Sunday, April 26, 2009

Are Pets Part of the Family ... or Just Sort of an Appendage?

There's a certain irony that I wrote a post yesterday about my pets, and we ended up having quite an adventure with my cat Charlie last night. (Charlie is a girl, by the way ... Addie named her after a movie character because the people we got her from as a kitten told us she was a boy and, by the time we learned the truth, she was already Charlie).

I hope nobody is offended by this, but Charlie is referred to by many as "The Emo Kitty." If she was a human, for example, she would be a cutter. Since she's a cat, she just bites herself. Repeatedly. The vet tried various anti-anxiety pills for her, but if you've ever tried to give a cat pills with one of those pill-injectors, you can probably see where this is going. It made her a hundred times more anxious to have a pill forced down her throat, so we finally gave up on that, treat her "emo bites" with Bacitracin, and life goes on.

She is also bulimic. It's not possible to give Charlie treats (including wet food) because she scarfs it down in an intense binge, and then ... well, you know. She throws up if she is nervous (and the cat was treated for severe anxiety--when is she not nervous?), she throws up if she is lonely, she throws up if she is bored, she throws up on Addie's homework far too often to be a coincidence ...

I have kind of a theory about this, actually. I'm not a cat person at all, but I'm definitely a sucker. One of my co-workers a few years ago was telling me that her cat had kittens and that she was trying to find a good home for them. I was very much not interested. She kept at me, though, and I finally gave in when she told me that her husband was going to drown the last kitten (my poor Charlie) in the toilet if they didn't find someone to take her. No wonder she has issues!

The thing is, though, despite all this, Charlie is a very happy cat (I swear this is true). She's more like a dog than a cat, actually ... she'll be waiting at the door whenever I get home from work, she sleeps on my pillow at night, she loves to cuddle and be played with (Pythagorus has a laser pointer from work, and he'll move it all over the house--keeps her occupied for hours).

I mention that because it was kind of hard to explain Charlie to the emergency vet. How do you say, "She's mentally ill, but really quite happy?" when she has huge bald patches? Is it possible to explain that your regular vet is aware of Charlie's eccentricities and just sort of goes with them as long as she's healthy?

Yeah, we ended up at the emergency vet yesterday, after a nice trip to Lake Winnapasaukee, because Charlie was peeing blood when we got home. And crying. And hissing when I held her (this had NEVER happened before). So I think the emergency vet thought we were a little weird (we had to bring Belle with us and she was in the rarest of rare forms, Charlie's cat carrier decided to break so you had to hold it a certain way when you were holding it or she would have been able to escape, and so on), but whatever.

They took Charlie out back to get a urine sample, and my crazy cat knocked over a bottle of alcohol and rolled around in it. Oh, Charlie ... But anyway, she had a bad bladder infection, which made me feel like a real jerk for not noticing earlier (the vet said her pee had red blood cells in it, white blood cells in it, and then big clumps that they couldn't identify at first ... they were epithelial cells from her bladder--I'm a crappy kitty mama), but they gave her an antibiotic (in liquid form, thank goodness ... no pill-injector, or I don't know what we would have done) and we went home.

What I can't get out of my mind, though, is that we saw three animals euthanized while we were there (well, we didn't see, of course, but you could tell what was going on in that back room). We had to put down our beloved elderly golden retriever Puck a few years ago, and it was horrible. Both Pythagorus and I went in with Puck and told her we loved her over and over and held her while the doctor put her out of her pain. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, but Puck had been my dog for fourteen years, and I didn't want her to die alone.

You can't put a definition on grief, of course, but the owners of the three animals that were euthanized while we waited for Cuckoo Charlie's urinalysis seemed to approach the imminent loss of their pets very differently.

Is it rare to see your pets as part of your family? Do you find it's as traumatic to lose a pet as a family member (part of me wants to phrase that differently because Charlie and Sonja are as much my family members as ... well, the human sector)?