Monthly Archives: January 2017

Doing the Right Thing for Gus

Since the holidays our handsome tabby cat, Gus, has been acting lethargic and spends most of his time sleeping next to the bedroom heating duct.

Gus is 11-years old which is considered old for a cat. Still, I’ve had cats that have lived to the age of 17 doing quite well until the last year. During his last check up, Gus was doing well…a little chubby…but all his vitals were good. As an older cat, Gus was a quieter than our year-old Lily, who still has lots kittenish energy. Nonetheless, he still enjoyed hanging out with us, playing with Lily, and greeting guests at the door. Gus has always been very friendly for a cat. So friendly we often joke that he’s the “cat who thinks he’s a dog.”

The vet who checked Gus said his apparent vitals looked fine with the exception of his weight loss. Gus had lost nearly 2-pounds since his last exam. Two pounds is a lot for a cat, especially for a cat like Gus who loves his meal times.

The vet also took blood and urine samples to check for common health issues common in older cats such as diabetes and kidney disease.

Although the blood work showed abnormalities, the results weren’t conclusive. His kidneys were working and his blood sugar was normal so we could rule out diabetes and kidney disease. The vet suggested an ultrasound as the next step. Older cats can develop pancreatitis, cancer, and GI tract masses that can be detected using an ultrasound.

An ultrasound for Gus would cost slightly over $400 and many people would schedule one without a second thought.

But I found myself hesitating and told the vet I’d talk it over with my family.

Why my hesitation?

Well, for one thing, $400 is a lot of money. There are a lot of people who consider their dogs and cats to be family members and wouldn’t hesitate to take the next step.

I love my cats a great deal. They are beloved members of our household. But I can’t get past a few things:

  • Gus can’t speak for himself. I’ve noticed that when animals are ill they do what they need to do. They seem to have an instinctive wisdom that humans have lost touch with. My sense of Gus is he wants to be left alone.
  • More troubling to me is the slippery slope presented by advanced treatment options. Diagnostics might help us find something treatable but then again they may not. At what point do we, my family and I, say “we’re going to stop here?”

An alternative option our vet offered is to put Gus on a course of wide-spectrum antibiotics in case the problem is an infection. I’m reluctant to do this because Gus is an indoor cat and I’m not clear how he would have been exposed to something that would cause these symptoms.

Ultimately, I have only my own values to work with here. At this moment I don’t know the possible diagnostic conclusions from an ultrasound nor do I know treatment options and how they would affect the possible length of Gus’ life and the quality of his life.


Advanced medical diagnostics and treatments for pets offer the gift of saving the life of a pet and improving a pet’s quality of life. But it also means we have to make painful decisions when the choice is not an automatic “yes.”


Filed under Compassion