Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My family is divided about what to do with our aging cat. He is 16
going on 17 and has developed symptoms that are messy and possibly
a health hazard. I’m tired of seeing little brown spots all over the
floors and imagining them in places I cannot see them. The vet can’t
accurately diagnose what’s wrong without doing very expensive and
invasive tests, which, if they did confirm cancer would mean he’d be
looking at a long and arduous regimen of treatment costing many
thousands of dollars, with no guarantee that he’d in ever regain real
health. I come from the quality of life school and am advocating
antibiotics and steroids (which have a 50% chance of working) and
palliative care if they do not. If he responds we get off easy. If not he
gets three or four good months and then goes gently into cat heaven.
My teenage son is horrified at not doing everything under the sun to
keep him alive. How can we decide?
Dear Max’s Mommy:
I’m not clear if Max is your son or your cat. Either way I’d say this is a
great time to confront the lessons of mortality. According to my
googling your cat is upwards of 80 (and if he was an outdoor cat for
some portion of his life possibly older than 100). That’s a healthy
lifespan for any soul.
I don’t know if your own parents or your husband’s parents are alive,
or if your son has ever had to witness a long-term decline, a serious
terminal illness, or death. But now’s a great time to learn that life is
not only precious but also finite. We’re all going to die of something
and few us of know what will cause our end or when it will occur. Your
cat has had a great long run, and has a 50% chance to make it even
longer. Unless you have both lots of money and lots of patience, I’d
vote for your plan as an immediate first step. Then see what the next
few months hold. If the antibiotics and steroids work you can all be
happy until the next crisis. If not, then you can talk to your son about
the choices and bring him along slowly to the inevitable truth: none of
us lives forever. Quality matters as much as quantity.
PS – I see lots of tuna treats in your kitty’s future.