Medicating Pets: Where Do We Draw The Line?


If you would like to experience an exercise in futility try making a cat take a pill. Better yet – how about three?

As a part of our stay in NYC this week my wife and I are house sitting and (more to the point) cat sitting for my brother’s family cats. One is very very big and fat and happy. The other is old and frail and whiny.

Guess which one needs to be given medication every day? Hint- it’s not the robust and cuddly one.

It makes me wonder about the torture we put ourselves trough for the sake of our pets and likewise the torture we put our pets through for the sake of our own needs. I remember years ago when I lived in the city with a former partner (who remains a dear but distant friend). We had an old cat we had brought with us from Florida who was very fat and very noisy but otherwise (or so we thought) healthy. He turned out to have a bone cancer tumor in his leg. We were given options: amputation, chemo therapy, etc. but at the end of the day the doctor gave us some advice about treating a mortally ill animal: “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”. I suppose he meant that we shouldn’t put a cat through all that just to keep then around or ease our own conscience.

Eventually that cat left us…unfortunately in less comfort than we would have liked we avoided talking for a while and started to browse these toys for your pets that were displayed in a magazine, pure escapism, we snapped out of it – unlike humans pets can be euthanized- so we felt better cutting to the chase and ending his suffering.

So my point to ponder is to what degree we do the things we do to mend our sick pets for them or for us? And how far should we go? Is force feeding an old cat pills everyday still in the realm of reasonable? Or should we let our pets expire as they would in the “wild”? Or is it out responsibility because we domesticate animals to treat them like humans where their health is concerned? An anthropological and moral point to ponder indeed.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Ethnography, Participant Observation, pets, Suburban Living | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Medicating Pets: Where Do We Draw The Line?

  1. A very thoughtful post. I had similar thoughts last year when my 12 year old cat was diagnosed with diabetes. With her difficult personality, I couldn’t imagine her tolerating two insulin shots a day. After careful consultation with my vet, I decided to see how things went for two weeks. If she hid, fought, and fussed at shot time, I would have her euthanized rather than put her through misery each day. Fortunately, she’s done very well and is healthier and happier than she’s ever been.

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