Intel every now and then and he says that cats there are like squirrels and chipmunks here. There are feral cats that roam around cities and towns and people and local businesses usually leave food out for them to feed them. We should take notes. I wish we were more like that here. :/

    • animalartist says:

      Meow, we still have miles to go in eliminating animal cruelty in this country, and it’s not laws we need, it’s a social change–but that’s what’s really happening now. It started with Hurricane Katrina when they realized people would rather die than leave their pets, and now pets are included in disaster plans. Dogfighting used to be commonplace, now it’s illegal and despised and despite the fact that Vick only served two years his case is what changed everyone’s minds about the cruelty of the whole issue. Animals are gaining their voice.

      Some foreign countries are kind to their roaming animals, others seem to be but you’d be shocked at how they remove those animals at will. Some countries have no shelter system at all. And then there’s China–under social pressure, this year they finally cancelled their 600-year-old Dog Meat Festival. But the changes are good.

    • Marie says:

      it breaks my heart when animals are abused and neglected.

  2. I HAVE CAT says:

    Bernadette, a lovely post. THanks for linking to my post about Moki.
    You rock. xo

  3. Julie says:

    “Why are all of your cats so unhealthy?” is a question I get asked often.

    It’s because I chose the cats who needed help the most — or most of the time, they found me. Kidney and thyroid disease, cancer, bilateral patellar luxation, URIs, ringworm, semi-ferals, bottle feedings, medicine twice a day, supplements, special food, etc… I spend so much money helping my cats and ones I find outside.

    I can’t really afford it, but I could never turn my back on them. Most of my rescues end up staying because it’s hard enough to find someone to adopt a healthy cat, so the unhealthy ones end up with me because I will always find a way to give them everything they need, whether it is surgery, medicine, sub-q fluids… I have not been on vacation in over 6 years because of my cats’ needs and also because I can’t afford it. I make a lot of sacrifices for them, but they are ALWAYS worth it!! I once spent $900 on two kittens at the emergency vet (they were dumped in my yard because neighbors know I’m an animal lover); they were there for less than a day and both didn’t make it. I had to put the payment on a credit card with 19.99 percent interest and that happens more often than I care to admit. My largest vet bill was almost $5,000. I also TNR and care for a feral colony. Between the ferals and my own indoor-only cats, I go through 22 cans of food a day and a lot of dry food as well. It’s expensive.

    I’ve been out of work for a couple of years and have been living on my 401k retirement savings, but my cats will never know times are hard financially. Their premium food, vet care, and everything else they get will stay the same. They deserve it.

    Some people claim to love animals, but I think they only do so when it is convenient for them – only if the animal is 100% healthy and not too much trouble or expense. I worked with a woman who was a millionaire and she said if her dog ever needed insulin or other medicine, she would have him put down. I don’t understand that mentality.

    • I HAVE CAT says:

      I can’t believe someone would say that to you “unhealthy” makes it sounds like you aren’t taking proper care for them 😦
      Thank you for taking in specially abled babies. They are truly special

    • animalartist says:

      Julie, bless you for working so hard for cats in need! I had my share of ill kitties spend their time with me when I was heavily into rescuing too, so I know just what you’re saying. People, even animal lovers, would ask me why I would spend “that much” on my cats and I would say that everyone spends money on something aside from necessities, and instead of a more luxurious car, dinners out, fancy clothes, expensive concerts (I still go to inexpensive ones!) and all sorts of other things that people choose to spend money on, I spend it on my cats and on rescue. Not everyone can go as far as you do, it’s hard work and heart-wrenching. If we all do what we can, we save a lot of cats and we make a lot of change. Good luck keeping up with it!

    • Anonymous says:

      Julie, I know what you are going through, and to think I thought I was the only one! I love my cats too, strays and unfed neighbor cats, throwaways too. I am on a limited income and I knwo they eat better than I do at time, but they are worth it. No one else understands this, I doubt they ever will. But I know I will see them all at the bridge one of these days and I will be so happy. God bless

      Dolores

  4. Carolyn says:

    “Just look into their eyes” That says it all, Bernadette. A wonderful and very moving post, and also the comment from Denise. These are sentient beings, like us. They are worth it, just as we are worth it and it behoves us to do all we can.

    • animalartist says:

      Carolyn, I’m so glad not only that people are finally understanding this, but in legislation, even, animals are taken into account more and more often as sentient beings with needs to be fulfilled beyond simple humane treatment. And like Denise, we all have a story or two of the animal who opened our eyes, or opened them further.

  5. Denise says:

    More than 20 years ago I adopted a tiny little Tortie girl who was very ill. Clio was adopted (bought) from a national chain pet store. It was Christmas and, of course, the local Humane Society shelter had suspended adoptions till after the new year,in an effort to avoid kitties and dogs being given as Christmas gifts and then returned after the holidays by new human pet parents who either did not want an animal companion or who found the care and responsibility of caring for a cat or dog to be something they did not care to commit to.

    Well, I digress, I adopted Clio the day before Christmas from Petsmart becasue she was very ill…. so were the other 40 kittens in the store, I chose Clio because, despite her obvious illness, she set her eyes on me and reached with her tiny paws through the cage to me…. she was determined not to let me leave her with her 40 sick friends. I brought Clio home and we were already in love with one another. The bond had been formed. My late father, from whom I learned my respect and admiration of all furry and feathered beings, fell for Clio immediately and we took her to the animal ER. She was sick… and so tiny, thin and undernourished that I had believed that my 7 month old Tortie was only 3 months old! Clio was immediately put on antibiotics and eye drops… she was hand fed and kept warm and loved. After several days she rallied. Unfortunately, the 40 sick cats at the Petsmart were euthanized the week after Christmas and before the New Year. Within days, that pet shop had another batch of sad little cats FOR SALE.

    Clio lived eleven years, never healthy and frequently suffering from chronic respiratory illnesses. She developed heart disease at about nine years of age. But she always had medical care and her necessary meds. Clio died on a May morning and soon after I (my father had recently also died) made a trip to the Humane Society and I adopted my beloved Daisy, aka Giiuseppe’s Mlle Marguerite. Daisy is the most amazing cat I have ever had the blessing to know and love. A year go she was diagnosed with diabetes. She is thriving and has her insulin injections each morning and evening. It is not easy for me to load and inject her syringes… I have very little sight. But I manage and Daisy is patient and helpful. Sometimes it is a tedious procedure…. for me, not for the ever patient and gentle Mlle, but Daisy shall continue to receive her proper care and I am commited to making sure that she lives a long and happy life. Such is cat parenthood with an aging kitty with a chronic disease. She is my best friend and my constant companion and deserves nothing less that
    the best care and love I can give her.

    • animalartist says:

      Denise, thank you for sharing Clio’s story! I had no idea that was how you found her, but I’m so glad you rescued her from that. And this is how you met Mlle, truly your companion with all those conversations and opinions! I’ve unfortunately known people who had their cat put to sleep when it was diagnosed with diabetes, and I’m so glad you’re not of that mind even though the shots are difficult for you.

      Giuseppe thanks you too.

  6. Thoughtful and well written post, in-depth discussion of the ‘why’ that made me say ‘Yes!” out loud…

    • animalartist says:

      Teri, thanks for reading, and for your comment! I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I’m so glad to see this change. Every being that wants to live deserves a chance.


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