If a Cat Can Face Death with Nobility, So Can You

You may notice that there is no disclaimer on this article, and that is because I will be getting away from my usual heavy subject matter of politics and the Army and will be addressing a lighter topic: facing death with dignity. This week my three-year-old cat almost died from having his wiener blocked so completely by crystals that he could not piss, causing his bladder to fill to an unbearable level, and because his body could not vent excess potassium through urination like it normally does, it built up in his blood and started to cause his heart’s electrical function to get out-of-whack. We got him to the emergency vet in time, and he is now fine, but it was scary for a few moments there.

All of this because he couldn’t piss. As a man, the thought of having my dick-hole jammed up so completely that I couldn’t tinkle is terrifying enough, in and of itself, but when I reflected on what it was about my cat’s behavior that made me realize he was sick, it got me thinking about how an American would react is this situation. And the juxtaposition does not make us look good.

I first noticed something was wrong because as he was lying on the floor, and could barely muster the energy to lift his head to look at me. After I called his name and petted him a bit, he dragged himself to his feet and went downstairs into the basement. He took the steps one at a time, putting his front legs down first and bringing his rear legs to meet them, and then repeated for each step. This was not his usual method for traversing the stairs, which is to zip up or down them as fast as possible, usually in between your legs, if he can time it right.

I followed him into the basement. He went into the laundry room and forced himself between the water heater and the furnace, which leads into the closet under the stairs. I went around to the closet door and looked in, and he had wedged himself as far back into the closet as he could, behind some leftover basement flooring. He looked at me with the same bleary look he had when he was lying upstairs, like he could barely muster the strength.

To get him out of the closet I got some treats and rattled the bag, which brought him out. But he refused to eat the food, which has never happened before. That was when I was sure he was in a bad way and brought him to the emergency vet. Anyway, the vet took care of him; he’ll just need to be on a special diet from now on that will minimize the bladder crystals.
As I sat there in the emergency room, waiting for a vet to come out and give me the prognosis, I thought about his behavior and how if I had not seen him before he went down into the basement, he very well could have died. He never cried; never made a noise. He must have been unable to piss for well over 12 hours, which would have been unbearable, but he made nary a peep. His final instinct was to go off and die alone in the deepest, darkest hiding place he could find, where he would exit the world with as minimal impact as possible on those around him.

As much as that scared me, realizing how close I was to have missed him being sick, it made me respect how noble the instinct to minimize your death’s impact on the world was. It’s always a bad idea to humanize your pets, but I couldn’t help think that he had said to himself, “Fuck it, this sucks, let’s get this over with and not burden anyone else with my death….from a clogged dick.”

This sent me on a philosophical journey of sorts, where I asked myself, what would an American human do in a situation like this? What would an American do when they are about to die from a totally preventable condition that has gotten out-of-hand?

This thought experiment brought to mind the TLC show, My 600 Pound Life. You may be familiar with this gem, but for those that are not, I will recap. The show chronicles people who have allowed themselves to gain so much weight that they now require massive medical intervention. Sometimes they cannot even leave their own homes without the assistance of heavy machinery. Usually they claim that a “food addiction” has brought them to this point. I am not a fat-shamer outside of the Army, because everyday life doesn’t have a very clear and specific height-to-weight ratio that must be adhered to, but the people on this show are insane. The amount of money it costs whatever insurance they are on and drives up the premiums for everyone else is enough alone to make them terrible people, but when you realize that this took at least a decade of dedicated gorging, you cannot help but be disgusted.

That this is a TLC show should not surprise anyone. TLC long ago gave up creating programming that has anything to do with “learning,” instead opting for the rare-medical-condition freak show-style of television production. How many shows about midgets living their lives do we really need? All I have “learned” from these shows is that midgets are terrible parents and douche-bags like the rest of us.

If my cat was an American, the first thing he would have done is cry to the far winds about how much pain he was in. He would have ruined everyone’s day, done nothing to take care of himself, and waited until the last minute to get healthcare, requiring a massive outlay of cash. After he went to the emergency room, he would have his agent contact TLC and get himself a TV show. The premise would be that here is this guy with a clogged dick who cannot pee on his own. This is pretty rare, and it’s about a medical condition so the audience would ostensibly be “learning” something, so TLC would definitely pick it up. Cameras would follow this asshole around as he gets treatment for his jammed rod, acting like he’s this giant victim, until it is revealed that this is a completely preventable condition that he knew about years ago and did nothing to address it when it was still preventable.

But they would still present him sympathetically, even though he put himself in this precarious situation, because it’s bad form to make someone with an acute medical condition look bad on TV, no matter how big of an asshole he really is. The show would never address how the condition is entirely preventable and that the man’s current pathetic state is entirely his fault.

What would not happen is that the now person-cat would take himself as far away from his loved ones and hide, to spare them the agony and impact of watching him die a slow and painful death. He would not take responsibility for putting himself in this position through sheer laziness and a superhuman level of neglect. But you’re right, cats cannot speak English, or any other language for that matter, so what else is my cat supposed to have done? He couldn’t tell me he was hurting, right? His only option was to suffer in silence, which makes this comparison bullshit. But ask anyone you know who has a cat, and they will tell you that cats have no problem making noise when they want something, usually food. Every cat owner I know has been woken up when their cat wanted food, to be petted, what have you. They don’t give a fuck about bugging you to get something they want. They are shameless.

Which is what makes the juxtaposition between his behavior and that of the average American so remarkable. He wanted to die in peace. He saw no way out, so he tried to go out on his own terms. Whereas when one of us would have found out that our chronic, treatable and manageable condition had gotten so out of hand from negligence that we required millions of dollars of intervention to save our life, we would have tried to turn it into a reality TV show and make some money off that motherfucker.

I am not arguing that the gigantic, disgusting, lazy, weak-willed shit-birds from My 600 Pound Life should just give up and die – quite the contrary. My point is that we could all use a lesson from my cat, and try to live our lives with a little dignity. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I heard an old person say once. Try to manage your weight and “food addiction” just enough that you don’t need EMS and a construction company to get to the hospital. Eat what you want, who cares – just not so much for so long that it renders you immobile. I don’t think that’s too controversial a position to take, is it?
And when the time comes that you are dying, hopefully from an old age-related condition, take yourself somewhere quiet where your loved ones won’t be bothered, and go out on your own terms, just don’t star in a reality TV show about it, asshole.

Dennis Hatherly

(Politics and Military)

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