What happens when a pet lives longer than her owner? The other day, I was chatting with an elderly friend, age 94, who has a wonderful kitty who is 8. It is very likely that the cat will be the one left behind. The woman, whom I shall call Betty, not her real name, said that she is considering putting her wishes in writing to have the cat put down immediately following her own death. It is her belief that the cat will be so devastated in her grief that she would be better off not having to live without her owner. She told me that her grandchildren think thats an awful idea. She asked me what I thought, but then she trudged right on with her own opinion about the matter.
I was shocked. I too think its an awful idea. If the cat is elderly or sick, thats one thing, but to assume that the animal would suffer with grief so much over the loss of her person to warrant being put to death is a misguided direction of good intent. Betty said that they have a unique relationship. She feels that stray kitty was sent to her to be a comfort, as she discovered her just one month after her husbands death. She believes that God and her husband sent that kitty to her. Since that day, for the past 8 years, they have been a comfort to each other, taking delight in affection and joy in each others company. Surely, this is indeed a blessing, but unique? We have all heard stories of how animals mourn for their beloved people, but I dont believe they should be put to death. There is a definite possibility that the cat will find another person to bond with, to comfort, to enjoy. Notice I avoided the word love. I believe that an animal can be faithful and loyal. I believe that it can mourn, just like humans. But I also believe that it is rather egocentric to think that it would never get over the death of its person, and that it would be better off following her in death. Its fine for her to believe that the kitty loves her, and so far as cats are able to love, maybe she does. What do I know? I know that all the dogs I have had over my life have been devoted to me, but did they love me? If I had died first, would it have been right to put them down? I dont think so. What do you think?