My Vet Shamed Me For Not Having The Money To Save My Cat

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My Vet Shamed Me For Not Having The Money To Save My Cat
Self

What would you do to save a pet that you loved? If you’re like most people, you will do whatever you could, but sometimes some things prevent you from saving their lives.

When I say I loved my cat Yoshi more than anything in the world — it isn’t an exaggeration.

I’m not wealthy; I never made it in Hollywood. I’m not married or a mom, but I had a Yoshi. Not everybody gets a Yoshi, and I’m so grateful that I got to be his cat mom.

Yoshi made my life feel special.

For my boyfriend, Andy, and I, our lives centered around Yoshi. When he started to demand breakfast as well as dinner, an extra meal was added into the rotation; when he began to yowl at night, we tried leaving the light on to help calm him, and when that didn’t work, we lived with interrupted sleep and with the anxiety we had when his yowls sounded as if he was being tortured.

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After Yoshi and his partner-in-crime, Ray, the late tuxedo cat, viciously attacked our female cat, Allie, we had to keep her sequestered in the bedroom away from him.

This punished me more than Yoshi because he couldn’t sleep in the bedroom with me any longer. When he got older and needed me more, he didn’t understand why he was always locked out.

If we had to go up North to check in on my mother, my boyfriend and I always made sure that our roommate could take care of Yoshi in our absence. There was no “just leave enough food and water” and come back in a day or two. Yoshi demanded care, and we gave it to him.

Whatever adjustments we needed to make for him, whether it was cleaning the litter boxes more frequently, hiding plastic (he had an appetite for human-made materials,) and pulling chairs out so he could have easier access to get on the dining room table, we did them.

He craved attention the way some cats crave catnip. When I was sitting, he’d scratch my leg to alert me and then would stretch out his arms like a small child for me to pick him up.

I wrote articles he inspired, and he, in turn, would nurse me when I was sick or recovering from surgery and comfort me when I felt as if the world was falling on me.

He liked to have human-cat contact as much as possible, so he would perch on the couch behind me or rest his paws on my arm. Sometimes he liked to put his mouth around my nose and bite down on it gently — it was our thing, and I trusted him not to chomp down and take a piece out of one of my nostrils.

Every day, I made sure to thank the Universe for him and say how grateful I was that he would live long and stay youthful.

I made sure we had at least one affection session a day — especially as a way to help calm him down at night. I petted his glorious grey fur, let him sleep on my arm while I told him I loved him, or hold him in my arms as if he was a baby.

A couple of years ago, he had a couple of spasms when kicking at a flea and getting a leg cramp. It looked like the end with him swirling around uncontrollably, but he survived.

Then last year, he was bleeding from his behind, and we took him in, sure that it was the end. But all he needed was a tiny surgery, and he was better than ever.

I knew we were on borrowed time, though; he was getting older. He had lost weight, and the gentlest touch could set him off coughing. I prayed that he’d last another two years, or if not, at least he’d live through the pandemic.

I remember the day we noticed that it looked like his heart was beating faster. We figured we should take him to the vet’s office. Hopefully, it would be like last year, a simple fix, and he’d be fine.

If he wasn’t, we didn’t know if we’d bring him home or put him to sleep.

It was on a Tuesday when I put him into his carrier. He went without much resistance. I had to stuff his fluffy tail in after him, but I made sure the gate was secure once that was in.

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Normally, I would stick my fingers through the metal squares, but I didn’t. I was simultaneously freaking out and shutting down.

While in the car, he let out some strange meows, I still didn’t reach behind my chair to soothe him. When we were waiting in the veterinary office's parking lot, Andy suggested I get in the backseat to be with Yoshi, and I declined. I thought my being next to him would complicate the social distancing when the veterinary aid came to get him.

I remembered speaking to my friend, who had recently put her senior dog to sleep a couple of weeks prior. She had spent thousands of dollars, and her dog had spent his final nights at the hospital, and she regretted it all.

The tech came and got Yoshi, and Andy and I waited while listening to the woman standing outside her car, shouting at someone inside the office.

When the doctor called, she said something about low oxygen in Yoshi’s blood and him having trouble breathing. I thought of my friend’s vet bills and how I only had about $900 in the bank.

“What’s your budget?” the Vet asked as if reading my mind.

“Six hundred?”

“That’s not very much to work with. You don’t want to spend it all on diagnostics and then not be able to afford treatment.”

Here’s where I made my fatal, for Yoshi, mistake. I could have asked them to do some simple tests and then tried to put the money together or see if they had a payment plan.

But my mind wasn’t on crowdsourcing funds but on the suffering I’d witnessed when my cat’s lives were prolonged when they shouldn’t have been.

“So, I guess I have to put him to sleep?”

“Yes.”

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There were no condolences or suggestions of alternatives. I could have brought him home, but I didn’t want to cause him any additional pain.

The tech came out to get us, and we could go into the exam room with him. I hugged him, petted him a little, but not enough to show him the depth of love I had for him.

“You can’t tell, but he’s one of the best cats,” I said through the tears.

“He’s very pretty,” she replied as if she was remarking on the vegetable display in a grocery store.

“Do you want me to come back in 5 minutes or 15?” The doctor asked.

At this point, Andy and I were both feeling as if we might faint. I thought the longer it was drawn out; the more Yoshi would suffer.”

“5 minutes.”

When she returned, she gave him the sedative, and he melted down onto the exam table. Before I could say or do anything, she gave him the other shot ending his life.

“His heart has stopped.” She said as if she was accusing me of being the cause.

Why didn’t I stop her before she gave him the sedative?

Andy and I didn’t stay with his lifeless body. We had to get out of there before we both passed out, so we left.

She treated me as if Yoshi was an inconvenience, and I wanted to get rid of him. She made me feel like a bad pet parent who gave up too easily when I was overwhelmed and devastated in reality.

If the vet had some compassion, I wouldn’t have felt pressured to decide quickly and based on money.

The final bill was approximately $350 to euthanize, cremate, and box his ashes, but the real cost is losing my best friend and feeling as if I failed him on every level.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or her Instagram.​

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.