Harming through Inaction

I am a big cat lover. Currently I live with 3 cats, I say live with rather than own because as every cat lover knows, you can’t own cats. You live with them.  2 of our cats are overfed and quite happy, the third is pushing 20 and has an overactive thyroid. Marmalade has always been my favourite (you can have favourite pets, they’re not children) ever since he came through the cat flap when I was 12 and decided to stay. We did put an advert out to see if anyone had lost him but no one ever claimed him. Possibly because he was a very angry bugger, inclined to swipe at everyone and bite if you tried to stroke him. I have a theory he had had enough of being badly treated and had left one day. I knew underneath he was a pussycat, just needing a bit of love and understanding and patience.

So I showed him patience and love, and gradually over the years he has become more and more affectionate and less reactive. This meant that for a large part of my teenage years I was covered in cat scratches and bites. I didn’t mind, I loved him. Eventually he stopped biting and scratching and became the most lovely, aggressively friendly cat with the loudest purr of any cat I’ve known. He was happy, safe and ever so slightly chubby (my mum is a feeder)

But age catches up with us all. He got thinner, his heart beat got faster, he started yowling at strange times and leaving unpleasant surprises around the place. One day I noticed his mouth was swollen so dad took him to the vet. He came home with the news that Marmalade has an overactive thyroid but mysteriously with no medication. I left it, because this sort of thing is my parents’ job.

He got worse: he got ever thinner, he started to bump into things, he stopped wanting to be stroked, he seemed confused all the time and never seemed to sleep. Just sat there, his breathing rocking his tiny frame. I suggested he go to the vet again. At first this was seen as a good idea by my dad but he didn’t take him. When I brought it up again dad said that he didn’t think it was a good idea to take him anymore, it was cruel. I got angry and said I’d take him, I’d pay for it, I’d walk there, anything just to take him.

At that time I thought he was dying. Everyone thought he was dying, he was old, he was dying of old age. My dad’s belief is that it is cruel to take a dying cat to the vet because it is overly stressful. This is a misguided belief. This is harming through inaction. Hospitals are unpleasant but when we are sick we go to the hospital because that’s what they are there for. No one should be left to die because it’s easier.

Turns out no one dies of old age and Marmalade isn’t dying anyway. He has an untreated overactive thyroid and my parents stopped him from getting treatment. They didn’t want him to get a blood test because it was “too much hassle”. Marmalade, as me and my boyfriend were told by the vet last week, has gone blind because it was left untreated for so long. This was avoidable. He’s on medication now and is seeming a lot livelier but there is no happy ending. This poor creature’s suffering could have been alleviated sooner if we’d gone 15 minutes up the road and paid £130 for pills for him.

I want to say this is not about blame, I am trying to point out a faulty belief here. My parents (especially my dad) are professional pessimists. He didn’t take him to the vet because they just believed it would be bad. There would be a) bad news, b) hassle or c) both. So he did nothing. But this belief was false, there was something they could do but they didn’t even find that out.

And now our poor cat is skin and bones and blind.


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