Companion Animals Are Forever: Sticking With Your Pets To The Very End
Over the course of the last five years, I have lived in Toronto, then Chicago, then Toronto, then LA, then Toronto again and now I’ve received news that I will be heading back to LA. Exhausted yet? I sure am.
When people complain to me that they hate moving, I ask, “When’s the last time you moved?” and if they answer anything longer than a year ago, I just can’t feel sorry for them. Five moves in five years breaks you of the ability to feel compassion for someone’s first move in a decade.
So, believe me, NO ONE hates moving more than I do. I’ve had stuff in storage lockers in multiple cities at the same time and at one point, I had three of everything. I ended up giving things away to my friends like crazy. “Hey, do you want a computer printer? How about two? PLEASE TAKE THESE PRINTERS!”
The one question I get asked every single time I move, by multiple people is, “So, what are you going to do with your cats?!” This question never ceases to intrigue me. I always answer the same thing: “They’re coming with me!” Is it easy to travel with two cats? No. Does it require flying with another person or taking two separate trips to get them to the next destination? Yes. But it has never EVER entered my mind that there was any other option.
Besides the massive amount of companionship and love that I receive from my feline roommates, I also just really value the commitment I made to them when I adopted them. I made a vow. This was not a “two year” commitment. This was not a “I will commit until it’s no longer convenient” commitment. This is a lifelong commitment. No exceptions.
Having volunteered at shelters on and off for years, I am always amazed that people can part with their animal companions for a variety of inconveniences. One woman once brought her elderly cat to the shelter claiming she no longer wanted to care for the kitty. In her next breath, she asked if she could look at the kittens. Our blood almost boiled on the spot.
Another time, a woman I was working with on a film told me, “Oh I had to take my cat to the shelter last year.” Had to? I wanted to know why. Her response? “Oh, he got old.”
Here’s something people need to know: animal shelters are not nursing homes for cats and it is unacceptable to use shelters in this way. It is difficult to watch the beautiful animals in our lives grow old. And certainly watching them slow down before it’s their time to pass on can be a challenge at the best of times. But we owe it to them to take care of them. For all the days that they showed us love. For all the purrs or tail wags. For all the cuddles and laughs. For everything they give us, we owe it to them to take care of them until the end.
I understand that life can bring big surprises. But the only challenges I have been faced with when travelling with cats have been inconveniences. Getting health certificates, physically getting them through security in the airport, racing to a grocery store to get kitty litter upon landing in the new city. It is not FUN to move great distances with animals but it is certainly DOABLE. Any time I hear of someone moving so they “need to find a new home for their animals”, I wish I could speak to them directly to try and educate them on the steps involved. It is not hard, it’s just inconvenient.
The bottom line is, our animal friends wouldn’t trade us in for anything. They are family members. They are devoted to their people no matter what. They rely on us to live and in many ways, at least for myself, we rely on them to live, too – for making bad days feel less impossible, for always loving us, for being the light in the darkness, animals are lifelong companions.
So, when I’m faced with the question “What are you going to do with your cats?”, I have to stifle laughter. I’d take my cats to the ends of the earth if I needed to. And I implore all of you to think about this before adopting a companion animal: if you can’t commit to giving them meds when they’re 16 years old, if you can’t handle it if they don’t always make it to the litter box or outside to pee, or if you aren’t willing to take them on a plane to your new home, maybe you aren’t ready to have that adorable kitten or puppy in your life. But trust me, if you commit to your animal completely, you will reap nothing but the best of rewards in the end.
Sadly, I lost one of my kitty friends last year to extremely aggressive kidney disease. He passed on while laying in my arms. RIP Aidan. Sharky and I miss you every day.
**All images taken by the author.