When my cat died, I said I was done with pets—but I know I’m not

When my roommate and I decided to adopt a friend’s cat, Nimbus, a couple years ago, it never could have occurred to us that two Thanksgivings later we’d be at an emergency vet clinic, waiting for news that would determine whether or not we should put Nimbus down.

The news was not good. Nimbus’ lungs were full of fluid, the result of what exactly the vet couldn’t determine. She said it could have been an infection, but was more likely because of a congenital heart condition (something common in bigger cats, which Nimbus was, to put it lightly). To figure out if it was an infection, numerous — and expensive — tests would have to be conducted, and Nimbus would have to stay overnight in the hospital. My roommate and I were given two hypothetical bills: one with the tests and the overnight stay (which totaled about $1000 and didn’t include the longterm care that would probably follow), and one that concluded with euthanasia that same day (which totaled around $400).

Having to decide to put down a beloved pet is always a terrible situation to be in, made even worse when your financial situation affects it so heavily. It came down to the fact that neither my roommate nor I were in the position to spend the money to do anything but say goodbye to Nimbus and hope we really were making the right decision.

On the way home from the vet, my roommate said no more pets, and I agreed. I felt like I had failed Nimbus and berated myself for agreeing to take him in the first place, knowing where I stood financially. I hated the thought of becoming attached to another cat, because I didn’t think I could stand it if the same thing happened.

Things changed when, recently, while scrolling through Facebook, an image of a dog caught my eye. The caption read, “He might be only part of your life, for him, you are his everything, the only person in his whole life.”

I couldn’t help but think of Nimbus. We may not have been able to help him at the end, but my roommate and I made sure his final years were good ones. I thought about how he might have ultimately ended up in a shelter or even out on the street if we hadn’t taken him — it’s even worse to think of him getting sick under those circumstances — and essentially decided it’s better to have had a cat and lost than to never have had a cat at all.

I’m still not ready to jump into being another cat’s human, emotionally or financially, but that hasn’t stopped me from researching shelters in my area. Seeing their inhabitants’ little faces beaming up at me from my computer screen is definitely wearing down my resistance, and it’s hard not to think about bringing one of them home. So far I’ve been responsible, knowing I need to have an emergency kitty fund set aside in case a sudden visit to the vet is needed again.

For now, I’ll just have to settle for being an occasional mom to the stray cats who live on my block and know all too well that I still keep an extra box of cat food handy for when they stop by for a quick meal and scratch on the head. Of course, now that winter is finally starting to settle in, a couple of them have been making a break for my front door while I’m busy pouring them food, so who knows — my roommate and I might become cat moms again sooner than we think.

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