We've had our older cat for a decade. A student, on the cusp of graduation, gave him to us back then; he had been hanging out around her house and she'd fed him. Her cat didn't get along with the stray tabby, so she needed to find him a home; otherwise, he'd be sent to the local animal shelter. We were his last hope. I gave in, and one Thursday afternoon a scrawny gray, white and black tabby was delivered to me. From the moment I first held him, it was love. He purred all the rest of the day. We've watched him grow from that scrawny overgrown kitten into a stately overgrown adult, and we've grown as accustomed to his ways as he has to ours. Even the addition of the little golden tabby a couple years ago hasn't disrupted things.
About three years ago our former vet detected a heart murmur during the older cat's routine annual exam. We didn't think that much about it, except for the occasional times the cat would have a coughing spell. This vet, being old-fashioned, didn't suggest anything to us; I got the impression it was something we'd have to live with as the cat aged. But we changed vets a couple years back, going to a vet who specializes in cats, and she's made a big difference in the care our boys get.
About two weeks ago I took the older cat in for his routine exam and vaccination. She listened to his heart and asked if we'd ever had his heart screened. She told me what would be involved, the likely course of treatment, and so on. When I took the younger cat in the following week, I told the vet we'd decided to have the older cat examined. So last Tuesday I bundled the older cat up again, drove him to the vet, and they drew some of his blood for lab work and took an X-ray to examine his innards (which, except for a slightly enlarged heart, looked fine).
On Friday, I took him to a specialty clinic, where I met a veterinary cardiologist who would be working with our cat. He did a preliminary exam, then they took him back and did an ultrasound of his heart and some additional tests. The outcome turned out to be what the cardiologist called "the best we could hope for in this situation," something we could treat with a daily dose of medicine. There will be follow-ups, but at this point nothing really dramatic will have to be done, and the prognosis is reasonably good.
Before any treatment began in earnest, the cardiologist reviewed what they were going to do, and what it would cost. While it wasn't astronomical, it wasn't exactly pocket change. It was enough that I could imagine my family recoiling just a bit. "I can't see spending that much money on a housecat that's just eventually gonna die anyway," I can imagine them saying.
But the estimate was no sooner out of the doc's mouth when I said, "Let's do it." We'll worry about the details later, I thought to myself. That's why they give you credit on those credit cards, for moments like these. The money will grow back.
And, besides, as much as I hate carrying debt, it's nowhere as terrible as the feeling I'd have if I hadn't done it, as if I'd consigned him in the name of saving a few bucks instead of treating something that could be treated. I couldn't bear bringing him home and saying, "Well, tough luck, kid. Do the best you can." No, for all the years he's given us, and all the love, he's worth it. The money will grow back, but we could never get another one like him.