How Much For a Life?


junior a year ago My little buddy Junior is developing some problems with his hind legs. He is no longer jumping or able to push off with his feet, so he’s vertically challenged — unable to jump on to the bed, or other simple things he used to be able to do with ease.

For most of his life, he was never as agile or good at jumping as Rio. Junior was always a little reluctant to jump to high places, but could make it when he wanted to. So now that he has complications, there might be a deeper reason why Junior wasn’t as acrobatic as bengals usually are.

This weekend, though, he showed the first signs of real difficulty with his legs. Saturday morning we noticed him walking funny, and realized that he could no longer jump or even stand on his hind legs to grab a treat (something he loved to do). Since then he has been getting a little better, but he still can’t jump or stand, and spends an abnormal amount of time sleeping in one spot.

Vet said his xrays were fine, and he is otherwise normal — proper reactions in his legs, etc. I paid for a full bloodwork including pathogen testing so we’ll see how that comes out, but I suspect it’ll be pretty much all clear. The next steps will be trying some general antibiotics, doing some blood titres to check for toxoplasma (I think I got that right) but other than that we’d start getting into some pretty expensive testing — MRIs, neurological examinations, etc.

So one thing I’ve been struggling with is how much to spend on the tests, and how much I am willing to pay before it’s too much. It’s not an easy decision.

My left brain tells me that spending thousands of dollars on a cat is pretty ridiculous. My heart tells me that Junior is basically a kid, and I signed an invisible contract when I adopted him that I’d take care of him for better or for worse.

So as easy as it would be to pretend not to care and not spend the money, I don’t think I could ever do that with a clear conscience. I mean, there may come a time when his quality of life is so poor that he’d need to be put down, but we’re not there yet and until then I’ll fight for the little guy.

But for animals and pets in general, it’s a tough question — how much is the life of a pet worth? Why isn’t it worth as much as a human life?

And I ask myself, why is it that we even have to equate the two in the first place? They seem to be disjoint on the grander scale in life. Comparing life and dollars doesn’t seem to add up.

So Junior is fine for now — I hope this is the worst of it, but I fear he will be a crawling kitty someday in the future and I will have to make some tough decisions. Until then, I will just do what I can and appreciate the time I still have with him.

Lots of things in life have a price tag, yet there’s so much you can’t sell or buy back.

10 thoughts on “How Much For a Life?

  1. To many of us, our pets are just as much a part of the family as our blood relatives … or sometimes more. 🙂

    I have an 18 yr old siamese/persian mix cat, and she is as much a part of my family as my soon-to-be husband. She’s seen me through some tough times in my life — to try to put a price on her life and the unconditional love she’s shown me is incomprehensible.

  2. I’ve had to struggle with similar decisions. It’s a tough spot to be put in. For what it’s worth I think you are right on. The life of your pet is worth a whole lot more than some (even substantial) amount of money even though it may hurt to sign that check.

  3. Roger

    Hey Mike, sorry to hear about Junior. I debated whether to post my comment because it is cold, heartless and probably not the best timing. I want to preface it by saying that it’s mostly for arguments sake and I know you’re a smart guy that appreciates a good argument – even if it comes from a close relative of Satan like myself.

    I don’t equate medical costs and life. I take it a step further: life=time=money. You are trading Junior’s health for the human time of the Vet and all the workers that create medical equipment and do research. These people traded a small part of their life for money and you are reversing the processes. Thanks to capitalism, you can equate this cost into the time it takes you to earn that money. So, if the vet bill is a weeks pay, then you are actually saying: Is Juniors health worth 40 hours of my life that I can never get back? Life for Life.

    And so the next stop on this dark, cold train of logic is determining the worth of a cat’s life. At least according to US society, an animal’s life is not as valuable as human life. That’s why we allow pets to be caged for breeding purposes or mutilated for looks. It’s why we think it’s okay to eat cows and kill spiders. Of course, placing a human time equivalent on your cat’s health isn’t simple. This isn’t just a cat; it’s your cat.

    My point is you are trading human life for your cat’s health. This probably doesn’t make the decisions any easier, but it might change the viewpoint.

    Anyway, that’s the “farmer’s” perspective. Stacey and I both hope Junior has a full recovery. Whatever happens, Junior is a fortunate kitty to have guy like you watching over him.

  4. Naw man, not cold, Roger — you have some good points. I think it’s easy to focus on Junior and forget that it takes time to run tests and lookup symptoms, etc.

    The hard question is how much of my life am I willing to trade up for Junior’s.

    And I guess the cold hard fact is that there is a limit to how much I can give.

    Naturally there is a compromise there — to give as much as I can without unnecessarily endangering myself (financially at least). I guess if I was a cat, I wouldn’t want my dad to give up his well being so I could live more comfortably.

    But then again, cats are pretty self-indulgent, so who knows. 🙂

    So yeah – I appreciate your comments and I agree that the equation isn’t so simple — either way. It’s hard to give up so much of yourself, yet in the wake of something so heart-felt and shocking it’s easy to get romantic and idealistic and want to give up the world even though your mind (and society’s constraints) tell you that’s it impossible.

  5. Hi’
    I was sorry to hear about your cat but have went thru the same thing recentlywith my own little cat called Peachies who was 15 years old when she developed cancer which had spread into her leg and left her keeling over when she tried to get up. I took the decision, which I don’t regret, to have her put down to eliminate any more of her suffering.



  6. Majken

    I disagree with the equation. It’s not a straight money for time it took to earn it. You already spent that time. You don’t get that time back just by having the money. The money is a symbolic intermediary of the old fashioned trade system. Money is without value until it is used to procure something. Therefore you can’t equate the value of the cost of Junior’s bills against how much time it took you to earn that money, but against the cost of what you would have traded the money for otherwise. What is 10k to someone who saves 20k every year? What is $100 to someone who goes to the foodbank to feed their children?

    As pet owners, I think we’re entitled to pay anything we can for the life of our pet that doesn’t affect our own ability to survive. This of course would slide down based on exactly how much more of the pets life the treatment would buy. It’s useless to pay thousands for something that will only extend a life by months, but if it could extend it for years, and we can afford it, then we’re obligated. So I suppose the equation I would use is trading survival for survival.

    Roger I didn’t understand your point about taking the vet’s time. This is their living, and by paying for treatments of any sort, you’re contributing to their survival.

    I’ve never felt money itself is a good justification for any decision though. Best decisions I ever made flew in the face of sound financial advice. I’ve got *more* than my money back on them. Again comes back to the money itself is worthless. It’s value is defined solely by what you buy with it. I think any amount of money that can buy love is a bargain.

  7. I have a dog that has severe hip displacia that leaves her disabled most of the time. She is a black lab that is just a spitfire and full of energy but cannot do a lot without hurting. The Vet gave her a year before she would have to be put down and she is now going on 3 years old. She was diagnosed as a puppy. She is progressively getting worse and I fear that i will have to put her down soon. We had the option to have surgery but it each would have left her in traction for 6-8 months and she would have been miserable, so we opted for quality of life as opposed to quanily of life. I doesn’t make it easier though.

    Don Lapre Lover

Comments are closed.